Daniel Goleman’s New Focus

What’s your focus?  How do you decide?  Do feelings play a role?

Daniel Goleman’s new book explores the research and practice of attention — which turns out to be a powerful tool to create positive change.  Here’s why he wrote the book – and why it matters to those of us committed to emotional intelligence.


FOCUS Hc cI asked Dan about the origins of the book:  “I’ve always been interested in attention; my earliest research at Harvard was on the retraining of attention to help people recover from stress. But it was only while writing FOCUS that I updated my understanding with the most recent scientific findings that I saw my model of emotional intelligence could be recast in terms of where we put our attention and how.”

We’ve all experienced the link between attention and emotion.  If I’m frustrated with a colleague, it’s easy to focus on the ways he’s not meeting my expectations, and my frustration increases.  Yet when I focus on the great work we’ve done together, my frustration diminishes.  Goleman says this is at the heart of the book:

“In many approaches to EQ, including in Six Seconds’ approach, there is an ingredient of noticing how we notice, of developing new forms of focus. My book FOCUS provides a new framework for understanding why this is so critically important. This book will be valuable for people interested in emotional intelligence because it goes deeply into this essential skillset; a capability that will enhance emotional intelligence, and performance in many professional and personal domains.”

Dan and I will be holding a series of conversations about focus, emotions, leading, and living — and we’ll share these as an series of blog posts.  We want you to be part of the conversation!  What’s a question you’d like us to discuss?  

The next part of our interview is here:  Back in Focus

Here’s FOCUS on Amazon.com – and the description of the book from the publisher:

The author of the international bestseller Emotional Intelligence returns with a groundbreaking look at today’s scarcest resource and the secret to high performance and fulfillment: attention.

Daniel Goleman ap1For more than two decades, psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman has been scouting the leading edge of the human sciences for what’s new, surprising, and important. In Focus, he delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a long-overdue discussion of this little-noticed and underrated mental asset that matters enormously for how we navigate life. Attention works much like a muscle: use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows. In an era of unstoppable distractions, Goleman persuasively argues that now more than ever we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to contend with, let alone thrive in, a complex world.

Goleman analyzes attention research as a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. A well-lived life demands that we be nimble at each. Goleman shows why high-performers need all three kinds of focus, as demonstrated by rich case studies from fields as diverse as competitive sports, education, the arts, and business. Those who excel rely on what Goleman calls smart practice—such as mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and recovery from setbacks, continued attention to the learning curve, and positive emotions and connections—that help them improve habits, add new skills, and sustain excellence. Combining cutting-edge research with practical findings, Focus reveals what distinguishes experts from amateurs and stars from average performers. Ultimately,Focus calls upon readers not only to pay attention to what matters most to them personally, but also to turn their attention to the pressing problems of the wider world, to the powerless and the poor, and to the future, not just to the seductively simple demands of the here and now.

About the author - Joshua Freedman

Joshua is one of the world’s preeminent experts on developing emotional intelligence to create positive change. With warmth and authenticity, he translates leading-edge science into practical, applicable terms that improve the quality of relationships to unlock enduring success. Joshua leads the world’s largest network of emotional intelligence practitioners and researchers.

View more posts from Joshua Freedman

Comments for this article (17)

  • What is the relationship between focus and multi tasking?

  • My role as a teacher is guiding me to further pursue the study of emotional intelligence and it’s role in education. Finding this article was divine work, because only this morning I attended a collaboration meeting about a child who can not focus, attend, (you name it) While her parents aren’t ready to embrace a diagnosis (I don’t blame them). I believe, as educators we could meet her needs if .took an emotional intelligence approach. This idea is somewhat foreign to the public educator so what I would like to know is how do I inform others, what points do I need to make?

  • My focus is of a teacher. Emotions enable learning ( not teaching), but they also disable learning. Sometimes they ‘work’ through focus, say by distracting attention. Sometimes they work through ‘interest’, as they help the student to focus on learning. It would be useful if these inter-relationships are shown more starkly so that they can be ‘actively’ used

  • Ann (Lau) Ward says:

    In interested in the attention that’s at the forefront of a child who is experiencing “a sense of wonder.” I’ve heard it referred to as “fascination attention” and that it differs greatly from “directed attention.” I’m curious about how spending time in nature impacts children’s well-being. Any research out there re: wonder, attention, time in nature?

  • Jos Davidson says:

    I have taught youger students [ 4th -8th] how to shift their focus/attention from internal mode, to external mode, and back again. This helps them to relate, to uncouple from the “movie in their head” to what is occuring in the external world. It helps them to actually listen to what is being said/shown, rather than kinda “hear it”, and it helps them to manage criticism, teasing, and bullying more effectively
    I will be interested in what Goleman has to say about teaching how to do this shift, as it is a learned skill, not something that we are born with. Some kids come from environments that have already taught them how to listen, but many come in without this skill at all. And, it can be taught, didactically. I have taught it in public school settings for many years.

    • Joshua Freedman says:

      Jos, there’s some fascinating neuroscience on this; it appears there are 2 networks activated in the 2 states you describe, and that these are “anti correlated” – one suppresses the other…

  • I hope that you and Daniel Goleman are inviting Les Fehmi, PhD whose 50 years of pioneering research on attention led to the 2001 book he co-authored, of “The Open Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention”. Dr. Fehmi is busier than ever now, recently featured in a workshop with Jill Bolte Taylor.

  • Tauqir says:

    Thanks Josh for introducing a great book on a great subject. I personally have been worrying about how to focus attention: we are overwhelmed by so much stuff that we hardly enjoy a relaxed conversation, patient listening, and even our meals. As an EQ practitioner it’s crucial to know and apply skills to improve Focus. Hope to receive more from you on the subject in the coming days.

  • Christina says:

    Hallo Josh,

    Thanks for sharing. Focus is important and is helped by the correct dieet and sufficient sleep. Practice makes perfect.

  • I am in my 60’s and my high-functioning A.D.D. seems to be pulling me in at least 12 directions = working on a doctorate, studying A Course in Miracles, teaching in the Master’s Degree Program, writing a workbook for each class I teach (about 12 of them, 4 each term), eating according to better nutrition, working out without hurting myself, taking EQ training for educators, designing a research project, going to a Biblical archaeology conference, …etc.
    How do I focus without cutting myself out of things I love and need attention?

  • Shabbir Latif says:

    Is focus same as being mindful or aware? To me they are same idea.

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