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Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,058 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Read Heidi Grant Halvorson's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

Just in time for New Year's resolutions, learn how to reach your goals-finally-by overcoming the many hurdles that have defeated you before.

Most of us have no idea why we fail to reach our goals. Now Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a rising star in the field of social psychology shows us how to ov
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published December 23rd 2010 by Hudson Street Press (first published December 1st 2010)
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Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-improvement
Heidi, an academic at Columbia University, presents evidence here that making goals not only increases our happiness, but also improves our health and cultivates skills. Heidi presents the reader with multiple ways to achieve goals (and how not to) and what goals we should set for ourselves. Most of the scholarly data presented in the book was conducted by the author herself and is extremely solid. Great book!
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is NOT a clichéd self-help book.

In a similar vein to Piers Steele’s book “The Procrastination Equation” and Kelly McGonigal’s “Maximum Willpower” Heidi Grant Halvorson’s “Succeed” is written by an academic (day-job when not scribbling is that of a Social Psychologist).
And just like those other two books, Grant Havorson’s ”Succeed” distils the results of published dry academic research papers (that no one outside of an academic institution would be likely to get their hands on or understand
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm definitely a goal-oriented person, so I wondered how reading yet another book on the subject might help me do even better at setting/achieving goals. After all, how complicated can it be, right? Even still, I did glean some useful insight that I hadn't really considered before like, "Don't visualize success. Instead, visualize the steps you will take in order to succeed."

I enjoyed Halvorson's research-based study of goals, though I did occasionally get bored with the details and ended up ski
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It wasn't so much the purple cover that intrigued me (I mean, purple is the default wardrobe color for comic book villians) as it was the subtitle: How We Can Reach Our Goals. I had always been troubled that every year I make goals and only achieve a portion of the them. No matter what changes I seem to make, I could never get at the real root of the problem because the percentage of unmet goals would remain more or less constant year after year.

Now I have some answers. Halverson is a social psy
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
This won't be your typical mumbo-jumbo self help book, it's scientifically rigorous with lots of great as examples, you will learn quite a lot of important things like:
1) What are goals,how to set one.
2)what sort of goals to be pursued.
3)Goals for Optimists and pessimists.
4)Why perseverance matters more than ability.
5)Types of goals.
6)Why we still fail after lots of efforts.
7)How to mentor.
8)Types of feedbacks and lot more

It will be absolutely worth your time reading this one.
Jan 05, 2021 rated it liked it
I’m decidedly not a self-help books person, though I’m trying to take a leaf out of my brother’s book—the model child—and I’m no expert with my opinions, even if I’m not generous with them.

This was a good read. It is concise, objective and based on research, and quite honestly I would rather get my life advice from a social psychologist than some man who became famous off of yelling profanities on igtv (as fond as I may be of profanities). To be clear... the advice in this book is not anything t
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, psychology
Heidi Grant Halvorson has written an unusual book on how we can reach our goals. What makes it unusual is that her book is entirely based on research studies available in the academic psychology literature. I generally appreciate knowing the context or background of why I'm being told to do certain things, so I really appreciated this. This explanation is especially valuable where she makes recommendations that, while based on the empirical literature, are counter-intutive or against received wi ...more
May 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
Much of this book is common sense. The selling point here is that this is comprehensive research, but the science is often too light to support the heavy advice based on it.
For example, the author uses the "Biggest Loser" TV show as a model. She claims that the contestants gain weight after the show because their commitment diminishes when the social pressure is removed. Well, some scientists objectively measured what is going on with the Biggest Losers. It turns out that their metabolisms slow
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I normally wouldn't have picked up this book, with its boring title and cover. But I'd heard the author, Heidi Grant Halvorson, speak on Laura Vanderkam's podcast, so I figured she'd probably have insightful things to say in this book as well. I wasn't disappointed. The book is full of research-based findings on motivation and strategies for success, not just ideas and anecdotes such as "Work hard!" and "Stay positive!" (There is a discussion on positive thinking in this book.) What's even bette ...more
James Shoop
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really liked this book. It didn't have the cheesy, hokey feel that most self-improvement books I've read do. The author's style was very personal and non-preachy- which is rare for books written by professionals- and the topics were addressed in a very orderly fashion, which is also rare. Her constant allusions to her dislike of exercise were so predictable and not-funny that they were hilarious in a weird sort of way...
Much more importantly, though, is the content! The book is very well rese
Leo Polovets
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“Succeed” is a terrific book about 1) how to think about goals 2) how to set goals and 3) how to work effectively toward goals. The advice and insights are based on scientific studies (as opposed to old wives’ tales and anecdotes). For example, sometimes it’s good to think about the big picture () while at other times it’s better to think about the details (What do I need to do next?); “Succeed” reveals which situations favor one approach over the other. The book is filled with tons of practical ...more
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I picked this up thinking "Okay, another SH book in an endless stream of me try to get my butt in gear." However, this book made me actually think about myself from a different perspective. I learned some unflattering things including that I set my bar low because I don't want to bother with something unless I know I can be good at it. It annoys me when people use phrases like "life changing" to describe books because it seems so melodramatic, but that's the phrase I thought of when I ...more
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Halvorson has written a book that addressed a big gap in my goal setting practice that I didn't even know existed.

