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.
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.
More Than Sound’s founder, Hanuman Goleman, wrote an article for Buddhist Insight Network about how his personal mindfulness practice guides the content he publishes.
“I listen to the news on the radio each morning. So much of what I hear is about the strife and difficulty of people, animals, and our entire habitat. Many of the actions I hear about seem so clearly rooted in greed, hatred, or delusion. Since I started my formal meditation practice in the late 80s during my teenage years, I have had an interest in mental constructs, specifically memes – self-replicating ideas. The ramifications of concepts being contagious from person to person are quite profound for me. In the extreme, there is dogmatic and thoughtless nationalism. But in a more subtle way, the fears and aggressions of our parents and our community easily become integrated into our own beliefs and worldview, even through hearing a simple radio program.
When I hear the news, I perceive what’s being conveyed as the physical manifestation of deep mental-emotional habits. I understand through my own practice that it’s possible for any habit to arise in anyone given the proper conditions. I have also seen the deconstruction of habitual tendencies through kind, honest, humble, and vigilant awareness. It is this possibility of transforming unhealthy habits that drives the work we do at More Than Sound.
More Than Sound (MTS) is a media publishing company that offers tools for developing mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and leadership skills. I started MTS in 2007 without a clear direction. Through my father, Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, I had the opportunity to publish CDs that would immediately have an international audience. I did it because I was looking for something to do, but after a couple of years, this minimal motivation became quite unfulfilling.
Through subsequent introspection and contemplation, it became clear to me that there are at least two core aspects of running a business that I want to be informed by my own Dharma practice. The first concerns the business structure, the office environment, and the well-being of my colleagues. The second is the potential effects of the publications we send into the world.
It’s important to me that meditation practice is a part of our work environment at More Than Sound; in fact, I am not interested in working somewhere that doesn’t integrate some contemplation and awareness into the office life. The reason is that meditation helps release fixed ideas and bring clarity and wisdom to our work, so that we are both more effective as a business and acting more in alignment with our personal values.
I find that I often have ideas about how I am feeling or about what is happening. Sometimes these ideas are loud and pushy, and become my primary experience by forcing my sensory experience out of the way. Other times, they are more subtle, existing as some lingering effect from an earlier experience. When unnoticed and left to their own devices, my ideas act as a powerful filter that influences the emotional tone of experience, as well as my whole state of being.
But when I can tune in to my raw, moment-to-moment experience, the loud ideas often prove to be quite fragile, and may simply fall away. And the subtler ones can be brought into awareness, so that they no longer have free reign on informing experience.
I have seen time and time again that consciously bringing attention to my experience as it unfolds allows me to notice some of the filters that are informing how I feel. This basic act of bringing awareness is often sufficient to release the holding pattern, leaving me with a more accurate view of my experience as well as a feeling of alignment. My mind is more spacious, clear, and focused. I am able to make decisions that feel wiser and more in line with the thoughtful and caring person that I would like to be.
I wished to bring this mindfulness practice into More Than Sound’s office environment. Imagine a meeting with six people, each of whom is having his or her own difficulties, joys, and distractions. Situations can easily be misunderstood through the various emotional filters that sift experience and give it a personal spin. I felt that simply sitting silently together, each bringing attention to her or his inner world and going through this process of alignment, would create a shared environment of less internal distraction, more focus and openness. A flow to our collective work endeavors would be more available without being blocked by our personal distractions. It is important to say that I don’t mean ignoring or avoiding any difficult emotions, but rather cultivating an inner orientation of spaciousness and alignment that cannot be subsumed by a particular thought or emotion. It is in this state that moments of creativity and focus are common.
Implementing mindfulness practice into the workplace was certainly different than talking about it. I experimented with a few ways of including meditation. At first I set an alarm on my computer to ring every 30 minutes. When we heard the alarm, we would all drop what we were doing and sit together in silence for 3 minutes. This was a bit disruptive to the workflow. We also tried 5 minutes every hour and 10 minutes before lunch, and finally arrived at having a sitting before our meetings. The sitting varies in length and is either in silence or guided from tracks of meditation instructions. Most recently, we have started sitting together in the morning too. These elements have created a nourishing work environment for all of us.
