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Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals Paperback – December 27, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Social psychologist Halvorson, a blogger for Psychology Today and assistant professor of psychology at Lehigh University, tackles attainment of goals in every area of life from relationships to sports. Extensively reviewing past studies on self-esteem, motivation, and pursuit of goals, Halvorson sidesteps conventional notions about achieving success, particularly the idea that one should imagine oneself achieving goals easily. She cites studies by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen showing that those who think the path is difficult invest more effort and work harder: for instance, "people who believed that getting a good job after college would be easy sent out fewer applications." The ideal, Halvorson says, is to think positively about achieving one's goals but to think realistically about the effort that will be required to achieve them. Halvorson then goes on to advise readers on how to set appropriate goals, avoid obstacles, and exercise self-control to stay on track. "Don't visualize success," she warns. "Instead visualize the steps you will take in order to succeed." Despite repetitious instructions, Halvorson makes academic studies palatable by writing with clarity and interspersing personal anecdotes along the way. Many will find her insights of value. (Dec. 23)
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"A must-read." -Matthew Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of The Rhythm of Life

"Both brilliant and practical, entertaining and rigorous." — Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Married to Distraction

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (December 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452297710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452297715
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Heidi Grant Halvorson is a social psychologist, and Associate Director of Columbia's Motivation Science Center. Her research has focused on understanding why some people give up when their goals give them trouble, while others can rise to the challenge. She is the author of SUCCEED, NINE THINGS SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DO DIFFERENTLY, FOCUS, and THE EIGHT MOTIVATIONAL CHALLENGES. Through her books, articles, and her blogs (99u, Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today, Fast Company), she hopes to help people understand that ANYONE can reach their goals, and give them the scientifically-tested strategies they need to succeed.

In addition to her work as author and co-editor of the highly-regarded academic book The Psychology of Goals (Guilford, 2009), she has authored papers in her field's most prestigious journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, European Journal of Social Psychology, and Judgment and Decision Making. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation for her research on goals and achievement. She also serves on the Board of Advisors for Columbia University Business School's Motivation Science Center. Her work has been praised by Carol Dweck, Matthew Kelly, Dr. Edward Hallowell, and Peter Bregman, among many others.

Dr. Grant Halvorson is a member of the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and was recently elected a Fellow of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. She gives frequent invited addresses and speaks regularly at national conferences, and is available for speaking engagements and workshops, primarily in education and management. She received her PhD from Columbia University.

You can contact Heidi at

Visit her website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a fellow researcher in psychology, I ordered "Succeed" because I was familiar with Dr. Halvorson's scientific accomplishments and found it interesting that she was writing outside the closed-off world of elite scientific journals. After a snowy weekend of reading, I'm stunned by what she has created: "Succeed" is extraordinary, and something only a tiny number of my colleagues could ever have done so well.

In "Succeed," Dr. Halvorson applies real science to the real goals and struggles we all face: losing weight, building better relationships, getting a raise, strengthening willpower, and even just getting up from the couch on those days we feel stuck. Whether one wants to get out of a lousy rut in life or go further faster, "Succeed" presents a comprehensive, step-by-step, scientifically-sound "toolkit" for success.

Using examples from her own life as a working professional, wife, and mother, Dr. Halvorson describes the best ways to frame our goals, plan for success, and put those plans into action - and that includes dealing with moments when we fall down along the way. Piles of scientific studies reveal that HOW we pursue our goals powerfully influences how likely we are to be successful, and many of the most effective methods are genuinely surprising. In "Succeed," Dr. Halvorson takes those studies from the laboratory to life.

All along, Dr. Halvorson's writing is engaging, down-to-earth, and often humorous. I found "Succeed" engaging and enjoyable, and have a feeling it came as much from the heart as from the mind. There's no useless nonsense here about "picturing yourself thin" or asking "the universe" to give you that raise. Instead, Dr. Halvorson has crafted a true, realistic guidebook for boosting motivation, achieving goals, and personal growth. "Succeed" is an absolute success, and I hope we see more from this talented scientist and writer.
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75 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Brae Bodine on January 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book, because it combines two of my favorite things: surprising and interesting science described in simple English, and the writing of a brilliant and very funny woman.

First, the science: "Succeed" describes different aspects of setting and achieving goals from the perspective of research psychology. Every suggestion in this book is backed up with, "... and here is how psychologists proved that it works:", with a discussion of some crazy study involving vinegar Kool-aid or internet disses or Robin Williams. The other cool thing about Dr. Grant Halvorson's work here is that she takes interesting psychology results and explains succinctly how to use them in real ways to improve your life, in whatever area of your life that needs improvement. Her advice is left general, which I like; what it takes to lose weight or change jobs or quit smoking is at heart the same stuff, and Dr. Grant Halvorson knows that stuff well. The only downside of this book is a minor one-- she will have you convinced that, say, action X is exactly the right one to take for a given situation, but instead of moving on, she'll repeat a few more times why you should take action X and give you many more convincing studies than you need. They're still interesting, but from a proselytizing standpoint, enough already! You had me at the second or third study!

Next, the writer: Dr. Grant Halvorson's writing reads like that girlfriend you turn to when you're going through a rough patch, who takes you out for a beer and tells you how not only has she been there, here's how she got through it, here's what worked for your other friends, and here, have another beer. She illustrates her intellectual points with perfect anecdotes from her own experience, e.g.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book was an absolutely wonderful read; I couldn't put it down. I read a lot of books like this and Heidi Halvorson has produced a truly superior product with this book. Every chapter is clearly composed, filled with stories and examples, describes the research behind the conclusions, and ends with a bulleted summary of the key concepts.

There are some counter-intuitive ideas presented, all backed up by research, that can't help but improve your chances of success in achieving your goals - whatever they may be. I can't recommend this book highly enough and I believe you will be very pleased should you decide to get it.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By bronx book nerd VINE VOICE on March 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books on goals that I have ever read. It is based not on motivational hysteria but on sound science. The author explains clearly, directly, relevantly and with humor both the how's and why's of goal setting. For example, she explains the difference and impact between "being good" goals and "getting better" goals. For the most part, the latter are the ones we should pursue. This is also consistent with Carol Dweck's work on the fixed vs the growth mindsets, a dichotomy that is also backed up by sound research. She debunks the idea that goals can be achieved by visualizing the end result - the fact is that you need to visualize all the steps that it will take to get there, including the obstacles. In this and other ways this book is a reasoned tonic against the facile bromides thrown out by motivational gurus who spout metaphysical nonsense, as in The Secret. Grant Halvorson demonstrates clearly why effort, perseverance and mundane things like good planning, strategies and scheduling are the keys to achieving goals, not excessive optimism. Probably the most important point she makes is the need for the culture to back off the emphasis on talent, smarts and innate ability. This focus has probably done more harm to the self-esteem and success of our population than many other factors. It creates the sense in the individual that either you got it or you don't, which is far from the truth. This book along with Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. and Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success make a good triumvirate of the foundations of success.
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