There are many type of goals and rewards. This book clearly illustrated the difference between the types, and most importantly, defined which type of goals should apply to which type of situations.

The first couple of chapters alone on "why" and "what" of goals are worth the book price alone.

I also like how the author uses her personal stories to illustrate her points.

Highly recom
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked how each chapter provided you with self-examination of your goals and motivations. I can't say that I learned anything new really about how to succeed in your goals but the information was framed in a way that made me enjoy reading this book. I also got ideas on how to motivate my children and students better which was unique from previous books I've read. ...more
Matt Seltzer
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall, I dug it. Dr. Halvorson goes into some great detail into how one can achieve goals, and, more importantly, how to look at and develop goals that our minds are interested in achieving. The important of the latter is the prevailing theme, as she goes into great detail throughout about things like how time can differ our motivations for near and far goals, or how a fear of punishment is a different motivator from a desire for reward. Much of this comes from our experiences, but regardless ...more
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
If Halvorson's book Focus gets a bit repetitive because the author is covering one finding over and over again, Succeed feels the opposite: a bit breathless because Halvorson is now trying to cover several findings to make a comprehensive book about motivation and goals. Despite that, I think the information within is very good. Halvorson covers a lot of ideas that are more exhaustively explored elsewhere: for example, that self-control is like a muscle (Roy Baumeister in Willpower), that our li ...more
Angela Randall
I just found this book from an article on bright young girls. I've heard similar things about bright kids in general, but never thought about how easily it might apply more to girls than boys. And if you've ever tried to control a classroom of kids, you know how easily this can be true.

All kids need to be reminded that effort-based learning is required, not that there's some "smart/not smart" or "good at this/not good at this" switch in place.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
'This book isn't actually just about willpower, however. It's about achieving goals, and self-control is just one piece of that puzzle. Specifically, Succeed is about understanding how goals works, what tends to go wrong, and what you can do to reach your goals or to help others reach theirs.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, a social psychologist, offers a dynamic look at setting goals. Unlike 'Rethinking Positive Thinking' which centres on WOOP, this book offers a much more diverse overview of goal setti
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: psych-related
So, I used this book in a neuroscience course that I teach. The assignment was to create a commentary on the book by integrating the neuroscience of action selection / value assessment for an intelligent, but non-scientific audience. I encouraged the students to creatively frame their commentary, e.g., as a podcast, letter to a friend, etc. From my perspective the assignment went really well, and that partially speaks to the book. Succeed, itself, is written by a social psychologist who has done ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Decades of research on setting and achieving goals presented in a theory & application structure.

Peter Gollwitzer’s idea for planning life reminds me of writing functions in JavaScript.

Carol Dweck wrote the foreword and at one point Halvorson worked on a project with Susan Duckworth. Growth mindset and grit play a prominent role in this book.

Interesting sections on the value of negative thinking, pessimism, and preservation goals.

