TED videos for Business English, Part III (Motivation)

What gives you your buzz?  Your spark, your joie de vivre?

Why do we do the things we do?

Do you know?  Sometimes I think I do, sometimes I think I don't.   The other day I had a fascinating discussion with over 50 global students in the weekly live-chat session I host on MyEC.

Almost all of them started off by putting money on the top of the list of things that are highly motivational...

...yet the more we explored the phenomena, the more we thought through things like the fact that we all come together every week on a Thursday evening even though no one's paid to be there (them or me) and somehow that fact's part of the reason why no matter how busy I am, no matter what else is going on in my life, I turn up...

and we thought about

... things like how people do things for their friends and families unconditionally and how despite that, sometimes they then destroy their favorite people in the whole wide world...


some people study alone... yet some need a rod, a deadline to meet

And later on, I started thinking of how people write textbooks for really low advances and royalities...

some for the reverse

how people write blogs...   some start them and then some stop them,  some write for years

... and about how people cheerfully lose sleep and work their butts off for eduational start-ups with no guarantee of success, just the thrill of potentiality, of upsetting apple-carts... but how most would rather stay locked down within the walls of tradtional institutions...

It makes you think, doesn't it?

For many, it's responsibility that determines priority: their children need the clothes on their backs, food in their bellies and a sick parent needs  medicine.   Priorities differ.   For others, the iphone, ipad and flatscreen movie theatre have got to be paid for this month so the next new tech gadget that comes out to market can also get bought.  

For many, spending time with mates down the pub tops tweeting or working any day...   

For many, the opportunity to be the sage on the stage is a call way to loud to resist.   And as I mentioned on Harmer's blog, demotivation is an equally fascinating topic because they are, most surely, not always the flip of the same coin.

We're all such very different people, aren't we?  

Am willing to bet our/my list didn't even touch your own list, right?  As a person deeply fascinated by beingness and what drives us... I'll say this: anyone who thinks they know the one single motivational factor of any one other person is arrogantly deluding themselves.  

We are complex.

We do not know each other. 

We know each other so incredibly well.

I'll also, rather arrogantly, suggest that the why of the what we do cannot ever be set down in a pyramid nor carved into tomes for all eternity.  But we sure as heck can have some fun trying to get our fingers on that pulse.

So, anyway, anyhoo... along with Friday evening musings while I distract myself from the slides I need to write for next week's TESOL Spain... here's a list of my all-time favorite TED videos on motivation.   These can be used to spark off critical-thinking discussions with your adult and almost-adult students!   

You can use this short YouTube video with Victor Frankl as the intro / backup to a discussion you've been having with your learnes and  get students to individually choose which of the following TEDs they'd like to watch autonomously, reporting on their thoughts later...


Why we do what we do (21mins)

Tony Robbins makes it his business to know why we do the things we do. The pioneering life coach has spoken to millions of people through his best-selling books and three-day seminars and here discusses the "invisible forces" that motivate everyone's actions.

The surprising science of motivation (19mins)

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't: Traditional rewards aren't always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories -- and maybe, a way forward.

The riddle of experience vs. memory (20 mins)

Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness.

Our mistaken expectations

Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong -- a premise he supports with intriguing research.  Here he presents data from his exploration of happiness -- sharing some surprising tests and experiments that you can also try on yourself. 

Why we love + cheat

Anthropologist Helen Fisher takes on a tricky topic -- love –- and explains its evolution, its biochemical foundations and its social importance. She closes with a warning about the potential disaster inherent in antidepressant abuse.

Life at 30,000 feet

Richard Branson talks to TED's Chris Anderson about the ups and the downs of his career, from his multibillionaire success to his multiple near-death experiences -- and reveals some of his (very surprising) motivations.


Which was your favourite?


Write a lesson plan based on using one or all of these videos (or any other that refers to the subject of motivation) and post this up on your own website or blog.  Alternatively, upload the LP into a document sharing site (e.g scribd/ slideshare/ google docs and let us all know the URL in the comments below.

See also:
Part I: TED videos + decision-making 
Part II: TED videos + success/failure
Speaking activities for teaching English with TED + other important links
Best video websites for teaching adult Business English learners

Other videos discussing motivation:

5 Responses to “TED videos for Business English, Part III (Motivation)”

  • Anne Hodgson says:
    March 07, 2011

    What's with blogger? It just ate an hour's worth of writing. Ugh. Sigh. Writing email instead.

  • Mike Church says:
    March 15, 2011

    There you go again, Karenne! Yet another great article. And I can't believe nobody to date has posted to thank you for it. Don't you find that terribly demotivating?

    Yes, indeed, motivation is everything in language learning. And in *life*, of course.

    Anyway, thanks for some great TED links - when will I ever find the time to watch all these clips?! - and also, an unexpected bonus, a link to Jeremy's website, which looks wonderful too. (Have just been reading about his musical adventures).

    So, you see, I am once again leaving Kalinago slightly more motivated than I was 10-15 minutes ago; except now I have to get dressed and go and teach, what a pain.

    That photo, I'm sorry, still can't work it out! A chandelier?!

    March 15, 2011

    :-) ta back, Mike - am so pleased you like reading my blog, and you're right knowing readers are readers is part of the motivation behind doing this!

    The chandelier is part of the running theme for this series of connecting light bulbs (ideas) to light (that which brings brightness)... sometimes my game of photo-picking can end up being awfully obscure and wind up with only me making subconscious messages to myself! Hee..hee

  • Ann says:
    March 16, 2011

    Thanks very much for your sharing your ruminating and ideas/links on the theme of motivation. Have posted a link on TeachingEnglish facebook page if you want to chack for comments.



  • Eric Roth says:
    March 22, 2011

    Thank you for that probing, rambling, and insightful exploration of motives beyond money - with a poignant collection of TED videos!

    And leading with Frankel invites, no cajoles, Business students to reflect on choices, purposes, and priorities. Bravo!


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