Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (Book Summary)

I read this book by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a social psychologist, because, well, I want to be more successful at reaching my goals – don’t we all? The research discussed here-within supports my objective because willpower is not an innate strength – it a muscle of self-control and perseverance – and therefore it can be improved through exercise and rest, and compensated for with customized incentives.

The cherry on top is that developing self-control in one area improves it in many other areas of your life – cleaning more regularly, for instance, when you get in the habit of exercising regularly – without conscious intention. Resting, by the way, can be as simple as thinking of something uplifting or someone you know with self-control (as long as you don’t imagine simulating it, which exercises self-control when you need to rest). The point is that anyone can succeed, you and me included.

Get Ready

Know thyself. I tend to think in more abstract terms, describing the why of my behaviour, because big-picture and long-term give me a sense of purpose. But thinking in concrete terms is more useful when the behaviour is unfamiliar and complex, or when you need to evaluate feasibility for the near future and take action.

I also tend to believe if I have to work hard at something, I must not be very good at it, and therefore prefer to do things that come naturally to me. This approach can cost me enriching life experiences. At the same time, I’ve always been a fan of self-improvement, secretly practicing basketball for hours and hours because it was something I wanted even while I recognized it was never going to be my forte. Following this incremental theory keeps me improving despite mistakes.

  • Set specific, difficult (but possible) goals so you don’t settle for “good enough” and instead enjoy your accomplishment.
  • Be confident you will succeed but recognize the process will be challenging so you’re prepared to put in the effort required.
  • Just about anything can trigger goal pursuit unconsciously, including cues we set up for ourselves. Simply befriending academically ambitious students, for instance, led me to pursue my desires more directly without realizing the effect at the time.

Get Set

Different outlooks impact many aspects of how we attain goals. For instance, due to my tendency toward conservative preservation (see prevention-focused goals below), I can pick a path and stick to it without procrastinating. But when I have a promotion goal (see below), I’m more exploratory, abstract, creative, and risk-taking. The trick is to set the right goal for the person and situation. If I need speed now, I go for promotion – if I need accuracy and maintenance, I go for prevention.

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100% of Overwhelmed in 1% the Time (Book Summary)

In the Middle Ages, the sin of sloth could mean two things: the laziness we picture now and the sense that “There’s no real place I’m going, but by God, I’m making great time getting there.”

It seems we have contradictory information. John Robinson’s studies show people work the same amount of time, or less, as 40 years ago. He believes “Saying, ‘I don’t have time,’ is just another way of saying, ‘I’d rather do something else.'” Meanwhile, a Health Canada report shows more and more experience role overload, leading to mental and physical ails, suggesting “these workloads re not sustainable over the long term.” Any leisure time is scattered and fragmented by multi-tasking.

Busyness serves many purposes, making people feel important with purpose. Many feel guilty for any leisure. But the chronic stress of busyness actually shrinks the prefrontal cortex (while mindfulness grows the prefrontal cortex), which is responsible for our highest cognitive executive functions. It also impairs the immune system, increasing vulnerability to inflammation and a host of ails. And, it can literally alter the DNA in children. How you feel about stress in your life is the best predictor of your general health.

Overwork is also harmful to work performance. Face time for the sake of face time, for instance, impedes creativity and good thinking. When employees have a full personal life, though, they are more engaged, productive, and innovative in their professional life. This is why France, Germany, and the Netherlands established rights to flexible or short work hours. This is why the Dutch government promotes a program that allows parents to work overlapping 4-day weeks so childcare is only needed for three days.

Danish mothers have on average 1.5 hours of child-less leisure time daily – more than any other country studied. They belong to sports clubs, take courses of interest, and build lasting friendships at mothers groups. They tend to value achievement and possessions less – instead prioritizing a good life and finding status in leisure activities. At work, they focus on efficiency. Denmark is one of the most productive countries with one of the highest standard of living, and the smallest gap between rich and poor.

Strategies

The ability to choose what really interests you and follow through on the leisure plans, without letting them become more work, may need to be re-learned. Part of it has to do with developing self-efficacy to put yourself first by (1) doing things you do well to remind yourself you can, (2) finding role models or mentors, and (3) accepting and believing positive feedback. When you worry you’re not enough, you set unrealistic expectations for yourself to try proving that worry wrong, but it backfires because you set yourself up to fall short. The other part is priority. Plan weekly the important stuff in the calendar, including a small chunk of time to complete the unimportant stuff, and everything else will flow around it.

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