Last updated on 7th August 2011
Heidi Grant Halvorson's recent book "Succeed: how we can reach our goals" is the best overview of research on goal setting & goal achievement that I've seen. Stanford professor Carol Dweck, in her foreword, writes "Heidi Grant Halvorson knows just about everything there is to know about setting goals and reaching them ... She takes all the latest research in psychology, distills it to its essence, and makes it practical ... (she) is not only a wonderful writer, she's also a researcher who did much of the research that appears in this book! ... (she) also has great taste in other people's research. She knows which research is important and meaningful, and she knows how to capture its essence and its practical applications ... the most important message of this book is that people can change. It's not necessarily easy, but it is possible with the right motivation and the right information about how to go about it. The problem has always been, Where do you get the right information? The solution is at hand; you need only turn the page."
Impressive praise from someone who knows this field. Is it justified? Yes, on the whole I think it is. I find Halvorson's organization of the material a bit clunky & "fruit salady", but then this isn't a straightforward story she's telling. She's trying to bring "under one roof" key findings from a whole series of different researchers. After her own introduction, she has three main sections to the book: "Part 1: Get ready" with chapters entitled "Do you know where you are going?" and "Do you know where your goals come from?". Here she says she'll " ... talk about the key principles of goal-setting that seem to be universally true, whether you're pursuing goals at work, in relationships, or for self-development". In "Part 2: Get set" she says "you'll learn about the different kinds of goals we set for ourselves, focusing on the few distinctions that seem to matter the most. I'll show you how to choose the goal that will work best for you personally in your situation. And you'll learn how to instill the most beneficial goals in your children, students, and employees." No idle boast! "Part 3: Go" takes readers "step by step through the most common reasons why we fail to reach our goals once we've started pursuing them. And you'll learn effective, often simple and easy-to-implement strategies for avoiding these pitfalls in the future".
Ending her "Introduction", Heidi Halvorson writes "In the last decade or two, social psychologists have come to know a lot about how goals work. "Succeed" is my attempt to take that knowledge out of the academic journals and handbooks and spread it around a bit more so that it can do some good". She provides well-referenced introductions to most of the key researchers working in this field. This is a book that should be of real interest and value for therapists & other health professionals trying to help people change, for managers, educators, parents ... and for each of us personally. There aren't many books one can honestly say all this about!