Optimists are more likely to make themselves feel good about fai
Rasveen Gill
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
Read this for a psychology class (SS162 in Minerva Schools). It's a good read drawing from research on how we can succeed in reaching our goals through many techniques. One that I remember is the implementation intention, which basically says that if one has an intention to do a certain action and thinks through what has to be done, then the implementation is much more likely to occur compared to when an intention is not thought through. The author draws from this literature and gives the tip of ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book has numerous citations – used to back up claims on how to improve productivity and succeed. Most of the concepts are not new; however, there are several concepts that I have not come across before. One such concept is assessing personality and motivation as a dichotomy of being either a promotion-based goal or a prevention-based goal. The type of goal one sets dictates how the goal should be attempted. A revelatory insight is the concept of fear being a natural and helpful emotion when ...more
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
very good psychology book on how to set goals and how to reach them, sums up the major discoveries of psychology on this aspect. However, I find that goal achievement books written by experienced life coaches are more practical albeit less scientifically rigorous. For example while a psychologist would say intrinsic motivation comes primarily from autonomy, mastery and relatedness, a life coach would say it comes from relationship, childhood and death. Immediately they would devise ways to invok ...more
Gonzalo Cordova
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is by far the most comprehensive and well-documented book about goals I have encountered to date. Heidi Grant Halvorson is engaging while achieving the perfect balance between theory and practice. I really liked the summaries at the end of every chapter, so one can use the book as a reference in the future.

In particular, Heidi Grant Halvorson's work teaches how to define the right goals for any situation, including team settings. Additionally, the author presents information about when and
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thorough and easy-to-read exploration of goals: what kinds exist, what circumstances dictate which kind of goal to set, how to create goals that encourage success. Includes how to create goals for and give feedback to others (examples from corporate work and parenting). She is clearly a researcher (hurrah!) and does an excellent job of summarizing research. She’s fairly modest about her own research, and very much provides a sense of the entire field of study.

Each chapter concludes with a sum
Randy Daugherty
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most of us have no idea why we fail to reach our goals. Now eminent social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson shows us how we can finally win by revealing how goals really work—and by showing us how to avoid what typically goes wrong.
Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson offers insights that listeners can use immediately, including how to set goals so that they will persist no matter what; build willpower, which can be strengthened like a muscle; and avoid the kind of positive thinking that makes people fai
Wally Bock
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the five best books I read in 2016

Heidi Grant Halvorson is a psychologist who studies goals and goal-setting. That should make her able to write a great book on goal-setting. This is that book. Suceed is simply the best book I’ve ever read about goal-setting. It’s good because it brings together the science of it all as well as Halvorson’s personal understanding of how it looks from the inside. You’ve probably read a ton of stuff on goals in your life. I sure have. Even if that’s true, I
Amy Farwell
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019
Probably the best book on goals. A good companion for the Goals book by Brian Tracy which is more actionable, but less scientifically grounded. Both are great in their own ways, but the scientifically grounded advice by Heidi Grant Halvorson is very helpful and eyeopening. She also introduces well into the social psychology community she is well integrated in. Great book to understand also other social psychologists books such as Angela Duckworth's book on Grit or Oettingen's Rethinking positive ...more
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Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson is a social psychologist who researches, writes, and speaks about the science of motivation. She is the Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia Business School, and author of the best-selling books:

Succeed: How We Can All Reach Our Goals, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing The World for Success and

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The last five years of world history have been nothing if not...eventful. When living in interesting times, there's nothing better for...
38 likes · 7 comments
“Difficult but possible is the key. That’s because more difficult goals cause you to, often unconsciously, increase your effort, focus, and commitment to the goal; persist longer; and make better use of the most effective strategies.” 5 likes
“Molden found that when people are rejected (social exclusion that is explicit, active, and direct) they feel a sense of loss that leads to prevention-focused responses. These people feel anxious, withdraw from the situation, and feel regret about things they said or actions they took. When people are simply ignored (social exclusion that is implicit, passive, and indirect) they feel a failure to achieve a social gain, a missed opportunity, which leads them to more promotion-focused responses. They feel sad and dejected but are more likely to attempt reengagement and to regret things they didn’t say and actions they didn’t take.” 2 likes
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