Focus: the challenge of our times


Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, 1932 Georgia O’Keeffe

After his book, Emotional Intelligence, when I see anything that has the name Daniel Goleman on it, I want to read it. That’s what happened with Focus (2013). At that time, I had this sort of perception that my attention was something I could work on, something relevant for my everyday living.
Right now, I am absolutely certain that the way we are able to direct our attention to what we want will lead us to a better life: in relation to work and productivity or in relation to personal well-being. The author puts in in the words of Yoda “ your focus is your reality”.

Goleman (internationally known psychologist and science journalist) provides first, a scientific basis on how our attention works, which is essential to know for a better use of it and then he concentrates on the why and the how of getting a better focus. There are different types of distraction that come from the outside world, something that is intensely discussed these days. However, “the biggest challenge (…) comes from the emotional turmoil of our lives.”

I consider we are at a point as a species where we can not blame the outer distractions for the misery of our lives. We live in an over informed, overstimulated world: yes, we all agree. However, we also live in a world where the tools to win over our challenges are easily available for anyone. And that is a blessing.

The first time I heard about Mindfulness was here in this book. Mindfulness is the practice and exercise of connecting to yourself using your breathing. “Mindfulness develops our capacity to observe our moment-to-moment experience (… .) We practice letting go of thoughts about any one thing and open our focus on whatever comes to mind in the stream of awareness, without getting lost in a torrent of thoughts about any one thing.”

The author concludes about this topic that it “offers an organic way to teach focusing skills.” The benefits of it are widely known and proven: From rewiring your brain to being able to live and enjoy a more conscious, satisfactory life. It is so simple and so complex at the same time. It requires patience, habit, tolerance and understanding. Understanding of its process and of its enormous impact on our re connection to ourselves and our purposes.

Goleman also offers examples of forms of meditation in the areas of education and leadership with the same idea in mind: the more you connect to yourself, the better you will perform in any area you desire to excel: as a professional, as a parent, as a leader, as a student.

This has been, what I believe, an ambitious work by Goleman. A very complex topic as attention described without simplifications of ideas or language, but in a way in which all the information turns out useful for our lives. I find this ultimate purpose in a book meaningful and dignifying. Certainly, a lot more research has been done on the topic, but the insights and connections the book provides makes the reading worth it.

I truly wish you an insightful and focused reading!

My personal connection with this has to do with Georgia O’Keeffe’s words. That’s the reason I included one of her remarkable paintings at the beginning of the post. I wrote down the following quote many years ago in one of my notebooks, after I had discovered her work. It’s an idea that strikes me now as a poetic depiction on the concept of focus.

 “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.”


Other connections

Here’s Mr. Goleman’s site. 

Here’s an article by Daniel Levitin that has been mentioned dozens of times in other articles about how this modern livfe of ours is affecting our brains.

I feel I can not mention Mindfulness without mentioning Jon Kabat-Zinn is a site I recommend. It has helped me understand and practice mindfulness. It treats it with great respect and open mindedness.

Here you can see more about Georgia O’Keeffe and her work

I wish you interesating and meaningful connections!