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Three ways to introduce focus-related learning

Daniel Goleman recently spoke with CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) about his latest book with Peter Senge, The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education.

Triple Focus

In the discussion, Dr. Goleman offers several ways to incorporate focus-related learning into the classroom:

  • Treat students and teachers as co-learners. Foster students learning with and from one another, and encourage them to develop responsibility for their own learning.
  • Use the real-life situations that students care about to foster reflection and growth, both emotionally and cognitively.
  • Choose teaching tools that are specific for these applications. The attention-training methods being tried in classrooms today offer a well-tested way to help children enhance their cognitive control, which is central to self-mastery. Adding a focus on enhancing empathy and concern for others adds a fresh emphasis that should lead to better relationships and teamwork. And systems learning offers constructs that can help SEL students better understand relationships, families, schools, and organizations. All three together offer an invaluable increase in the life skills learning that is part of SEL.

We’ve also put together a collection of resources for educators, school administrators, and parents to introduce the triple focus to students.

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The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

Consider this: most American children have never known a world without the Internet. And in more and more parts of the world, most children have never known a time when there wasn’t a handheld device they could tune in to, and tune out from the people around them. Kids are now growing up in a world that’s incredibly different from just a generation ago,and it’s a world that will change even more as technology evolves.

But the changes go beyond technology. Children are also growing up in a culture facing unprecedented social and emotional challenges that they’ll need to address. The Triple Focus is your guide to help prepare them.

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What are the tools that we can give kids today that will help them on this journey?

In The Triple Focus, Peter Senge and Daniel Goleman describe the three types of focus needed to navigate a fast-paced world of increasing distraction and endangered person-to-person engagement.

Dr. Goleman makes the case for teaching children the first two types of focus: self-awareness and self-management; along with empathy and social skills. He offers case studies and research proving how these skills benefit both personal development and academic performance. He also shares examples of how some schools are already teaching their students these vital skills.

Dr. Senge explains systems thinking: analyzing the dynamics of when I do this, the consequence is that, and how to use these insights to enhance learning. He also reveals the innovative systems thinking skills being taught in schools today, and what this reveals about the innate systems intelligence of children.

Order your copy here.

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Focus Coaching for the Distracted Manager

A recent Inc. article, The Kings of Concentration, warns business owners about the impact distraction can have on an organization. As you can imagine, lost productivity is the most costly side effect. According to the article, info-tech researcher Basex surveyed 1,000 office workers in 2005. It found that distractions cost U.S. companies nearly $600 billion per year in lost productivity.

Yet cognitive overload remains a real issue for managers – and those they manage. How can HR, executive coaches and leaders help others – and themselves – stay focused?

Notice when you’re distracted

In Daniel Goleman’s latest article for Human Resource Executive, he notes that a senior executive told him that “when his mind wanders during a meeting, he wonders what business opportunity he just missed.” Take note of how often you check email or social media when you’re stuck on a problem, or bored with a project. The same exercise goes for when you tune out during meetings.

Think about unplugging

Responding to endless alert chimes from apps, emails, or texts can be addictive. Try shutting your phone off, or closing a few windows on your computer screen for 30 minutes at some point during the day. Notice your productivity levels without the many electronic temptations.

Pay attention to attention

Try this exercise for a few minutes several times each day: select a single point of focus and resist the pull of anything else. It could be your breath, a picture on the wall, or a body sensation. When your mind wanders, just notice that. Bring your attention back to your focal point. This mental workout strengthens your brain’s circuitry for concentration.

Create a productive cocoon

Focus is crucial when you’re trying to come up with a creative solution. To help a person or team stay focused, carve out uninterrupted time for them to think, research, and plan.

Here are some other resources to help distracted leaders rein in their focus.

Articles:

A More Mindful Workforce

What Mindfulness Is – And Isn’t

Organizational Attention Deficit Disorder

The Two Biggest Distractions – And What To Do About Them

Resource Library:

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence – Daniel Goleman’s latest book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence uncovers the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a groundbreaking look at this overlooked and underrated asset and why it matters enormously for how we feel, and succeed, in life. To answer the call for practical techniques to increase focus, Dr. Goleman created Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence, a series of guided exercises to help people of all ages hone their concentration, stay calm and better manage emotions.

Working with Mindfulness –  Mirabai Bush, key contributor to Google’s Search Inside Yourself curriculum, developed and narrates these attention training exercises for the workplace. The practices are designed to help reduce stress, increase productivity and encourage creative problem solving.

Relax: 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress – Chronic stress can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes. It’s been shown to increase the risk of numerous health problems including heart disease, sleep issues, digestive complications, fatigue, depression, anxiety and obesity. Daniel Goleman developed Relax, a 45-minute audio program to help listeners effectively and naturally reduce stress. The guided relaxation program is especially beneficial to those with stressful jobs, or those managing teams in demanding work environments. The techniques are also useful for any number of everyday stressful situations or life transitions.

 

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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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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.