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Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals Hardcover – December 23, 2010
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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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"People can change... it is possible with the right motivation and the right information. The problem has always been, Where do we go to get the right information? The solution is at hand."
--Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., author of Mindset
"Once every ten years or so, someone says something original in the area of personal development. Heidi Grant Halvorson is that someone. ... Succeed is a must read." --Matthew Kelly, author of The Rhythm of Life and The Dream Manager
If you manage others or are in a position to help others achieve their goals, then you have to read this book! It's filled with fascinating studies revealing the secrets of success. --Peter Bregman, "How We Work" Blog (HBR.org)
Rare is a book that is both brilliant and practical, entertaining and rigorous, easy to read and deep. If you want to bolster your level of success ... this book is for you! --Dr. Edward Hallowell, bestselling author of Delivered from Distraction
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Top Customer Reviews
“Most of us blame our failures on the wrong things. Even very smart, accomplished people don’t understand why they succeed or fail. Before I started studying this for a living, my intuitions about achievement were no better than anyone else’s. I thought that I was good at school and disastrous at sports because I was born that way. I wasn’t— actually, no one is simply 'born that way.' I had a lot to learn.”
What she learned from the professional study of goals and how to achieve them is what this book is about. She uses the introduction to discuss what we know about willpower and why what most of us “know” about it is wrong. That sets us up perfectly for the rest of the book which is divided into three parts: Get Ready, Get Set, and Go.
Part One: Get Ready
The first chapter is titled “Do You Know Where You Are Going?” We learn that good goals are specific and hard. The author also talks about different types of goals, what to consider when you’re setting a goal, and the fact that positive thinking is good but it can get you in trouble.
The last section of the first chapter is about using mental contrasting to set your goals. This section is worth the price of the book. It’s the best short tutorial I’ve seen on basic goal-setting.
Chapter two is “Do You Know Where Your Goals Come From?” It’s about the plasticity of the brain and how we are so much less than what we can be. That will be familiar to you if you’ve read Carol Dweck on mindsets. But there’s also material about how unconscious thoughts help us trigger our goals and how we can use those triggers to do a better job of getting what we want.
Part Two: Get Set
Chapter three is “The Goals That Keep You Moving Forward.” Halvorson defines “Be Good” and “Get Better” goals and then discusses when each is appropriate.
Chapter four is all about goals for optimists and goals for pessimists. Chapter five, “Goals Can Make You Happy,” describes the research of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. They identified the three basic human goals of autonomy, relatedness, and competence. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Daniel Pink’s writing has taken that research and distorted it. The Deci and Ryan research is covered well here and you’ll learn about intrinsic motivation and how to make it work for you.
Chapter six is “The Right Goal for You.” By now Halvorson has laid the groundwork by defining different types of goals and different types of motivations. Now she shifts to outlining how we can use different kinds of triggers to get the performance that we’d like. In this chapter, you’ll find out how to choose goals for specific situations.
This is a “bring it all together” kind of chapter. You might find it helpful to read this chapter quickly and then start the book from the beginning. Chapter seven is like chapter six except that it describes how to set goals for others.
Part Three: Go!
Halvorson moves from a general discussion of goal-setting to specific situations. Chapter eight is about conquering the things that are out to conquer your goals.
Chapter nine is “Make A Simple Plan.” Halvorson introduces you to the very simple and very powerful concept of “if-then planning.” Researcher Peter Gollwitzer has described this kind of planning as “instant habits.” It is an incredibly powerful tool and this chapter is another one of those parts of the book that will repay your money and attention.
Chapter ten is about building the self-control muscle. This was an amazing chapter for me because I’ve studied building self-discipline and self-control for most of my adult life. It’s a key to being successful at what I do. I’ve learned an awful lot about building, maintaining, and recovering self-control, but this chapter was full of “ahas” for me. I don’t know if this is a chapter that would be great for everyone, but it was absolutely incredible for me.
Chapter eleven, on keeping it real, introduces you to the concept of realistic optimism. I found this similar to a part of Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. He talks about “confronting the brutal facts but never losing faith.” This is a chapter about optimism, when it can work for you and when it can be trouble and how you can make it more likely that it will be a positive force.
Chapter twelve is titled “Know When to Hang On.” This is another one of those “worth the price of the book” chapters. There’s an awful lot that’s written, especially in the areas of personal development and goal-setting, about the need for persistence, but almost nothing on when to decide to quit. In fact, the only book I know about quitting is Seth Godin’s excellent book, The Dip. Yes, this is another of those worth the price of the book chapters.
The final chapter in the book is “Give the Right Feedback.” If you’re a person who’s responsible for the performance of a group, or if you’re a parent, or even a grandparent, read this chapter. Halvorson shares the research of Jennifer Henderlong and Mark Lepper and their five rules for giving feedback well. This is another subject I’ve spent a lot of time on. It was a key part of my classes for new supervisors. I’ve studied the research and spend decades applying it in class and coaching with supervisors. Even so, I learned a ton from this chapter. I learned some important details from the research that I wasn’t aware of and I also learned the science behind some effective tactics.
Bottom Line and Reading Suggestions
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I think this is a truly great book. It will help you set goals for yourself, help you help others set goals, and help you meet certain specific life situations with the knowledge to handle them effectively. You will be tempted to jump into the chapter that is about what most interests you. Resist that temptation. This book is written in a manner that builds knowledge throughout. You go from general principles to general guidelines to specific situations. That said, I think you’ll benefit if you scan chapter six to get an idea of the framework into which the information on earlier chapters will fit. Then go back to the beginning and read through.
