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Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Dan discusses why focus is the key to excellence in any field and why we need to be aware of the effects of technology on our brains.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien and I'm so delighted to be here right now with Dr. Dan Goleman. Dan is an acclaimed psychologist who's received two Pulitzer prize nominations for his New York Times articles on behavioral science and the brain. He's also the author of several books, including my, one of my favorite books of all time, the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence. And he's just released a new book, which I believe is going to be groundbreaking, called Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

Dan, thank you so much for taking this time out for the Mindfulness Summit. I know you're busy traveling around at the moment, so I really appreciate you taking the time out. I'm glad I could be part of it, Melli. Thank you. Dan, why did you feel that right now it was, it was so important to explore the topic of focus and to, you know, share those findings with the world.

Well, I think that because of technology, because we're all constantly interrupted and distracted by our devices, by our Facebook, by our emails, by our texts, that attention is under siege in a way it's never been before in human history. And that we need to become more mindful about what we're doing. People turns out are just not paying attention to what they're doing about half the time, according to data from Harvard. It's so important because attention, mindfulness, being present with what's going on is the fundamental ability that lets us be with the people we love, being with the people that we're working with, be attentive to what it is we're doing. And as our mind wanders, and we don't notice it wanders, we get carried away and, you know, at work, our performance suffers our relationships suffer.

So I thought it was time that we look at the capacity of attention itself. Mindfulness of course, is a way to, to train attention, to make it to cultivate the ability to be more present. Yeah. And your book title that, that our focus is the hidden driver of excellence, why is focus the hidden driver of excellence? No matter what you're doing, no matter what the domain you know, performance is chess, golf, relationships, management, mothering, it doesn't matter if you're not present, if you're not focused on what you're doing, you'll do it poorly. However, the more you can focus, the more you can be completely absorbed in what you're doing, the better your performance will be.

And, and research, shows that in any domain, those people who are the most excellent, who are the top, you know, of the game, are the most focused. It's a state called flow. It's a state that champions, that people who are superb at what they do, experience spontaneously. And the key to that state is completely concentration, complete presence, complete mindfulness. And is, is flow the same thing as mindfulness, or are they a little different? They're a little different.

Mindfulness is the technique that we can practice to strengthen the muscle of attention. And as we become more and more present and focused and mindful, the state of flow can emerge. Flow is a particular brain state. It's a state of maximum neural harmony. It's a state of heightened cognitive efficiency.

It's a state where people are at their best. However, mindfulness is not the same. Mindfulness is a pathway to flow. So the more you practice mindfulness, the more likely it is that you would spontaneously go into flow? Exactly. Right.

And is it, is mindfulness the formal training of, of how you build this capacity to be more focused? Is it the only way, or are there other ways to train focus? Well, mindfulness is a particular kind of meditation. My first book was called The Varieties of Meditative Experience. I looked at the range of different ways of training the mind. And mindfulness, which comes from the Vipassana tradition in Theravada in countries is a technique that is quite powerful. It's not the only way.

There are visualizations. There are meditations on mindfulness. There are a wide range of ways to bring the mind to focus and bring it to presence. Mindfulness, however, seems to be the one that that's, that is in vogue today. And I think that's fine.

Yeah. And I think part of the reason for that is probably because of this huge body of research that's developed around that practice of mindfulness through the, through the MBSR program. There's, there's quite a good body of research there. So I think, as you say, it's quite in vogue because of that research. Well, MBSR, mindfulness-based stress reduction was started by an old friend of mine, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

I've know him since before he was doing MBSR. And his orientation is actually, it comes from Korean Zen, that was his training and from yoga. And he brought them together and really came up with what I think is an ingenious way of introducing it. The most compelling research on MBSR actually has to do with effects and with his original application was, which was in the medical arena. He told people, he asked people that, the medical school, where he was introducing this, send me your patients that you can't help anymore, he said.

