Q&A: Daniel Goleman, author and psychologist, on finding focus in a world of distractions

Nearly 20 years ago, New York Times science reporter Daniel Goleman wrote a book that reshaped offices, classrooms and interpersonal relationships around the world. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ became an international sensation. It topped bestseller and “most influential books” lists and sold five million copies worldwide. Goleman had a hit on his hands.

But he didn’t stop there. A Harvard-educated psychologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Goleman has continued to write books on social intelligence and other human-centered subjects. His most recent work — Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence — hit shelves earlier this month.»

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Just Like Me: Understanding the Common Human Condition


At a time when the news offers a steady stream of ways people battle because of the differences between them, there’s an antidote sorely needed: an understanding of the ways someone else shares our common human condition. Call it “just like me.”


That’s the attitude that counters the we-and-they thinking epidemic in the kind of cliques in schools that foment fights or bullying, in the biases against diversity in the workplace and in the wars being fought between groups worldwide.


It was called the “narcissism of small differences” by Freud. Vamik Volkan, a Turkish psychiatrist, saw this at work in his native Cyprus, where for generations, Cypriots and Turks waged a war against each other when, to the eye of someone just visiting the island, they were one and the same people.»

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Daniel Goleman talks with CASEL about Focus

Among the key points that you make in Focus, which do you think are most important for educators to know about in their role as facilitators of young people’s 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.»

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Mindful interviews Daniel Goleman on Focus

Since the devices we depend on have “built-in” seductions, we need to be more mindful of when our attention wanders off, says Daniel Goleman. In conversation with Mindful‘s Editor-in-Chief, Goleman talks about why the social brain suffers when we trade face time for screen time, and how we can preserve focus when it comes to relationships and interactions. Get the full interview at mindful.org

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A Parent’s Full Focus Is a Form of Love

An editor I know takes her work home (and who doesn’t these days?). She too often sits for hours in front of her laptop trying to keep up with her workload, while also trying to keep an eye on her 3-year-old.

And that toddler, whenever she has the chance, closes the lid of the laptop.

That gesture symbolizes a battle children fight daily for full attention from parents. Having a parent look you in the eye, watch you do a somersault, or just listen fills a deep need in children: it’s reassurance that someone cares.

Every child, developmental experts tell us, wants to feel that someone attunes to them, senses their feelings, and will take care of their needs.»

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Forget Delayed Gratification: What Kids Really Need Is Cognitive Control

By now, we’ve all heard about the famous marshmallow test, in which 4-year-olds are told they can either have the juicy one in front of them now, or two later. The 40-year-old experiment, which has been replicated using a variety of enticements, purports to prove that children who can delay gratification will meet with the most success in life. But fighting off impulses is just one part of a much broader and more predictive mental skill, one that scientists call cognitive control or the ability to manage your attention.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2013/10/07/forget-delayed-gratification-what-kids-really-need-is-cognitive-control/#ixzz2hohMS6MN»

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How Focus Changed my Thinking about Emotional Intelligence

In a second-grade classroom at a school in Spanish Harlem, the teacher told me that a child had come to class very upset: Someone she knew had been shot. The teacher then asked the students how many of them knew a person who had been shot—and every hand went up.

The children’s school was right next to a massive housing project were most of these children live. On top of the difficulties of such a childhood, half of the children in this class had “special needs,” ranging from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to the autism spectrum. I expected the atmosphere to be chaotic.»

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The Role of Attention for Creativity

The relationship between attention and innovation is complex. As we know, managing your attention well falls within the EI domains of self-awareness and self-regulation.

But to better understand how attention plays a role in innovation, let’s first look at the stages of creativity.

First, you’ve got to recognize that there is a creative challenge. The research on innovation in business shows there are two approaches: exploitation and exploration. In exploitation the creative challenge is to find new ways to make the most of the products you’ve got. In exploration you look widely to see what else you could do that is new and different. »

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Social media, smartphones and focus

Ben Dickinson talks with Dan Goleman and others about tech and social media.

“Best-selling science writer and Emotional Intelligence guru Daniel Goleman is trying to get his head around some fresh numbers I’ve cited from a new Harris Interactive poll: Nearly 20 percent of smartphone owners ages 18 to 34 report having used their phones while having sex.

‘I don’t get how they do that. You know,’ Goleman adds drily from his phone in Martha’s Vineyard, ever the analytical rationalist, ‘they didn’t ask all the questions that follow from that data point.'”

Read the full article at elle.com


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The three kinds of focus every leader needs

Consider a hard-driving executive, one who focuses on his quarterly targets and goes through whatever personal heroics are needed to hit his numbers. A valuable asset to any company, right?

Well, it depends. Such executives, increasingly common in the working world, may be too focused on the numbers at the expense of empathy. Empathy – understanding how others think and feel and what your impact is on them – counts among three kinds of focus high-performing managers need today.

The other two are self-awareness and systems awareness. I refer to this triad as Inner, Other, and Outer focus. Executives need strengths in all three, and to use the right one at the right time.»

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