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Nine Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson - 3 Big Ideas

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

Success comes from what you do, not who you are


Welcome to 3 Things You Can Use, where Maddi and I decode self-improvement and entrepreneurship through books, three things at a time. This week's book is Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, by Heidi Grant Halvorson.

"Are you at the top of your game—or still trying to get there?

By emphasizing what successful people do consistently and effectively, Halvorson provides the path to help you accomplish your goals, once and for all."


So, what are three things we can use from this book?

3 Things You Can Use

1. Get Specific

Our first thing is also Heidi's first thing -- get specific.

So, say you want to lose some weight...

Instead of just saying that you want to lose some weight, a good starting point would be to come up with a specific goal, followed by specific actions.

So instead of just imagining a vague mission of weight loss, say your goal is lose 15 pounds and your action will be to stop eating every night at 7 pm.

The difference between this sort of specificity and the obscure, "I want to lose weight" goal, is now you actually have something to go by. You have actions to follow and you have metrics to track. Making this sort of accomplishment less mentally taxing, more defined and easier to improve upon.

In this chapter, Heidi also points out to be specific about what is in the way of your goals. Bringing to mind what you want and then what's in your way, also called mental contrasting, gets you to experience the necessity to act, motivating you.

So in this example you might bring to mind the snacks that you might like to eat after 7. Visualize your goal of 15 pound weight loss goal and then see the late night snacks as obstacles to your goal.

So as well as being specific about the goal itself, be specific in knowing the obstacles in your way.

2. Realistic Optimism

Heidi praises optimists in this one. She says that research says that they:

  • Are physically healthier

  • Recover more quickly from illnesses

  • Suffer less frequently from depression

  • Are better at prioritizing and multi-tasking

  • More easily adapt to adversity and challenges

And they've found that one of the best predictors of success is whether you believe you will succeed -- something optimists do naturally.

Though, being an optimist isn't the be all end all of productivity and the good life -- she says that there is a type of optimist that outshines other optimists by far.

It's not just optimism, hope, and the "law of attraction," that will lead you to accomplishment -- but also recognising that there will be struggles and that the road to success isn't all rainbows and butterflies.

The type of optimist that outshines other optimists is the realistic optimist.

Realistic optimists believe in their ability to succeed, but they don't have the idea that it will be effortless. Realistic optimists don't just visualize success and bathe themselves in the future glory that will come to them, just because -- they see the future glory bath and know that they have to work for it.

Those optimists who see success and glory as roller coasters of joy and change that swerve through the ether of non-effort don't get as far as those who recognize the potential for struggle and prepare and maintain undeterred.

3. Replace don't Negate

It's easy to recognize the things that you are doing that are getting in the way of your goals. Smoking, eating later, spending too much when you go shopping...

It's easy to see the negative actions that are hindering your progress -- but actually not doing them is the hard part.

Heidi, through her studies of achievement and psychology, gives us the strategy for this in a couple of parts. This first part takes advantage of the language of the brain.

If/Then planning.

If something happens, Then what will you do.

This lets you define some intention beforehand. I.e. if I get the urge to smoke, I will eat an apple -- or do something that doesn't cost any willpower.

And for the next part:

If I had asked you to not think of a pink elephant since the beginning of this, odds are you would have thought about a pink elephant multiple times by now. This is because by trying not to have something on your mind, you are actively focusing on it.

So when it comes to thinking in terms of, I will not do this -- i.e. I will not eat after 7, you can't help but think about eating after 7. And when it becomes after 7 and you will get the notion to eat and every time that you tell yourself no, you will be chipping away at your willpower until eventually getting to the place we've all been before, where you eat the snack.

The way to beat the pink elephant is to replace it with something else to think about. To distract from it. When someone says, "don't think of  a pink elephant" you say to yourself, "think of a green bear." Giving yourself something to think about in place of what you're not supposed to think about.

This is when the If/Then planning starts to come in handy.

So since you know that this snacking vibe is going to prod you, you do your If/Then planning and set the intention.

When I want to snack tonight I will _____. Here you might fill in something like, take a bath, read a book, or do anything enjoyable or anything that doesn't require any more will power.

This sort of replacement planning is key to beating away the negative actions that you would like to stop doing because it moves your focus away from the pain of resistance.


You will have a better chance to make progress if you set specific goals and recognize specific obstacles.

Optimism goes a long way, though anticipating struggles while staying optimistic takes the cake.

Use the language of the brain to If/Then plan your way out of any unwanted actions probing at you.

This was good and short.

This book was adapted from a blog post so each chapter is no more than 10 minutes long in the audible version. The audible version by the way is only $2-3.

That's all for this one! If you liked our show, give it a like!

Thank you for watching, if you're not subscribed, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss next week's video, and -

we'll see you next week!

Want to Read it?

Audible Free Trial (get this book for free!)

9 Things Successful People Do Differently (Audible Version)

9 Things Successful People Do Differently (Physical Copy)

(These links give me a little bump if you decide to use them. Thank you!)


Punching Sounds by: Mike Koenig

Reading Photo at end of video by: Marketa

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