People with chronic disabilities and, you know, cardiovascular, diabetes, name whatever it was. And the idea was that mindfulness based stress reduction would help them live better with the disability. It didn't cure the disease. Then a group at Oxford with John Teasdale said, well, if it works so well with medical patients, and it does, particularly with chronic pain, let's try it with people who are depressed, who medications won't help anymore. And he integrated it with cognitive therapy.

And found that a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression reduced remissions, that is having another episode of depression, by 50%. And it was actually better than medications can do. It was quite stunning. At the same time he was doing that, actually my wife, Tara Bennett-Goleman, who's a seasoned mindfulness meditator and was studying cognitive therapy, integrated it for kind of the more everyday range of self-defeating emotional habits. And she's found it's a very powerful method.

She has, her book was called, Emotional Alchemy, How the Mind Can Heal the Heart. She and I still do workshops together on that because it's, it's not just people with chronic pain, it's not just people with serious depression. Every one of us has a range of habits we've learned in our relationships, in our work life, whatever it may be that might be, in some sense, self-defeating and mindfulness is a crucial step in being able to change those habits. Because habit itself is implemented through an unconscious part of the brain. So in order to change it at all, we have to bring it into our awareness.

And that's the power of mindfulness, is that first crucial step in bringing a habit out of the unconscious into a space in the mind where we can work with it. And I think that's true across the board, that mindfulness lets us be more intentional about what we do, whatever we're doing, because we realize when we're not paying attention and when we are. That's fundamental. Right. It reminds me of that old Viktor Frankl quote, which is, you know, between, I think you know it, between stimulus and response, that's the space where we have the power to choose something.

So I think that mindfulness kind of opens up that, that space where we can choose whether we want to play out our old habitual response or we can choose something, something different. There's another way of putting the same idea, which is that mature is widening the gap between impulse and reaction. And mindfulness, if you put mindfulness in between the impulse and the action, you're going to make a better response. Yeah. I think one of the things that I hear most, some of the, some of the questions that I hear most often, I'd love to kind of put to you, one of the things I get asked a lot is, is there a best way to, to train focus? Is there, you know, do is, do you feel that there's a best way? What's your, what's your take on that? Or is that different for different people? There, it may be different for different people.

If mindfulness doesn't suit you, you might find walking with mindfulness. Some, you know, some people can't sit still that easily. They get bored or fall asleep. I used to fall asleep when I started meditating. I was student at the time, I was sleep deprived.

And probably needed the rest. Now yoga, mindful yoga is helpful. It's good to find something that you experience is beneficial and enjoy doing. And mindfulness, I think is that. Now in the book, Focus, I talk about two levels of mindfulness.

One is within our own mind, the other's interpersonal. Empathy, being present to the people that you're with. And I think that that second ability is cultivated through loving-kindness practice. I don't know if you've talked about loving kindness, in this summit, but it's extremely important. In fact, the tradition from which mindfulness was extracted, always combines a setting, a session of mindfulness with ending with the the wishing wellbeing for yourself, for the people you love, for the people you know, for people you don't know, for people you have difficulty with, for people in your general area, for people everywhere.

And actually it trains the brain in a different set of circuitry, which is very important for empathy and relationship. People who do that kind of loving kindness practice systematically, just as mindfulness makes you more concentrated in the present, that turns out to make you more present to other people, more empathic, more attuned, more likely to help them if they're in need. And I feel the best way to train the mind is to combine both. Do you know that? I would have to say, somebody asked me the other day, do you see any themes coming up, you know, as you're doing all these interviews during the summit? And I said, I think the big one is compassion, combining self-compassion and compassion for others with the practice. There has really been so much of an emphasis on how important that is.

Yes. And I I've just finished a book. You have, you may not know about it. It's called A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for Our World. Oh wonderful.

It just came out. Now the Dalai Lama, of course, embodies compassion, encourages mindfulness. He says, the first step is getting your destructive emotions under control. This is a very good tool for that. The second, he says, is a dogma and ethic of compassion.

And then after that, you have to act, he says, it's not enough to keep your own house in order. The world is in disorder and we all can do something. We all should act now. And his version of compassion is surprisingly muscular. I was really amazed.

