Before somebody can make a change to their health and their happiness, their brain has already constructed a picture of reality in which change is possible or not. Basically, this predicts whether or not they’ll be able to make that change.

Some people see a world in which they’re only their genes and their environment; so they can watch a ton of TED Talks, they can read a ton of books, but they won’t actually incorporate any of those new changes into their lives…

A lot of frustration comes from us being irrationally optimistic about either the goal that we’re creating or the speed and the time it will take to get there. I have a great little cartoon that someone sent me on Twitter: A rhinoceros is on a treadmill, and it’s sweating and running as fast as it possibly can, and it’s looking up at this poster of this beautiful unicorn. So it’s trying to run as fast as it can to be a unicorn, and inherently it’s creating greater levels of frustration, because it’s not a unicorn, it’s a rhinoceros, and it should be the best rhinoceros that it can be.

From the TED Blog’s Q&A with TEDxBloomington speaker Shawn Achor, a psychologist whose work focus on helping people use positive psychology to be happier and more effective at work.

Watch his talk “The happy secret to better work” here»

3 inspiring TEDx Talks on happiness at work

What makes us happy and productive at work? 

In these thought-provoking talks, a psychologist, a behavioral economist, and an entrepreneur explore that question from three different angles. Hear their inspiring insights:  

1. Are happy people more productive at work?

In this fast-moving, entertaining talk from TEDxBloomington, psychologist Shawn Anchor argues that happiness inspires productivity.

2. What makes us enjoy our work? 

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal how we find meaning in our work. (Hint: It’s not about the money.)

3. Where is the best place to do good work? 

Entrepreneur and 37signals founder, Jason Fried, has a radical theory about work: that the office isn’t a good place to do it. At TEDxMidwest, he lays out the problems and offers a better alternative.

David Litchfield is an illustrator. But he didn’t always think of himself as one. At TEDxBedford, he spoke of his project “A drawing a day” and explained how doing a drawing a day for a year gave him the confidence to finally call himself what he wanted to be his entire life: an illustrator.

From his talk:

I didn’t always know I was an illustrator. I didn’t know what I was. It took me a long time to work out…

There seems to be a notion at least of a cutoff point in life, whereas if you haven’t found out what you want to be doing, or who you are, then it’s too late and you’re too old to try and define yourself…which is nonsense, obviously.

But nonetheless, it was a notion that was with me, and I really started to panic [that] I wouldn’t figure out what it was I wanted to do for the next 75 years, or whatever I had got left…

I had always drawn — every day — for as long as I can remember. It has always been the thing I love doing the most. And that’s probably one of the reasons why I thought I’d never get a job in it — because it was just too enjoyable to call it a job. Just looking at my parents, a career wasn’t something that you enjoyed, it was something you survived. But then it did suddenly hit me that maybe I could be an illustrator. And when I said that, when I said, ‘I am an illustrator,’ it seemed to fit. 

So I set myself a challenge. I would draw a drawing a day, every day, for a year. I woke up an hour early and just drew — while I was still waking up … I drew and as soon as I finished, I put them on Facebook; I linked them to Twitter and Tumblr; and just waited for feedback…

People asked me during the project, ‘How do you find the time to do this?’ … ‘How do you find the time to do what you love?’ … And these are usually the same people that tell me that they’ve just watched a box set of Lost over an evening or they’ve watched some videos of cats playing pianos on YouTube for five hours a night.

You find time. If you’re passionate about something and if you’ve got a goal then you find time — and in many cases you have to almost kind of create time.

Watch David’s whole talk here, and check out more drawings from the project here.

(Above, drawings from David’s “A drawing a day” project)