5 TEDx Talks on Positivity, Grit & Resilience

Practicing self-care for your mind

By Tarini Tilve

April 15 2020

Running out of ways to stay positive?

Sometimes, the quotes on tumblr just don’t cut it. When you find yourself in a black hole of despair and can’t find the motivation to pick yourself up, we need real stories to inspire and to show us how to move on.

And there is no platform better at doing that than TEDx. Their short but impactful talks are often filled with stories of discovery and obstacles, with real tips the speakers have learned the hard way. These talks show that with positivity, grit and resilience there is nothing you cannot achieve.

With that, here are 5 TEDx talks and their key takeaways that you can mull over while you stay at home.

1. Learn to adapt and overcome

Lucy Hone is a resilience expert (yes it’s a job) who works with individuals who are grieving. In her speech, The three secrets of resilient people”, she talks about being on the other side of the equation after losing her 12-year-old daughter and best friend in a car accident.

After receiving counselling, pamphlets and advice from experts, she realised that the victim support was lacking. 

“It left me feeling more like a victim than ever. I didn't need to know that I would spend the next 5 years grieving from a pamphlet. What I needed was hope, and to be an active participant in my grief.”

Lucy then came up with a strategy to be more resilient in her grieving, three simple and accessible secrets. Her unapologetic approach to adversity and her rejection of self-pity are evident in the talk.

“The thing about adversity, is that it does not discriminate...There is no use losing what you have to what you have already lost.

Key takeaway: Life will get all of us down in one way or another. The way we choose to handle that is what makes the difference between succeeding and giving up.

2. Reevaluate your situation

We have all heard the saying that happiness is a choice, but is it?

“Happiness isn't a choice until you see it as one,” says Dr Paul Jenkins, recounting the story of his nephew who had fallen off a 30 metre waterfall and broken both his ankles.

Jenkins then introduces the “happiness vector”, arguing that our brains are constantly evaluating scenarios and judging their outcomes. However, there are two sides to every scenario and when we choose to focus on the bad outcome, we feel worse than if we were to focus on the more positive one.

Sure, he was sad about the accident happening in the first place, but two broken ankles were nothing in the face of death, which was a likely scenario.

Key Takeaway: Choosing to refocus can help you actively be more positive.

3. Get gritty

In her short but impactful talk, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”, Angela Lee Duckworth talks about grit being a lesser-known game changer.

“Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out,...Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint,” says Angela.

Angela illustrates the power of grit with her experiment, where she asked thousands of high school juniors to take grit questionnaires, and then waited to see who would graduate. At the end, it was not the children with the higher IQs who did, it was the ones with more grit. 

Unfortunately, we don’t know how to grow grit. The closest we have gotten is the “growth mindset”, which emphasizes that the ability to learn is not fixed, and can change with effort. When you believe that failure is not permanent, you will be able to show more grit in your life.

Key takeaway: Focus on growing, the more you try the more likely you are to succeed.

4. See your obstacles as blessings

When Amy Purdy lost both of her legs at 19, she asked herself this: 

“If my life were a book and I were the author, how would I want the story to go?"

Amy dared to dream and imagined reaching great heights. When she did that, her imagination became her reality.

Amy’s unrelenting optimism in the face of horrific setbacks is awe-inspiring, but it wasn't easy. She describes how she had to remove mental barriers and see her challenges as blessings, not limitations. One of the lines in the talk that stands out is, “my legs have not disabled me, if anything they have enabled me.”

Today, Amy Purdy is a pro snowboarder (2014 Paralympic bronze medalist), actress, motivational speaker, clothing designer, and author.

Key takeaway: Face your fears head on and challenge yourself to see obstacles as opportunities. What you truly believe, you will achieve.

5. Make stress your friend 

A study done in the US with 30,000 people found that while stress was harmful, it was only harmful to people who saw it negatively. This discovery changed the way health psychologist Kelly McGonigal saw stress.

“People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.”

Kelly, like many, had demonized stress instead of developing stress resilience. She reckons that the trick is to see signs of stress as a positive thing. Furthermore, being stressed chemically urges you to talk to other people.

“So when you reach out to others under stress, either to seek support or to help someone else...your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster...your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection.”

Key takeaway: Reach out to the people around you and don’t be afraid of stress.


If there is one thing I have learnt from video games, it’s that if you meet obstacles you are going in the right direction. The next time you find yourself down, tune in to these talks to give you the push you need to soldier on.


Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons