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Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence Hardcover – April 18, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Focus: 

“Nothing has changed the research conversation in social psychology in the last decade as much as Tory Higgins' ideas about promotion and prevention. This book shows how promotion and prevention touch every aspect of our daily life from work to parenting.” —Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Switch and Made to Stick

“In anything-but-routine fashion, the authors describe a fundamental difference in the way we seek and achieve success. Their description is so wide-ranging yet integrative, so entertaining yet instructive that I am able to offer an assertion of my own: If you are one of those people who want to be successful, you should read this book.” —Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D., author of Influence

"Focus is an exciting and important new book that brings motivational science to life in a remarkably practical way." —Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., author of Stumbling on Happiness

“Insightful, thought-provoking, and highly practical, Focus is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants more deeply to understand how to motivate others.” —Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project

“Every once in a while a book comes out that changes the way you see yourself, other people, and the world. This is one of those books. Read it.” —Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes

Focus lifts up the hood on the motivational system and shows how competing motivations to achieve positive outcomes and avoid negative ones influence work, love, and parenting in unexpected ways. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand why they behave as they do.” —Art Markman, Ph.D. author of Smart Thinking

“For leaders and managers of people, this is must reading: it's like finding the missing link in human evolution or the Rosetta Stone in language translation.” —Ken Shelton, editor, Leadership Excellence magazine

Focus is an engaging, highly practical guide that makes complex ideas at the forefront of motivational science accessible to a wide audience, offering surprising insights and applications for dealing more effectively with everyday work and life challenges. It will be an eye-opener for people who thought they understood motivation.” —Walter Mischel, Past-President, Association for Psychological Science

“How do we actually motivate people to disrupt or drive change? In their eye-opening book Focus, social scientists Heidi Grant Halvorson and Tory Higgins provide a comprehensive toolkit for motivating yourself and those you lead.” —Whitney Johnson, Harvard Business Review contributor and author Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream

Focus is a clear and engaging tour of central ideas in the study of motivation. Written by Tory Higgins, one of the world’s leading experts on the topic, together with Heidi Grant Halvorson, it provides a powerful lens for understanding what makes friends, bosses, co-workers and spouses tick. After you read it, your relations with other people will never be the same.” —Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice and Practical Wisdom (with Kenneth Sharpe)

“Why do some people succeed at attaining goals, and others do not? Why do some products sell, whereas others lie on the shelf? Focus addresses these questions (and many more) in a deeply thoughtful, highly practical, and completely engaging way. This book is necessary reading for anyone interested in the fundamentals of persuasion and motivation.” —Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford, author of The Dragonfly Effect.

“This great book makes science fun--providing an empowering look at evidence-based research on how to optimize our motivational focus. It's packed with big ideas that give us insight into how we can apply this wisdom to all aspects of our lives.” —Brian Johnson, Founder + CEO of en*theos Academy for Optimal Living

“Focus is brilliant. Two of the leading researchers on success and motivation, Heidi Grant Halvorson and Tory Higgins, have teamed up to give us an extraordinary gift of clear thinking, clever writing, and enjoyable reading about a topic of vital concern to all of us— what drives our thinking, our choices and our actions. It’s an absolutely fascinating read, and I learned more from this book than from any other I’ve read in a long, long time. And so will you. Focus is full of stunning insights, illuminating examples, practical advice, and solid and surprising research. It’s a fascinating new perspective on motivation, and it has lessons in it for managers, parents, teachers, coaches, students, researchers, writers, coworkers…even film buffs and romantics. Buy this book and gain a whole new perspective onyour life, your work, your family, and your community. It is that good.” —Jim Kouzes, coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and The Dean’s Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University

About the Author

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, speaker, and author of Succeed and Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. She is the associate director for the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia University Business School.

E. Tory Higgins, Ph.D., is the Stanley Schachter Professor of Psychology at Columbia University and professor of management at the Columbia Business School, where he also serves as director of the Motivation Science Center.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press (April 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594631026
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594631023
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is made of two parts. Part I is called Promotion and Prevention. Part II is called Motivational Fit. Part I takes up two-thirds of the book and is really good. This book is not about focus in the sense of concentration, instead it's about a mindset that is broken into Promotion which is big picture and positive, and Prevention which is about being safe and negative. I really liked this first part and I think this is a fascinating and important idea in psychology. You learn the significant differences between the two mindsets and the very different ways they react and respond. This is very important to your own success and to the ability to influence others.

