Watch These 5 TED Talks If You Want To Be Happier At Work

Do less? Don't mind if I do.

Do less? Don't mind if I do.

The notion that success is necessarily the product of working harder and longer continues to be debunked.

There’s a lot of hot air to wade through when it comes to how to be happy while earning a living. Studies show that many Americans are miserable in their jobs. Oh, wait, no—they’re actually happier. Or they would be happier, if only they could land that job with flexible hours and a solid mentorship program. You get the idea.

It’s all very subjective, and for every piece of research, there’s another one to contradict it. But underlying all that conjecture is a recurring theme that’s impossible to ignore: “Success” as we’ve always known it is facing some shit-talking right now. 

While the pursuit of high-powered jobs and massive salaries will surely never die altogether, a sea change in the ways we discuss fulfillment, happiness and productivity is afoot.

Below, five notable speakers—all of whom have struggled with the notion of success—speak to their surprising findings on what drives people to keep working every day, and enjoy it at that.

Fluff that pillow and get ready to feel a lot less meh about what motivates you.

Frustrated by outside forces conspiring to stand in between you and your dream career? Shawn Achor, positive psychology expert and CEO of Good Think Inc., offers up some refreshing insight as to how much control you actually have over your happiness, versus the roadblocks you might assume are in your way.

His research found that only 25 percent of job success is predicted by IQ; the other 75 percent is determined by “optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”

Come for Achor’s dad jokes, stay for the whoa moment of inspiration. Turns out striving for happiness over traditional “success” will bring more—you guessed it—success.

When Angela Lee Duckworth left a high-powered consulting job to teach seventh graders, she noticed a striking disparity between intelligence and success in the classroom; her brightest students weren’t always the ones doing the best, and her best-performing students weren’t always the smartest.

This prompted her to study psychology and the concept of motivation as it relates to success. What keeps marines in training, or rookie teachers in challenging classroom setups? Her answer is grit: Passion and perseverance over an extended amount of time.

Duckworth’s heartening talk shows just how much you can achieve by allowing yourself to be motivated by whatever it is that lights you up.

Despite everything she knew about herself growing up—chiefly, that she was an introvert—Susan Cain opted to become a Wall Street lawyer to prove that she could be “bold and assertive,” as we’re taught “successful” people are.

But she realized, over time, that allowing introverts to exist in their preferred, low-key state is essential to creativity and leadership, and that the emerging cultural drive for constant collaboration can leave our schools and workplaces lopsided.

Rather than feed into the prevailing notion that go-getters are the models of success, Cain encourages introverts to indulge in their need for solitude, where creativity thrives for many of us.

Every seven years, Stefan Sagmeister closes his design studio for a full year. The idea came about after he and his time began churning out designs that were too similar—he’d fallen into a creative rut.

Reflecting on the loss of learning that happens once an individual starts his or her career, Sagmeister proposed that rather than retire at age 65, he would push it to 70 and intersperse a year of education and inspiration in order to return to his passion with a new perspective and new influences.

Counter to the idea that productivity and constant hard work are the driving forces of success, Sagmeister’s notion of allowing oneself to stop working for an extended period— in order to do better work down the line—is a compelling one.

As to be expected, Arianna Huffington opens up with some real talk: “This is a room of Type A women. This is a room of sleep-deprived women.”

Layered on top of our already hyper-competitive society, where long hours signal commitment to “success,” women are tasked with an even greater pressure to do it all, many shouldering the bulk of domestic duties too. And this comes at the cost of precious recovery time via sleep.

But Huffington alleges that this culture of “sleep-deprivation oneupmanship” is toxic and nonsensical, and that allowing oneself to get the sleep you need works wonders for productivity and quality of work.

“We are literally going to sleep our way to the top,” she says. 

Words: Deena Drewis
Photo: Guille Faingold