Halvorson has helped you make this book useful by including a section at the end of every chapter titled “What You Can Do.” It provides a great overview of the chapter. Use it get the key points before you read a chapter, then use it to review them after you’ve read the details.
The Very Bottom Line
This is easily the best book I have ever read about setting goals because it brings the understanding of science to the practical reality of setting goals in real life. No matter who you are, how successful you’ve been, or how much you know about goal-setting, this is a book you should buy and read and read again. I’m about to start my second time through.
It is science-based yet not dry.
The author puts a lot of effort trying to be engaging and she largely succeeds (pun intended).
Being based on science, this book does not offer the simple, clean-cut, one-size-fits-all solutions of many delusion-based self-help books, so most of the time the answer to a practical question raised in the book is "it depends" - immediately followed by a clear explanation of the key variables at play, which should make it very easy to any readers to plot their own course.
Here is a break-down of the chapters, I hope this is useful:
Chapter 1 - do you know where you are going?
About choosing an appropriate formulation for your goal ( "well formed"): being specific, making it hard, why vs. what frame, value vs. feasibility, chances of success vs. the road to get there, mental contrasting as a decision making tool for goal setting.
Chapter 2 - do you know where your goals are coming from?
About beliefs (fixed vs. growth mindset; see Carol Dweck's work) and about environmental triggers for goal pursuit
Chapter 3 - the goals that keep you moving forward.
An excellent explanation of be good (achievement, performance) vs. get better (progress, mastery) goals.
Chapter 4 - goals for optimists and goals for pessimists.
Promotion-focused (maximizing gains) vs. prevention-focused (avoiding loss) goals. A very important and extremely useful distinction, further articulated in terms of when to choose one or the other, how the distinction is linked to optimism / pessimism, motivation, feedback, risk-taking and inner needs. I think the book is worth buying for this chapter alone.
Chapter 5 - goals can make you happy.
How some goals are better than others because they nourish our essential needs of Relatedness, Competence and Autonomy (see Self-Determination theory). How internal goals are different from external goals and the important role played by intrinsic motivation in goal pursuits.
Chapter 6 - the right goals for you.
In this chapter the author recaps the ground covered so far but from the perspective of the user. In the previous chapters the author presented psychological research results and how they are relevant to goal setting. In this chapter the author starts from a specific need / situation (e.g. "when you can't seem to get going"; "when you need speed"; "when you want to be creative"...) and then matches the situation with the appropriate goal frame (e.g. in the 3 examples above, why & prevention goals, promotion goals, promotion & autonomous goals respectively).
Chapter 7 - the right goals for them.
The author shift gears, and this chapter is about assigning goals to others (vs. to oneself, the topic of the previous 6 chapters). The tips given center around leaving a sense of personal control, using the right triggers, using the right frame, making the goal contagious.
Chapter 8 - conquer the goal saboteurs.
This chapter is about seizing opportunities, knowing what to do, increasing monitoring and shielding your goal pursuit from distractions or competing goals.
Chapter 9 - make a simple plan.
This chapter is all about the virtues of the magical formulation "if... then...", i.e. "if I am in this situation, then I will take this action". Making such plans is the most effective strategy for goal pursuit. According to the author, if you take nothing else from the book, take at least this.
Chapter 10 -build the self-control muscle.
This chapter explains the concept of self-control as a muscle and useful strategy for goal pursuit based on this insight - namely, like any other muscle, strengthen it, rest it and compensate when tired. I am personally very critical of some formations of this analogy (e.g. the glucose explanation, see Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind) and I think a better treatment of the topic is given in the book The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal. However it is true that this is not the main focus of Grant Halvorson.
Chapter 11 - keep it real.
This chapter further elaborates on the role of optimism in goal pursuit. Given the good press optimism gets in self-help books, the distinction made by the author in this chapter between realistic vs. unrealistic optimism is pure gold.
Chapter 12 - know when to hang on.
This chapter is about another key ingredient of goal pursuit: grit. That old-fashioned virtue of commitment to long term goals and persistence in the face of adversity. And no, long term does not mean tomorrow and adversity does not mean "twitter is down, OMG!" or "I do not have the latest iPhone".
Chapter 13 - give the right feedback.
Frankly the least interesting chapter of the book, at least for me. The good part though was the author presenting the "5 rules of positive feedback" by Henderlong and Lepper. It is research-based and it is a useful checklist for anyone tasked with giving feedback to others.
Overall a great book, an essential reference for anyone (coaches, executives, consultants) involved in developing leaders, and a useful treasure throve of good tips for anyone engaged in goal pursuit.
It includes self tests so the reader can see how they fit into the type of thinker she is discussing. This really helps to personalize what she is writing about. The summaries at the end of the chapter help to outline how to put what she is teaching into action.
The first time I listened to the book on audible I thought it was good but just didn't really appreciate all she was telling me. I listened to it again about a year later and realized she was filling in the gaps in all the books I had been reading. I bought the Kindle book to go along with the audible because it really is that important to understand the concepts she discusses.
This should be a must read for anyone who needs to get motivated or needs to motivate someone else. We are not all the same and subtle differences can make all the difference.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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