15 Ted Talks for Women Over 40 You Have to See

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If you're a woman over 40, these Ted Talks are perfect for you. They'll teach you how to handle stress better, manage your time, keep the spark alive in your marriage, figure out what kind of work will make you happy and so much more. 
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Your forties can often be a time of change and reevaluation. You look in the mirror one day and see some gray hairs and notice what the commercials like to call “fine lines.” Your kids may be growing older and no longer need you as much.  Or perhaps you’ve become more established at your job, only to wonder if this is what you really want to be doing with your life after all. 

You may just feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction; what some people might call a midlife crisis. 

If that’s you, it’s always helpful to get some solid advice from someone who understands your problem. That’s why I love these Ted Talks. Each talk is a short but meaningful discussion of an important issue and they always help me see my problems in a new light.

If you’re struggling with any of the issues common to women over 40, there’s a Ted Talk in this list that’s just right for you. (Wondering what a “Ted Talk” is? Check out the end of this post for a quick explanation.)

1. Brené Brown | TEDxHouston | The power of vulnerability

If you haven’t seen Dr. Brown’s famous talk that introduced her to the world, then that’s where you need to start. If you’re trying to figure out what you want to do next with your life, you’re probably feeling quite vulnerable and unsure of yourself. It turns out you need to get comfortable with feeling vulnerable if you want to be a person who feels love and belonging. Brene explains why and how in this powerful talk.

You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

Brené Brown

Carol Dweck | TEDxNorrkoping | The Power of Believing that You Can Improve

After 40, it’s so easy to tell ourselves that our best days are behind us, that we’re too old to change, etc. But Dr. Dweck’s motivating talk proves the power of believing that you’re always capable of improving, always capable of learning, and mastering new skills. This is a talk I return to time and again. If you’re raising children, you need to hear this talk. And, if they’re teenagers? Good news! It’s not too late to teach them the skill of believing they can change.

Just the words “yet” or “not yet,” we’re finding, give kids greater confidence, give them a path into the future that creates greater persistence. And we can actually change students’ mindsets. In one study, we taught them that every time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain can form new, stronger connections, and over time, they can get smarter.

Carol Dweck
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Isabel Allende | TED2014 | How to live passionately—no matter your age

Ms. Allende shares beautiful stories of women who’ve aged well and on their own terms and also shares her own experience in growing older – both the good and the bad. I love the vulnerability she shows in this talk. If you want some inspiration about growing older and choosing your own path, this is the talk for you.

I don’t carry grudges, ambition, vanity, none of the deadly sins that are not even worth the trouble. It’s great to let go. I should have started sooner.

Isabel Allende
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Esther Perel | TEDSalon NY2013 | The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

Perel studied couples all over the world to determine how long-term couples kept the erotic spark alive and shares their secrets in this interesting and informative talk.

So in this dilemma about reconciling these two sets of fundamental needs, there are a few things that I’ve come to understand erotic couples do. One, they have a lot of sexual privacy. They understand that there is an erotic space that belongs to each of them. They also understand that foreplay is not something you do five minutes before the real thing. Foreplay pretty much starts at the end of the previous orgasm. 

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Carl Honoré | TEDSummit 2019 | Why We Should Embrace Aging as an Adventure

Honore looks at many of the stereotypes around aging: older people are more depressed, younger people are more creative, older people are less productive, and older people can’t learn new things and debunks them all.

What you discover when you stop obsessing about the downsides of aging is that as you grow older, many things actually stay the same and some even get better. Sure, I need glasses to work out the small print, but I tell you what, these days, with every passing year, I can see the world more clearly. 

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Pash Pashkow | TEDxUCLA | Midlife Crisis Needs a Rebrand

Pashkow points out that what we’ve come to think of as the midlife crisis is really just a dip in our life satisfaction and that it can be viewed as a good thing if we take the opportunity to ask ourselves some questions to determine what we need to be happier.

Look, maybe when we are in a dip, that’s a good time for us to ask ourselves a series of questions. Questions like, “Who are we, and what do we stand for? Can we embrace what makes us unique?” And maybe most importantly, “Who do we need to be talking to, and what do we need to say to them?”

Look, maybe when we are in a dip, that’s a good time for us to ask ourselves a series of questions. Questions like, “Who are we, and what do we stand for? Can we embrace what makes us unique?” And maybe most importantly, “Who do we need to be talking to, and what do we need to say to them?”

Because now I’m developing a couple of theories about people. The first is that, whether you realize it or not, you could be going through a midlife crisis right now. The second is that, even if you are, it could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Pash Pashkow
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Eve Ensler | TEDGlobal 2005 | What Security Means to Me

If you want to reinvent your life after 40, you’re going to need to take risks. And taking a risk can be scary. But, as Eve Ensler explains in her talk, clinging to what you know just because you feel more secure can not only make you feel more frightened and insecure, it can ultimately harm the people around you.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that if your end goal is security, and if that’s all you’re focusing on, what ends up happening is that you create not only more insecurity in other people, but you make yourself far more insecure. Real security is contemplating death, not pretending it doesn’t exist. Not running from loss, but entering grief, surrendering to sorrow. 

