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Heidi Grant Halvorson on Creative Success

Heidi Grant HalvorsonOne of the themes of creativity research, and many psychologists and creativity coaches, is how crucial beliefs and attitudes are in developing our creative abilities.

Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson talks in the audio clip below about the prevalent idea of ‘genius’ for whether someone can be creative – or even aspire to be.

She also writes about focus and creating, and that “to be a successful creative, you need to not only be a good generator, but also a good evaluator. The problem is that in practice, it’s remarkably hard to be both.

“And the reason for that has everything to do with your motivational focus – how you think about the goal you are pursuing when working on a creative project. One kind of focus heightens your creativity, while a different focus gives you the analytical tools you need to assess your work. The good news is that you can actually shift yourself from one focus to the other in order to bring your best game during each phase of the creative process.”

In her book “Focus” she describes techniques for shifting from one focus to the other. Here is a brief summary:

Phase 1: Creative idea generation – “Take a few moments to think about what you will gain from successfully completing your project. What good things will happen? What are the rewards? How will you be better off?”

Phase 2: Creative idea evaluation – “To do this, think about what you will lose if you don’t successfully complete your project – what will the negative consequences be? How will you be worse off if you fail? (I know – this doesn’t sound fun. I never said prevention focus was fun. But it is really effective.)”

From post (on her site): The Creative Benefits of Split Personalities.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD, is a social psychologist and Associate Director of Columbia Business School’s Motivation Science Center.

One of her books (with E. Tory Higgins, PhD): Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence.

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Focus may be a challenge for people with teeming brains and imaginations.

In her book The Highly Sensitive Person, psychologist Elaine Aron writes that we “may have to overcome a certain lack of focus.

“If your creativity and intuition give you a million ideas, at some point, early, you will have to let most of them go, and you will have to make all kinds of difficult decisions.”

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Audio: Halvorson talks about how we “tell ourselves the wrong story about our abilities” and how beliefs can get in the way of our success in various areas.

She comments: “If you ask people what made Steve Jobs so successful, one of the first words they would use is ‘genius.’ It’s how we explain things.”

This brief audio clip is from her much longer video interview “The Science of Creative Success” for The Truth About Creativity conference, hosted by David Burkus.

Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and InfluenceHe interviewed 31 psychologists and other experts on creativity and innovation: Daniel Pink, Scott Anthony, Scott Barry Kaufman, Rex Jung, Gianfranco Zaccai, Keith Sawyer, Jocelyn Glei, Teresa Amabile and others.

Follow the link to view sample videos of other interviews.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD also hosted The Science of Thriving: at Work and in Life virtual conference – See article with audio excerpts: Creativity and Life: The Thriving Online Conference.

What helps you thrive in your creative life?


Heidi Grant Halvorson on Creative Success

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2019). Heidi Grant Halvorson on Creative Success. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
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