The Graduate Coach Pick of the Top 5 Ted Talks to Develop Self-awareness

Oct 20, 2016

A good sense of self-awareness helps you come across as genuine, confident and insightful – just what you need to shine in any job interview!

In the final part of our series on developing your soft skills, let’s look at self-awareness. Remember, soft skills are personal qualities that enable us to interact with other people. The ability to be self-aware is a great strength; it allows you to monitor your reactions and decisions, it helps you to make good decisions about your future, and it gives you a sense of worth.

To help you develop your self-awareness skills, find inspiration from our pick of the ‘Top 5 TED Talks on Self-Awareness’.

Dan Gallagher: On growing self-awareness

Beginning with the premise that ‘life is full of teachable moments’, Dan Gallagher begins his talk by describing how one of his first Sociology college assignments was to go to an art gallery to watch the people who were watching the paintings. Through this assignment he learnt that life is full of patterns. Today’s patterns are rapid; we expect fast responses and we hurry from one thing to the next. These patterns are making us who we are.

Gallagher defines self-awareness as ‘slowing yourself down to speed yourself up’. Too often we feel we have a task to complete quickly but we don’t take the time to enjoy or gain from the experience. In Gallagher’s thought-provoking talk he offers us three challenges to help us slow down enough to be able to notice the ‘teachable moments’. From these, we strengthen our self-awareness skills.

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

In this entertaining TED Talk, Brene Brown explains that in her study of social work, she’s always wanted to decipher behaviours and explain them, and she’s come to realise that ‘connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives’. This ability to feel connected is extremely powerful. But running parallel with this is the concept of ‘shame’, which can lead to a real sense of disconnection. Everyone experiences shame; the feeling that ‘I’m not good enough’ affects us all.

After much research, Brown has discovered that those people who feel worthy are those who have a deep sense of love and belonging. When she tried to define ‘worthiness’ further, she discovered a real sense of ‘courage’ – i.e. some of her interviewees had the courage to be imperfect. They accepted their vulnerability, knowing that they couldn’t control and predict everything. Vulnerability was also the source of their happiness and creativity.

This heart-warming and humorous talk will make you question your own vulnerability and your outlook on life.

Valon Murtezaj: The importance of self-awareness

Valon Murtezaj believes that ‘self is the foundation of personal growth and success’. By asking ourselves, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I want?’ Murtezaj explains that we can take our first steps on the road to self-awareness. For Murtezaj, self-awareness means being able to consider several possible versions of ourselves and knowing which we prefer and wish to aspire to, understanding our strengths and weaknesses, and knowing what we do and do not want.

He stresses that we need to be authentic; imitating someone else is not the way forward. It is authenticity that leads ultimately to success. One thing that helps an individual shine in a job interview is when he or she comes across as authentic – by contrast, inauthenticity is easy to spot and very unattractive.


Daniel Goldstein: The battle between your present and future self

Through telling the story of Odysseus and the Sirens, Daniel Goldstein explains what a ‘commitment device’ is; it’s a decision you make to try to prevent yourself from being tempted by something or giving up on something.

Achieving long-term goals (the realm of the future self) can often be thwarted by a lack of self-discipline (the realm of the present self). Long-term goals are particularly hard to achieve because we are ruled by our present selves as we are living in the present moment. So Goldstein provides us with some useful tools to help us imagine ourselves in the future. He calls these ‘behavioural time machines’ and they can help us achieve our long-term goals and aims.

Julian Baggini: Is there a real you?

Philosopher Julian Baggini asks the question ‘Is there a real you?’ We tend to believe we have a core or an essence that makes us the individual we are. Baggini challenges this popularly held belief. He explains that we assume our memories, desires, beliefs, sensations and experiences make us who we are as a person. But he takes the view that there isn’t actually a ‘self’ at the centre of these experiences. The inter-relationship that exists between these memories, beliefs and experiences is in fact the ‘self’. In effect, we are the sum of our parts.

This talk will challenge you to become self-aware in a whole new way and to think about the fundamental truth of who you believe you are. It will certainly make you think!

This is our top pick of Ted Talks on developing self-awareness. Watch them, muse over them and put what you learn into practice; then you won’t go wrong on developing the self-awareness you need to achieve the career you really want.

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