Part II is about motivational fit and this is where the booked bogged down for me. It was interesting at first but it was just too complicated and involved and ultimately I got bored reading it. It's all about how to influence others.

I give Part I 5 stars and Part II 3 stars and thus end up with a 4 star overall rating. I recommend this book and think it will be useful to those who want to understand more about human behavior. Since this book doesn't have any preview options I supply the table of contents below so you can get an idea about the topics covered in the book.

Part I: Promotion and Prevention

Chapter 1: Focused on the win, or Avoiding the Loss?
Chapter 2: Why Optimism Doesn't Work for (Defensive) Pessimists
Chapter 3: Focus on Work
Chapter 4: Focus on Kids
Chapter 5: Focus on Love
Chapter 6: Focus on Making Decisions
Chapter 7: Focus on Our World
Chapter 8: Identifying and Changing Focus

Part II: Motivational Fit

Chapter 9: It's the Fit That Counts
Chapter 10: The Triumph of the Fittest
Chapter 11: Under the Influence
Chapter 12: To Market
Chapter 13: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Motivational Fit
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By GskFn on August 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
More than a decade ago, I latched onto a miniature, seedling version of Focus in a volume of academic research called Well-Being: Foundations of Hedonic Psychology (1999). Then, in short form, the authors Higgins and Grant Halvorson described research showing benefits to be gained from identifying people with a promotion focus versus prevention focus. I've been glad to have this as a thinking tool in my kit ever since.

More recently, Halvorson's Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (2011) talked about a wide span of motivational research. As part of that, she gave a thumbnail sketch of promotional and preventative orientations. I thought her sketch there was more complicated, but still promising.

So when Focus came out in 2013, I was excited to learn more about the elaboration of this theory. I also hoped to learn more about its application in business or personal life, backed up by empirical research.

Instead the short form -- the 1999 book chapter -- may hold more value for me in some ways. I come away from the 2013 book, Focus, with more skepticism than I went in with. I am not persuaded that the elaborations in Focus are sufficiently grounded empirically nor user-friendly enough to warrant the wider uses that the authors claim.

Here, below, is how Focus defines promotional and preventative orientations:

"Promotion motivation is, at its core, about satisfying our need for nurturance. It's about filling your life with positives: love and admiration, but also accomplishment, advancement, and growth.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By MisterPlow on November 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Because if you are, be prepared: this author does not care for you and won't hesitate to drive that point home with example after example. It makes it difficult to, well, focus on the message. The first part of the book had me feeling so lousy about myself I thought about the old children's song about giving up on people and going to eat worms.

I did pick up some validation for things I already knew, like how I'm motivated more by the threat of losing something than the possibility of gaining something new. But honestly, I knew that from using stickk. com's website (the one where you put your money on the line if you don't fulfill your promises).

I see from the reviews that business people who have employees gain a lot from this read, and I can understand that. That's probably where the book really shines. I'm just a person who wanted to light a fire under myself to achieve some personal goals, and I like other sources better for that, like Shawn Achor's work on happiness or Roger Elliott's Self Discipline audio download at Uncommon Knowledge (which I don't find hypnotic, like you're supposed to, but I do find very motivating.)
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Format: Hardcover
One of the most important human skills is the ability to establish and then sustain focus. There are several different types of focus because concentration can help to achieve so many different objectives. Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins focus on four: Good and Bad Promotion Focus, and, Good and Prevention Focus. As they explain, promotion focus "is about maximizing gains and avoiding missed its core, satisfying our need for nurturance" whereas prevention focus "is about minimizing losses, to keep things about satisfying our need for security." Whether or not either focus is good or bad depends almost entirely on two factors: whether or not is effective, and, whether or not the result is desirable.

Halvorson and Higgins wrote this book to help those who read it to "use different ways of seeing the world for success and influence." In other words, they want to prepare their reader to select the most appropriate focus to achieve the given objective, especially when someone else is involved. Nurturance and security are not mutually exclusive but each poses unique challenges to those who would obtain it. Halvorson and Higgins include a self-diagnostic on Page 6 that helps their reader to identify their "actuals," "ideals" and "oughts." A person need not have one dominant motivation but most people do.

Some of the most interesting material is provided in Chapter 9 as they explain why "it's the fit [of the person to the motivation] that matters." In that event, "you feel right, you become strongly engaged, and information is easier to process and remember. Feedback feels fair, and performance is enhanced. And this is only the beginning.
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