Spreading Ideas and Mental Habits with Intention
The second core facet of More Than Sound that is important to me is directly related to my interest in mental constructs and memes. Publishing is essentially the business of spreading ideas. If one publishes hate-filled vitriol, then those are the thoughts and state of mind they are spreading into the world. But similarly, one can publish material that brings benefit – for example, truthfully examining the human condition, offering some possibility of reducing conflict or pain, and suggesting ways that we can cultivate healthy, positive states. It is important to me that my work is a healthy influence, an agent of alleviating suffering in this difficult world.
The key is to be aware of the mental and emotional habits operating behind our actions. Our work at MTS encourages people to become aware of their habits and offers tools to do so. We can all see mental habits that are unskillful, and with some looking, we can also see habits that are skillful and healthy. Simple awareness is a transformative tool in shifting habits toward greater health.
I am inspired by the quality and potential for benefit of our products. Since I started MTS, mindfulness has become a buzzword in American pop culture. People are offering mindfulness instruction after doing very little practice themselves. We ensure the integrity of the instructions that we offer by working with authors who are rooted in Dharma traditions and have many years of practice and teaching.
One of the main topics that we highlight is the development of leadership qualities. Many leadership competencies are qualities that I have found to arise naturally from Dharma practice. SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, offers a list of leadership competencies that includes: managing change, demonstrating ethics and integrity, increasing self-awareness, and developing adaptability. These could have been pulled from Dharma instructions for householder life. These are also some of the qualities that make us effective, positive influences in the world at large.
I would like to see a world with more emotionally stable, generous, and kind people who recognize and understand that we are all in this together. This is true in at least two ways. In Buddhist terms, we are all subject to the Eight Worldly Winds: pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and disrepute, gain and loss. We are also all literally “in this together.” We have decided national borders and come up with allegiances and group identities that offer some illusion of separation – someone as “other” – but the reality of our situation is that this planet is effectively a closed system. Every action has an effect, so whatever the emotion and intent from which we act, we are propagating the same.
Developing MTS has been a journey of trial, error and improvement – both in commerce and in management. I am thankful that mindfulness is part of our workday and hope to integrate more collective mindful moments into the environment here. I’m also happy that we are spreading that intention outward.”
Peter Jon Lindberg asked a similar question in his latest Travel + Leisure article: Are we really experiencing a new destination – or just recording random moments?
Psychologist Linda Henkel conducted two studies to examine whether photographing objects impacts how we remember them. The results showed a photo-taking-impairment effect: if participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and details than if they only observed the objects without photographing them.
The growing conversation around our snap happy habits is not to advocate a Boston Tea Party-like event with our smartphones. But, as Dr. Henkel suggests in her NPR interview, we could benefit from a more mindful approach to our experiences – and why we record those experiences.
Are we taking and sharing photos to seek approval? Are we relying on our camera phone as a memory retrieval tool? Asking such questions encourages us to reassess our habits – and perhaps help enhance our memory of real-life experiences.
Join the conversation about our camera phone habits. Take part in our MindfulFilter campaign to help you create more awareness around how and why you take and share photos. Learn how to participate here.
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.
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.
We’re honored by the recognition. Everyone is inundated with information from a variety of sources. We take extra steps to provide useful, engaging content in our emails. Here’s what Benchmark had to say about our campaigns.
“Based on the nature of their business and their email campaigns, we can safely say that More Than Sound understands how to communicate effectively to their subscribers. It’s very rare to see graphics that stray anywhere far from the usual stock photos…The friendly interaction between the people in the graphics and the product immediately communicates two messages: (1) that this book is for everyone, and (2) that someone at MTS took the time to create a visual to engage readers. Rather than to slap a few stock images that could maybe fit into the context of the email message, MTS took ownership in branding their imagery.”
You’re welcome to receive our free emails (average 3-4 per month). Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write Benchmark email list in the subject line.
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
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 email@example.com for details.