Review: “Succeed” by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals


If you want to get something done, stop reading this post and read this book instead. Seriously. End of report.

But you’re still reading this so you probably want to know why you should. Right? Well read on.

You might call me a personal productivity junkie. I’ve read a lot of books on goal setting and personal motivation. I speak and write on the topic, mostly because doing so helps me incorporate what I learn about working smarter and enjoying more. (With two commercial businesses and a non-profit to run, I can use all the help I can get.)

So when I picked up Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (2010, Hudson Press), by Heidi Grant Halvorson, I expected to cull from it the usual one or two new ideas I could put to use. Instead, I was offered copious goal setting and motivational insights, supported with an appropriate level of research that neither inundated me with data nor had me wondering why an assertion might be true.

Some of the ideas you’ll read about in this book include:

  • You should never tell someone to “do their best.” Ironically, it inspires mediocre performance, subconsciously driving the hearer to produce what they think is your perception of their best.
  • The best approach to motivating yourself or another depends on the type of goal being pursued. Goals that are not overly complex and relatively straightforward to complete are most likely achieved when the focus is on why achieving the goal is important. Complex goals that require a lot of learning, however, are best pursued with a reminder of what needs to be done; focusing on the specific steps.
  • Just about anything can trigger the pursuit of a goal. Even those motivational posters that inspire you to mock their pithy phrases about teamwork can, in fact, inspire teamwork. Scary, huh? But it only works if the goal is desirable to you in the first place.
  • The best motivation occurs when your outlook is matched to your goal. Optimism and positive thinking is a better motivator for performance goals; those things you want to achieve. Pessimistic thinking (or better “pessimistic realism”) is the best outlook to cultivate for prevention goals; those having to do with avoiding losses or catastrophe.

Grant Halvorson’s writing is clear and easy to read. She maintains a good pace throughout the book, though I would have preferred she spent more time on goal saboteurs—an area where a lot of us have trouble. Her treatment of the psychological research in self-control is not nearly as in-depth as you’ll find in Baumeister and Teirney’s seminal book Willpower, but you’ll get the necessary essence of it. (I read Willpower first and found that the two complement each other nicely, Succeed focussing more specifically on goal setting and achievement.)

I told you at the beginning of this post to just read the book. But you wanted more. You wanted a why.

Well, if you’ve read this far, you’ve proven two things. First, it’s not a challenge for you to read. That makes reading a straightforward goal for you. Second, according to Grant Halvorson, all that’s required to motivate you to read it is a good why.

Now it’s your turn… 

Based on what you’ve just read, why would you read this book?

One or more of the links in this post will redirect you to, where I will receive a modest affiliate commission, at no cost to you if you choose to purchase a product. Any purchase you make of the linked products helps offsets the costs of maintaining the free content you find on this website.

[shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="45982"]

Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.