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Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr | TEDWomen2019 | How to Turn Your Dissatisfaction into Action

Aki-Sawyerr, the mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, discusses how she turned her anger at the inaction of others into the catalyst that spurred her into action that ultimately made her town a better place to live. After hearing the challenges she endured, you’ll never believe your situation is too difficult to change again.

If you believe that things can be better, then you have the option to do something rather than to do nothing. The scale and circumstances of our situations will differ, but for each of us, we all have one thing in common. We can take risks to make a difference, and I will close in saying, step out, take a risk. If we can unite behind the power of dissatisfaction, the world will be a better place. 

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr
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Julian Treasure | TEDGlobal 2013 | How to Speak So That People Want to Listen

Have you felt as if you are being increasingly ignored as you get older? I know I have and I found Julian Treasure’s tips on changing your voice to get people to pay better attention to you quite useful. It’s a new skill that requires practice but it seems to work.

What would the world be like if we were creating sound consciously and consuming sound consciously and designing all our environments consciously for sound? That would be a world that does sound beautiful, and one where understanding would be the norm, and that is an idea worth spreading.

Julian Treasure
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Laura Vanderkam | TEDWomen 2016 | How to Gain Control of Your Free Time

Sure you want to change your life, but who has the time? Time Management expert Laura Vanderkam shows us how to reclaim the time we spend on tasks that don’t really matter and use that time to better reflect our priorities. This is a really powerful talk with great information.

“I don’t have time,” often means “It’s not a priority.” If you think about it, that’s really more accurate language. I could tell you I don’t have time to dust my blinds, but that’s not true. If you offered to pay me $100,000 to dust my blinds, I would get to it pretty quickly. 

Laura Vanderkam
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Scott Dinsmore | TEDxGoldenGatePark 2012 | How to Find Work You Love

It’s surprisingly common to reach your 40s and decide you don’t really like the job you have. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, though. Most of us fall into our careers through a mixture of coincidence, luck, and split-second decisions. But how do you really identify what kind of work you would love to do? Scott Dinsmore does a great job of laying out a step-by-step process for figuring that out in this very practical Ted Talk.

The thing is, everything was impossible until somebody did it. Every invention, every new thing in the world, people thought were crazy at first. Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile, it was a physical impossibility to break the four-minute mile in a foot race until Roger Bannister stood up and did it. And then what happened? Two months later, 16 people broke the four-minute mile.

Scott Dinsmore
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Robert Waldinger | TEDxBeaconStreet | What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

Robert Waldinger’s fascinating talk shares the findings of the longest study of adults ever conducted: the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which tracked the lives of 724 men for 75 years. What did they learn in all this time? The men with close, happy relationships lived happier — and healthier — lives. In fact, loneliness can actually kill you.

Once we had followed our men all the way into their 80s, we wanted to look back at them at midlife and to see if we could predict who was going to grow into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wasn’t. And when we gathered together everything we knew about them at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old. It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.

Robert Waldinger
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Matthieu Ricard | TED2004 | The Habits of Happiness

Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has been working with scientists to determine if you can actually train your brain to be happier with meditation and the results are encouraging.

It’s more to say that mind training matters. That this is not just a luxury. This is not a supplementary vitamin for the soul. This is something that’s going to determine the quality of every instant of our lives. We are ready to spend 15 years achieving education. We love to do jogging, fitness. We do all kinds of things to remain beautiful. Yet, we spend surprisingly little time taking care of what matters most — the way our mind functions — which, again, is the ultimate thing that determines the quality of our experience.

Matthieu Ricard
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Lisa Mosconi | TEDWomen 2019 | How Menopause Affects the Brain

Many symptoms of menopause:  hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, memory lapses, depression, anxiety are neurological symptoms that start in the brain. As the founder of Women’s Brain Initiative, Mosconi has been studying just why and how our brains are affected by menopause. As it turns out, the drop in estrogen caused by menopause has very real and measurable effects on our brains that can put us at risk for Alzheimer’s later in life.

Meanwhile, there are other things that we can do today to support our hormones and their effects on the brain that do not require medications but do require taking a good look at our lifestyle. That’s because the foods we eat, how much exercise we get, how much sleep we get or don’t get, how much stress we have in our lives, those are all things that can actually impact our hormones — for better and for worse. 

Lisa Mosconi
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Kelly McGonigal | TEDGlobal 2013 | How to Make Stress Your Friend

Change is stressful and your forties are often a time of great change. Healthy psychologist Kelly McGonigal makes a compelling case that stress isn’t harmful to your health, but rather it’s the belief that stress is bad that causes harm. She also teaches how to view your stress response as a helpful, rather than frightening, experience.

How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Kelly McGonigal
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What is a TED Talk Anyway?

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and began as a conference in 1984 where renowned experts gave presentations about interesting topics in their fields of expertise to an invitation-only audience of leaders in various industries. In 2006, they began putting these talks online so they could be viewed by a wider audience. Since the talks have begun being posted online, the popularity of the TED conference has exploded – there are now multiple offshoots of the TED conferences around the world and speakers who give popular talks can find themselves with book and even TV deals.

You can find a Ted Talk for almost any subject that interests you. Check out Ted.com for more information.

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