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Summary of Daniel Goleman’s Facebook Q&A

On Tuesday, January 28, Daniel Goleman hosted a live Q&A on Facebook for his latest book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, and his CDs Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence, and Focus for Kids and Focus for Teens. Below is a recap of the exchange.

Q: I’m curious how to balance the three types of focus in the fast-paced high tech world. It seems there are fewer and fewer spaces for having a focused, connected conversation that embraces empathy and compassion.

A: Good question. The faster the pace, the bigger the challenge. It does take a bit of non-goal focused time to tune in and connect with the other person. You may not be able to do this on every phone call, but it’s worth doing at some point during the day or week, especially with people you work with continuously. A genuine connection, one with mutual empathy and interest creates a better container for communication when the pressure is high. You might find this article helpful > Focus on how you connect

Q: I am currently working on a venture to help students focus on school work (through the use of mindfulness and creating focused environments for doing school work). I noticed you have several teen podcasts. How do you recommend teaching these to young students? I know that young adults are beginning to realize the importance of mindfulness for daily life, but what is the best way to approach this with elementary/ high-school students?

A: I’m thrilled to hear that you’re doing this. I think it’s important to understand that young people can learn to improve their focus, and that this also makes them more ready to learn. This seems a logical next step to add to curriculum in schools everywhere. I think it’s important to do this in an age-appropriate way. I’ve seen second graders in Spanish Harlem lie on the floor with their favorite stuffed animal on their tummy, and watch it rise on the in breath, counting 1, 2, 3…, and same on the out breath. Five minutes of this made the classroom calmer and more focused for the rest of the day. I know teens who have actually gone on retreats, and done this much of the day. The benefits are very real at the brain level, shifting moods toward the positive, enhancing concentration, and speeding recovery from stress arousal. Here’s an Edutopia video about “Breathing Buddies.”

Q: Why do we see so much variation in kids’ ability (or lack of) to manage those three types? Nature vs. nurture?

A: Our ability to focus on ourselves, on other people, or on the world at large, is a combination of nature and nurture, but mostly nurture. For instance, kids with ADHD may get that label because adults don’t realize that the attention circuitry of the brain continues to develop from birth to the mid-20s. Adults think seven-year-old kids should act like 12-year-olds, and give them the diagnosis on ADD. However, teaching kids to focus and getting them to practice focusing can help them concentrate when they need to. But schools don’t do this. They expect kids to have the skill. We should nurture these abilities in children by helping them along. Here’s a sample track from my Focus for Teens CD.

Q: What is the relationship between focus and grit?

A: Grit is the term psychologist Angela Duckworth uses for the ability to keep your focus on long term goals and strive for them despite setbacks. The ability to focus is the center this capacity. Cognitive control, being able to focus on one thing that’s important and ignore distractions, is essential to every step toward that larger goal. Both grit and cognitive control can be classified as self-regulation, which is a major part of emotional intelligence. This article might be of interest to you > How children learn self-control

Q: (Question from Dan Goleman to the group): Does anyone have a manager with empathy deficit disorder? (Participant response): I have had a few, very smart, but also very driven by his own needs. I survived being fired by focusing on what they did right, but staying silent when I didn’t agree. Not easy while trying to keep my sense of honor alive and well.

A: Sorry to hear about your bad bosses. The best ones pay attention to the feelings and needs of direct reports in a fashion that’s like good parenting. This lets people feel secure enough to take smart risks, to innovate, to be creative. This leadership style has great return for companies. Learn more about this in my discussion with George Kohlrieser.

Q: What is the main obstacle to focus?

A: There are two obstacles to focus. Both of which have to do with how we manage our inner world. First: emotional distractions. These are the things in our lives, often relationships, that trouble us, but we can’t stop thinking about. Rumination is the most powerful distraction. On the other hand, thinking them through, and let the worry go is a good thing. Second: mindlessness. Our mind wanders and loses focus. The good news, mindfulness can be strengthened like a muscle. We can develop a habit of monitoring our attention and bring it back to what’s most important. Read more about this concept here > The two biggest distractions – and how to avoid them

Q: What’s the connection between focus and discipline?

A: Another word for self-discipline is cognitive control, a term neuroscientists use for the ability to hold our attention on the one thing that’s important in the moment, and let our distractions go. For instance, do your homework before getting to the Xbox. This is sometimes called impulse control. This ability has been found to predict a child’s financial success and health in her 30s better than IQ, and better than wealth of the family she grew up in. This article might be helpful > How focus changed my thinking about emotional intelligence

Additional resources about focus:

PODCASTS

Focus and education

Focus and leadership

Focus and everyday life

Daniel Goleman on The Diane Rehm Show

Sample Focus for Teens track

Sample Cultivating Focus for adults track

VIDEOS

Daniel Goleman’s Google Talk on Focus

Daniel Goleman on HuffPost Live

Parents teach focus

The importance of downtime

Breathing buddies

Three kinds of focus

Attention is like a muscle

Focus, flow and frazzle

Focus and compassion

ARTICLES

Cultivating a focused workplace

Organizational attention deficit disorder

Perfect practice makes perfect

Leader’s empathy deficit disorder

Focus on how you connect

Attention and creativity

Systems blindness

The two biggest distractions – and how to avoid them

The focused leader

Three types of focus

How children learn self-control

Cognitive control online

Benefits of a productive cocoon

Attention regulates emotion

Focus and emotional intelligence

Four basic moves to strengthen focus

Mindful.org Q&A

Special bundle package: Save 25% when you buy Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence.

