Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence (Daniel Goleman)

I borrowed “Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence”, by Daniel Goleman from my boss because I wanted to focus better at my work. To say it has been an eye-opener would be an understatement. I have read this book till the end, and then read some sections again to understand them better.

Goleman is known for bringing EQ to the mainstream. He writes a compelling book about Focus, filled with data and facts. Our ability to pay attention is a conscious, Systems 2 activity. It involves effort and awareness, and can be exhausting. Distractions can be sensory or emotional- the latter is harder to overcome. However, the ability to pay sustained attention in the face of multiple distractions through the day, can lead to success. It has become even more imperative in an age of smartphones, video games, and a connected life.

Goleman also considers the different subjects of focus- self awareness, awareness of others, and systems thinking. Humans are not naturally wired to understand big, complex, time-distant system problems such as climate change, and need to develop a unique skill set, and work with others, to grasp the scale and complexity of the problem.

The good news, however, is that we can train ourselves to pay attention, through attention exercises and mindfulness techniques, including meditation.

Very interestingly, after reading this book, I came across more articles and references to attention, mindfulness, and focus. Maybe my brain is just more attuned to it now! I particularly liked this Ed Batista article.

This book was not an easy read- the temptation to put it down and do something easier was always there! As the blurb says “a reader’s mind typically wanders upto 40% of the time when perusing a text”. However, I find myself burning through other books now (I have finished 2 more books in the month since I finished this one), simply because I am better able to focus, and stick through the hard parts.

My key takeaways:

  1. Attention is easy, distraction is also easy. Focus requires effort, and we can build our capacity to focus through training and practice.
  2. All 3 aspects of attention- self awareness, awareness of others, and systems awareness- are important, but the last one is the most difficult to achieve.
  3. From experience, the ability of pay attention does get better with practice.

If you are looking for help in a highly distracting world, this book can help.


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