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A guided solution to control our focus abilities. Book review: Daniel Goleman, `Focus`






How often do you feel that it is hard for you to focus on your daily work? How often do you have a sense of confusion, a sense that there are happening too many events in the world and you do not know what is more important? How many times your mind was a place of chaos and uncontrolled thoughts?


If you already have some answers for at least 2 of the 3 above questions, we want to recommend you a book that will help you in controlling the attention process. The book `Focus` written by Daniel Goleman treats this problem in a very comprehensive way. In the following paragraphs, we want to present to you the main ideas of this book.



The first part of the book focuses on the basic understanding of the anatomy of attention. We find out that during reading a text, our mind wanders between 20 – 40% of the time. That’s why it is important to read again important books if the objective is to retain more information. Concerning the way the attention is wired in our brain, the author presents that the conscious attention has its source in the `top-down` mind which is the rational, slower, voluntary and effortful mind usually located in the neo-cortex part of the brain and involuntary attention which is located in `bottom-up` mind which is the intuitive, fast and impulsive mind usually located in the limbic system and reptilian brain. The whole idea is that we cannot control the survival mode of attention that we carry in our genes for billions of years, but we can practice our conscious attention.




What is self-awareness's role in our attention?


The first type of attention that Goleman says we need to practice is attention to ourselves. It is important to notice our gut feeling, how we picture ourselves compared to how others see us and to develop our meta-cognition. At Talent Collection we have many Wellbeing subjects focused on self-awareness where you can find different tools to develop your self-control abilities.




How much do we pay attention to others?


There are people who can read others from the smallest gestures and can figure out things no one observes, but there are people who miss even the biggest signs in interpreting a situation. The author presents us the attention to others in the light of the concept of empathy explaining in detail the difference between cognitive and emotional empathy. Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand other’s perspectives, to understand their situation and their mental state. Emotional empathy is the ability to feel in our body the emotion that the other person experiences. If you want to discover more about empathy, our “Leading with Emotional Intelligence” workshop focuses on building empathy and finding the balance between the two types.




How do we see the world?


The third type of attention Goleman focuses on is the attention towards the outer world, the way we develop our overview perception. With this kind of perception, we notice systems, patterns, global issues and the way these impact at an individual and collective level. There is a big error that people tend to do in their perception of the outer world:


`The problem gets compounded by what’s called the ~illusion of explanatory depth~ where we feel confidence in our understanding of a complex system, but in reality we have just superficial knowledge.~ (p.143)


This is a very important skill to be developed by leaders. The author has a special chapter dedicated to leadership. For those interested in developing leadership skills, you can enrol in our extended leadership academy or attend one of the many leadership courses we have (e.g. Get what you want in leadership essentials)




We strongly recommend this book as being a top choice in self-development. Daniel Goleman cites numerous studies and researches and gives some practical advice on how to develop our attention abilities in this world full of stimuli. It is an opportunity to step out of amateur, automatic attention to an expert, self-controlled way of living. We would love to see your opinion about `Focus`.


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