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Staying Motivated by Understanding Happiness

So many things can get us down this time of year. Take a break from your routine and get motivated with these four excellent speakers.

If you live in most parts of Canada or the northern United States, it would not be exaggerating to describe the recent trend of cold temperature as “otherworldly.” This weather serves as strong reminder that we’re into that part of the year where it’s easy to get down on ourselves. Whether you’re suffering from extended post-holiday hangover or slacking a bit on your resolutions, who couldn’t use some motivation to get you back into gear?

Embracing the near win

It’s easy to forget but even the most gifted and talented individuals, those that have experienced success again and again, have had missteps or produced something that wasn’t up to their expectations. It’s something writer Sarah Lewis says she first started to notice when she studied the works of painter Elizabeth Murray. Lewis explains that many of Murray’s earlier works show motifs and elements that would reappear in some of her most important works later on in life. But much of the time Murray didn’t feel like these works were up to standard, even going as far as to put some out with the trash.

For her part, Lewis flips that idea around. “Success is a moment but what we are always celebrating is creativity and mastery,” she says.

Lewis also uses the idea of the archer’s paradox - that one must aim away from their intended target in order to ensure the arrow hits the bull’s-eye - to make her point. After watching archers train, she developed the idea that success might be the moment when you finally hit the bulleye but it means nothing if you know you can’t do it again.

Mastery, as she describes it, is a commitment to a constant pursuit, and we make this commitment by valuing the near win. In other words, mastering is in the reaching, not the arriving. “We thrive not when we’ve done it all, but when we still have more to do,” Lewis says.

Who should watch: Anyone struggling with a learning curve

The power of believing that you can improve

For a more theory-oriented look at the question of motivation, psychologist Carol Dweck explores the idea of the growth mindset in this fascinating talk from November 2014. Like Sarah Lewis, she emphasizes praising the process rather than focusing on a pass/fail duality. Interestingly, Dweck shows how these ideas are applied to how we raise our children and how kids perceive difficult problems.

Who should watch: Theory buffs and those facing a challenging problem

7 rules for making more happiness

Many of us chase after what we think will make us happy. Often these are things like money, good looks, and success. Stefan Sagmeister unpacks what really makes us happy, and you’ll be surpised at what he finds. Many times the parts of life we place the most emphasis on are the ones that matter least when it comes to our happiness. Most of the time it’s our social surroundings and our communities that make us feel happiest. Stefan’s goal was then to create a list of things that make him happy and find ways to do more of it. If you’re looking for a practical approach to happiness, this is a video for you.

Who should watch: Creatives

The surprising science of happiness

Dan Gilbert’s science of happiness talk is one of the most viewed TED talks in existence so you may have already heard this one, but it’s still supremely interesting to understand the difference between synthetic happiness and natural happiness. The differences between the two are beyond the scope of this article but know that as a society, we’ve placed very little emphasis on synthetic happiness and instead, spend most of our time pursing natural happiness. As Gilbert shows, it doesn’t explain how individuals who have seemingly hit rock bottom can turn their own situation around and find the bright side.

Who should watch: Anyone who thinks they have all the answers

What keeps you motivated? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below


Christopher is Co-Founder and Managing Editor at The Reply. He has a fondness for strong coffee, good books and foreign news services. When he was five years old his father helped him raise a family of chipmunks over the winter, you should ask him about it. Professionally, he’s spent time as a technology journalist, PR consultant, and freelance blogger. Christopher’s work has appeared in a lot of trade magazines you’ve probably never heard of and maybe some you have. He has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto and a certificate in Media Foundations from Humber College in Toronto.