13 TED Talks to Help You Find Your Purpose in Life

For when you're feeling uninspired.

Updated 10/03/19

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This story is updated every few months with our latest picks.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question that can cause an incredible amount of anxiety as the years wear on. At what age are you supposed to know what your true calling is? What happens if the career you invested in turns out to be the wrong choice?

If you're feeling uncertain about the path you've chosen, are considering a career pivot, or want to find purpose outside of your day job, we've mined the extensive TED Talk archives to find the best advice. These videos have resonated with millions of viewers and have helped countless people find clarity. Tune into the following 13 powerful and thought-provoking TED talks to help find your purpose. 

Here are our picks for the best TED talks you should add to your watchlist.

01 of 13

Should You Live for Your Résumé… or Your Eulogy?

This short but sweet (read: five minute) talk by New York Times columnist David Brooks is about the hypothetical two selves within us: the self that wants to build a fabulous résumé and the self that wants to be loved by its community (what makes for a great eulogy). The question is: Can we balance these two selves?

02 of 13

How to Find and Do Work You Love

Career change strategist Scott Dinsmore has done research with employees from 158 countries to create his Passionate Work Framework. This framework offers three practices for finding and doing work you love. Learn what they are in his TED talk.

03 of 13

Why Some of Us Don't Have One True Calling

According to writer and artist Emilie Wapnick, some people are "multipotentialites:" they have a wide range of jobs and interests over their lifetimes. Are you one of them?

04 of 13

Try Something New for 30 Days

Software engineer Matt Cutts suggests you try something new for 30 days. It's just a three-minute talk. Can't hurt to watch.

05 of 13

You Matter

In case nobody has told you today: you matter. With this understanding, anyone can change the world according to Matt Emerzian, who formerly worked in music management in L.A. One day in his early 30s, he woke up to a panic attack, and realizing he'd lost himself in the glitz and glamor of Tinseltown, decided to try therapy. His therapist encouraged him to volunteer every Saturday to find meaning through service, and the rest is history. Hear his inspiring message in the video above.

06 of 13

Stop Searching for Your Passion

Here's an idea: Maybe stop worrying so much about finding your passion entirely. Branding strategist Terri Trespicio believes that instead of holding out for the perfect job, you should just accept what's offered to you. In helping others through your work, you will find passion in whatever you do.

07 of 13

Girl Up: The Secrets to an Extraordinary Life

Phew, this one may make you tear up. Creativity consultant Courtney Ferrell wants you to girl up. She wants you to realize that perfection is not a human quality and that you should just focus on being good enough. You should trust your gut and if someone doesn't value you, cut them out immediately. Basically, if you need to be reminded of your self-worth today, watch her speech.

08 of 13

Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career

Larry Smith, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, takes a different approach than Terri Trespicio. He says that if you know what your passion is but are too scared to follow it, you will fail to have a great career. Tune in for his inspirational message on following your dreams.

09 of 13

Find Your Dream Job Without Ever Looking at Your Resume

Personal coach and author Laura Berman Fortgang thinks we should stop looking at our qualifications—you know, all those points on our resume—because they don't necessarily represent what we're meant to do in our careers and what will make us happy. She's in support of allowing your dreams to take new forms. Hear how her own dreams changed form for the better, and more in her speech.

10 of 13

To Find Work You Love, Don't Follow Your Passion

Benjamin Todd is the co-founder of an English charity dedicated to helping people find fulfilling careers. He says that studies show that those who follow their passion are no more likely to enjoy or excel at their jobs. Instead, jobs that are valuable are the most fulfilling option. So get inspired to help others by tuning into Todd's talk. As you can tell, this completely contradicts Larry Smith's message. Everyone seems to have different opinions when it comes to following your passions.

11 of 13

Living Beyond Limits

Snowboarder Amy Purdy's message? Don't allow roadblocks to stop you from following your dreams. She grew up snowboarding, but tragically lost both of her legs at age 19. Well, at the time of this TED talk Purdy was the top-ranked adaptive female snowboarder in the world. You've got to hear her story.

12 of 13

What Should I Do With My Life?

Film producer Charlie Parker thinks that the older you get, the smaller your dreams get. After the natural failures that come along with being a human being on this planet, inner doubt flourishes. Hear about the visualization exercises he uses to overcome this.

13 of 13

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?

Is a job that pays good money going to make you happy? Not necessarily—but we all know this. So what does actually make us happy in our careers? According to behavioral economist Dan Ariely's studies, it's having the feeling of making constant progress and having a sense of purpose. Humans care about the fight and challenges it takes to make it to the top. So the next time you're interviewing for a job, consider asking questions based around these findings.

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