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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
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
Epilogue
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2013
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. Promotion goals are ones that we would ideally like to achieve (as in, `Ideally, I'd like to be more muscular' and `Ideally, I'd like to be in a relationship'). When we do obtain whatever positive thing we've been seeking, we feel the high-energy, cheerfulness-related emotions: happiness, joy, and excitement. Or, as Ray might put it, we feel `totally stoked.'

"Prevention motivation, on the other hand, is about satisfying our need for security. It's about doing what's necessary to maintain a satisfactory life: keeping safe, doing what's right. Prevention goals are ones that we feel we ought to achieve-- ones we think of as duties, obligations, or responsibilities (as in, `I really need to lose some fat' and `I should be in a relationship'). When we do successfully maintain safety and security, we feel the low-energy, quiescence-related emotions: calm, relaxation, and relief. (They may be low energy, but that doesn't mean they don't feel good-- ask any harried working mother trying to fulfill her multiple duties what she'd like most, and the number one answer is usually `to have a chance to relax.')" (p. 5)

Note that this is not quite the same as optimism and pessimism. Nor is it meant to align neatly with economists' notions of carrots and sticks (though I would wish to see the authors delineate these comparisons with ordinary cultural notions of "folk psychology" more closely).

In 14 years gone by since my first encounter with this theory, my overall problem with Focus the book is that the research seems to have remained largely conceptual, not rigorously studied in application. People researching this theory don't seem to have studied how, and how much, people can influence situations or their own appraisals by shifting the cognitive frame. Also, there is too little attention to who and when people take a promotional versus preventative orientation. And the book gives way too little attention to *how* a person is supposed to be able to *assess* oneself and others, reliably, either as a point of personality or a situational factor or both. In place of applied research, the authors rely a lot on intuition and philosophizing without really making clear that's what they're doing.

I think this is an attractive theory that holds out a lot of promise for applied research. If better fleshed out, it could be quite powerful. Meanwhile it may offer loose guidance for day-to-day use intuitively. But in my view, it is not yet ready to be varnished with the gloss of psychological science. As the book stands now, I would call it a lengthy and complicated introduction to a really good-sounding concept that needs more work.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2013
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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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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 opportunities...at its core, satisfying our need for nurturance" whereas prevention focus "is about minimizing losses, to keep things going...is 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. Now that you understand [begin italics] how [end italics] it works, you are ready to see what it can do for you." Eventually in the book, the reader will also learn how to use this increased understanding of fit when supervising others. As I read Chapter 9, I was reminded of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's valuable insights concerning what he characterizes as "flow," the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Halvorson and Higgins's coverage:

o Why a Dominant Focus (Pages 6-9)
0 But Aren't Optimists Happier? (29-32)
o Paying Attention to Details (38-40)
0 Who's the Boss? (44-47)
o The Three Self-Concepts: Actual, Ideal, and Ought; The Birth of the Ideal Self Guide; and The Birth of the Ought Guide (53-57)
0 When Things Go Wrong, and Should I Stay or Go? (82-85)
o Why We Buy (105-107)
0 The Right Way to Run Things (113-116)
o Clues from Behavior, Choices, and Feelings (134-137)
0 Two Paths to Persuasion (156-160)
o Inspirational Role Model or Cautionary Tale? (166-169)
0 Fit Helps You Get It Done (174-179)
o Cialdini's "Six weapons of influence in the battle to direct human behavior" (183-184)
0 Why We Need a Good Fit Now More Than Ever (197-198)
o Fit Loosens the Purse Strings (206-209)

Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins provide "A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Motivational Fit" in Chapter 13 and then, before concluding their book with a strong reassurance to their reader: "Your life is more empowered once you have learned about promotion and prevention focus and what fits with them. This is true, in part, because you realize how you can be much more effective in just about everything you do -- by working with what fits your focus, capitalizing on your strengths, and compensating when you can for your weaknesses."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2013
Although it reads like a textbook, it provides terrific insights into how people frame their worldview. My marketing changed to accommodate both types of focus.The results blew me away.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2013
This book brought instant clarity to some perplexing situations I've found myself in lately. Whether you are dealing with colleagues, bosses, children, spouses, friends, in-laws - or anyone else, Focus will give you new insights into why people do what they do and what motivates them. The notion that someone is either predominantly promotion-focused or prevention-focused is obviously true once these experts point it out to you. I used what I learned in this valuable book with a coaching client of mine the very day after reading it. This book is engaging and enlightening from the very first page. Focus will show you one very important aspect of what drives human behavior that you might well overlook. This is a must-read for anyone who needs to influence the behavior of others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2013
This breezy book provided me with an easy way to "divide" the world up-you have either a "prevention" focus or a "promotion" focus. And while I often find that books that attempt to bisect the world oversimplify issues, I found this book was actually helpful, especially as I realized that sometimes I have a "prevention" focus and sometimes a "promotion" focus-it all depends.
I recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2013
Everyone needs both nurturing and safety. The interesting premise of //Focus// is that people respond to the world in very different ways, depending on whichever need is stronger. A Promotion-focused mindset may lead to taking more risks in the hope of a potential gain (desire for nurturing); Prevention strives to avoid loss (need for safety). The authors, researchers at the Motivation Science Center, give numerous helpful and entertaining examples to illustrate the difference. A short survey also helps readers discover their own dominant tendency. The second half of the book addresses finding the right 'fit': matching your message to your audience. People can be influenced to change their mindset and thus their reaction to a given message depending on the circumstance or the wording of the message. This is useful when a (prevention-minded) parent may be trying to get a (promotion-minded) teen to avoid dangerous behaviors, for example, or for a marketer wishing to reach a particular demographic. This well-written, highly readable, and entertaining book gives readers a new, useful tool for understanding themselves and those around them.
I received a copy from the San Francisco Book Review in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2014
Focus is a great complement to Halvorson's 2010 book, Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.
The opening chapters of Focus touch upon many of the topics of motivation (promotion-focused vs. prevention-focused) that were outlined in Succeed; most likely to build a foundation for those who haven't had the opportunity to read Succeed. If the first couple of chapters of Focus are a re-hash, then the remaining chapters most certainly are an extension of those ideas. Halvorson and Higgins present cases of motivational fit (and non-fit) from perspectives of: self-assessment, motivating kids & employees, advertising & purchasing, and message delivery, just to name a few. Once you've properly identified your audience's motivational focus, you'll learn the strategies one needs in order to influence them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2014
Drs Halvorson and Higgins focus on primarily one of sixteen basic human motives, the need for safety. Those born and nurtured to develop a high level of safety are what Halvorson and Higgins label as prevention oriented and those who have a low need for safety and enjoy risk, they label as promotion oriented. While the research does not contradict their theory, Dr Steven Reiss's 16 Basic Desires Theory offers a more robust explain action of human needs/motivations. I recommend those interested in motivation theory explore "Who Am I?" and "The Normal Personality" by Reiss for a more complete look at what drives human motivation.
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