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What makes a leader: why emotional intelligence matters

Daniel Goleman’s What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters is the author’s collection of business journal writings on his key actionable findings about leadership and emotional intelligence. This often-cited, proven-effective material is essential for stellar management, performance and innovation. The collection makes available his most sought-after writings in one single volume.

The collection reflects how Dr. Goleman’s thinking has evolved about emotional intelligence, tracking the latest neuroscientific research on the dynamics of relationships, and the latest data on the impact emotional intelligence has on an organization’s bottom-line.

The articles have become essential reading for leaders, coaches and educators committed to fostering stellar management, increasing performance, and driving innovation.

Print copy available March 14, 2014. Digital copies available in early February.

Save 30% on pre-orders of 20 or more copies. Email mike@morethansound.net for details.

 

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Boost bottom lines: manage workplace stress

A recent Forbes article shared positive data revealing ROI (return-on-investment) for companies offering employee assistance programs designed to help workers better manage stress, enhance well-being, increase engagement, and boost performance.

Organizations that received the American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award for efforts to promote employee well-being and performance reported an average turnover rate of 6%, as compared to the national average of 38%. Gallup‘s Q12 employee engagement assessment also concluded that companies with higher employee engagement outperformed competitors by 22% on their financials. And companies that made it onto the Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list had annualized stock market returns performing 2X better than general market indices, according to Great Places to Work.  As these articles suggest, organizations can receive a number of benefits from providing emotionally intelligent support for their employees to help manage stress at work:

Manage organizational attention deficit disorder. Ideally people working as a team are going to be attuned to each other. The star performing teams have the highest harmony, and have certain norms for maintaining that harmony such as:

  • They are very aware of each other strengths and weaknesses.
  • They let someone step into or out of a role as needed.
  • They don’t let friction simmer until they explode.
  • They deal with it before it becomes a real problem.
  • They celebrate wins, and they have a good time together.

– Match a person’s tasks to his or her skill sets. The more a challenge requires us to deploy our best skills, the more likely we will become absorbed in flow at work.

Attention regulates emotion. the more we strengthen our circuitry for concentration, the easier it becomes to let go of emotional hijacking and return toward a flow state. Resilience is defined as how much time it takes to recover from being upset. The quicker your recovery, the more resilient you’re going to be.

For more personal and professional mindfulness resources, visit our Mindfulness page, or listen to our free podcasts from our authors.

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Q&A with Daniel Goleman: FOCUS for educators

Daniel Goleman recently spoke with CASEL about the implications of Focus for educators. Below are some highlights from the conversation.

Educators role as facilitators of learning

One of the main concepts in Focus that every educator should know about is cognitive control. It’s the ability to focus on one thing and ignore distractions, to keep your mind from wandering. Cognitive control is the basis for delaying gratification and emotional self-regulation. The strongest evidence for the importance of cognitive control was a longitudinal study done with more than 1,000 kids born over the course of a year in one New Zealand city. The children were assessed for cognitive control between the ages of 4 and 8 using a sophisticated battery of measures as well as teacher and parent reports. Then they were tracked down in their thirties. Cognitive control turned out to be a better predictor of their financial success and their health, and also whether or not they had a prison record, than their IQ or the wealth of their family of origin.

Helping students pay attention

In terms of getting students to pay attention to the work at hand, sometimes the digital media are the enemy. If kids are sneaking peeks at their texts during their time in the classroom, the technology is undermining teaching. On the other hand, more and more schools are using media to engage students in the learning process. But if you let students roam on the Web, you’re opening them to distractions as they search. It’s a complex question, and it will only become more complex as time goes on. If you hold as fundamental the ability of students to pay attention, it sorts itself out pretty quickly.

Neuroscience’s contribution tp education, learning and the development of social-emotional competencies

When you see the different phases that children go through as they age and grow, what you’re observing are the external behavioral signs of the growth of the brain. The brain is very plastic. It doesn’t reach its final form and size until the mid-twenties. SEL helps children develop their brains in the best way because we’re paying attention to children’s social and emotional skills in addition to their cognitive skills. What’s often missing is attention skills. That’s an independent developmental line, one that schools need to do a better job of helping children with.

Read the complete Q&A with CASEL here.

Order copies of FOCUS for TEENS and KIDS for your classroom.

 

 

 

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VIDEO: Daniel Goleman on the importance of downtime

Young people are having increasing difficulty focusing in our fast-paced, technology-saturated world. This constant distraction impairs learning, emotional regulation, relationships, and ultimately success in life.

In this video from Edutopia, best-selling author Daniel Goleman discusses how regular periods of rest throughout the school day help the brain learn more efficiently.

To further help young people develop attention skills, Dr. Goleman draws from the latest psychological and neurological research detailed in his new book FOCUS: The Hidden Driver of Excellence to offer guided audio exercises made for kids and teens. These exercises can be used in the classroom or at home.