Top 1%er Interview Series with Heidi Grant Halvorson – Nothing Worth Doing Comes Easily


The goal of the “Top 1%er” interview series is to break down the qualities of people who excel and to show that you can be successful and achieve personal greatness from any starting point in your life. The interview series will look at people from all different careers and industries. Some names will be familiar and others may not. The purpose is to understand and borrow from the “best practices” of winners to develop a roadmap to your TOP 1%. We will share a new story every two weeks.

This week’s guest is Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. a motivational psychologist, researcher, and author of the new book, Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. She is also an expert blogger on motivation and leadership for Fast Company, SmartBrief, Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and a regular contributor to the BBC World Service’s Business Daily.

ALISSA FINERMAN 1. What’s the most important strength you possess that allows you to be successful in your role?
HEIDI GRANT HALVORSON: I am all about planning, and I think it has helped me enormously. I write a lot about the benefits of planning in my book and blogs, partly because the scientific evidence for it is so strong, and partly because I rely so much on planning in my own life. I have a surprisingly terrible memory, and I’m someone who tends to take on way too many projects at once, so planning out in advance exactly when I’m going to do what for each project or each goal is essential.

2. Tell me about some of the daily thoughts that inspire and motivate you to keep going?
HGH: The science of psychology is filled with useful information about how people can live happier, more productive, more satisfying and healthier lives – and far too few people know about it, because academics tend to write about their findings in a way that makes them confusing and dull. It’s so rewarding to me to be a part of translating those findings into a format that people can understand and use – I am constantly inspired by the responses I receive from readers who feel they’ve benefited from it.

3. How do you prepare for an important project in your life?
HGH: Well, again it’s really all about planning. I’m the kind of person who thinks about how everything might go wrong, and then figures out how to keep that from happening. Thinking through all the possibilities leaves me feeling more confident that I can tackle whatever comes my way.

4. What role do goals play in your life?
HGH: A huge role! One thing I’ve found to be incredibly helpful when I set goals for myself is to try to be as specific as I can possibly be. When my goals are too vague (e.g., “lose some weight” instead of “lose 5 pounds”) I find that I’m not nearly as successful reaching them – they leave me too much wiggle room, and I don’t feel as motivated.

5. What’s the toughest challenge you successfully overcame?
HGH: Leaving behind a career in academia to become a full-time writer and speaker was a big challenge. It was a terrifying leap into the unknown for me, and I had never taken a risk like that before. But I couldn’t be happier with that decision.

6. What are some of your most meaningful accomplishments?
HGH: Getting my PhD, being a mom, selling my first book, and somehow balancing all these things without completely going crazy (though I have my moments).

7. What role does mindset play to separate those who excel?
HGH: I don’t think it can be exaggerated – “innate ability,” to the extent there is such a thing, does not predict at all who will cope with difficulty well, and who will crumble in the face of a challenge and give up on themselves way too soon. Our beliefs, on the other hand, are very good predictors of who will rise to the challenge – and the key seems to be believing that you can always learn and improve, that growth is always possible, and that great performance comes, more than anything else, from effort and persistence. These beliefs are not only more motivating – they also turn out to be true!

8. What do the top performers do differently to excel?
HGH: They have, in a word, grit. They commit to long term goals, and they persist when the going gets rough. They believe in themselves, but are willing to face the fact that nothing worth doing comes easily, and there will be obstacles to overcome. They think about exactly what they want, and get specific about what they will need to do – the concrete actions they will need to take – in order to get there.

The “Top 1%er” interview series is presented by Alissa Finerman, a life coach, speaker, and author of the book, “Living in Your Top 1%: Nine Essential Rituals to Achieve Your Ultimate Life Goals” which is available on She has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. To learn more please visit, or Facebook.

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