It's not just being nice to people. One thing is he sees is compassionate, is looking at public spirit, corruption and collusion and bringing transparency and accountability. Oh, that's a, that's almost a political act. Yeah. He says dirty business, dirty politics, dirty religion, to be precise, we have to clean it up.

He says our economy is extremely unsure. The gap between rich and poor has been growing for centuries. And we have to have a more compassionate economics. Businesses should do good, not just, well, not just make money. He says we all can help the needy, but you know, find ways to help those in need also help themselves.

He says you know, the earth is our house and our house is on fire. The environmental crisis is something where we all can bring mindfulness to our daily habits, to what we buy ,to what we do. It's another arena for compassion, understanding that we're all the same human being beneath surface differences. You know, the world is full of conflict and intergroup struggles and prejudice and bias. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for dealing with that.

And he's not saying we should all do all of this, but each of us has some sphere of action where we can influence things for the better. And he says, take your mindfulness and compassion on the road. It's not enough just to get your own life together. We all have a responsibility for each other. I'm very inspired by his message.

And I think, you know, as you're saying that too, it occurs to me that you know, what, what I've found through cultivating compassion also is the courage to see what's difficult to see. Because it's very easy to kind of be very overwhelmed. We live in difficult times, Dan. Like, you know, I really, I was having a conversation with someone recently and just saying, Hey, being, being human and being on this planet these days is not easy because it's kind of overwhelming, you know. They're saying, you know, that the planet's in danger and all of this, and we've got technology and it's really overwhelming and it's, it's tempting to, to just shut it out and stay in your little world and put one foot in front of the other every day.

But I feel like what compassion does is gives me permission to feel what I feel and, and to comfort and soothe myself as I can knowledge the difficulties of life. And that gives me the ability to kind of take whatever action I can. I feel that's how compassion kind of works in my own life anyway. So yeah. That's true.

I think that in, in a way it takes courage to act with compassion. Yeah. But the other thing it says is, don't take on the overwhelming task, just take small steps. If each of us, if 7 billion of us take small steps together, that's a very giant step. So we can do it in our lives with whatever leverage we have.

Even looking at the things we buy and making better decisions. You know, there's a wonderful website, for example, called the skindeep.org, which analyzes the ingredients in personal care products, shampoo, lip balm, whatever it may be. My shampoo can have 50 chemical ingredients I've never heard of. It looks at each of those ingredients in the medical databases and tells you if they're related and how they might be cancer causing, or they might disturb the ecosystem. And it rates the toxicity of brands so all of a sudden we can be mindful of what we buy and we can make choices, healthier choices for us and for the planet.

Because what we, you know, shampoo our hair with washes into the water system and animals and organisms are exposed to the same thing. So compassionate for ourselves in that concrete way, it turns out to be compassion for the earth too. So that's a very easy, small step any of us could take toward a better environment. And, you know, it escalates from there. I love that.

It's, it's, it's I feel like there's simple, practical things that, the little things that we do every, every day, as you say, the way we eat, the way we consume, the way that we live our daily lives, it's not only affecting us, but everything is interconnected in that way. Yeah. The other If you just decide to buy only organic foods when you can, or non-GMO, you're in the earth actually, as you're, you know, taking away the economic power of those approaches. Yeah. You can't really, you can't really help one without the other, can you? When you help yourself, you, you help the planet, when you help the planet, you help yourself.

So, yeah. The other thing that I get asked a lot in fact, I'd say it's one of the most common kind of things that I first hear people say when they're on retreat or doing a course on, on mindfulness is, you know, I can't do it. I've just, my mind is wandering all over the place. I've got such a busy mind. I, I just can't meditate.

What would you say to if somebody made that comment to you? I would say that's the first sign of progress. What that means is you've noticed how active your mind actually is. But when we're tuned out of the mind, when we're mindless, that goes on all the time, we just don't notice. We're driven by it. So the first thing that happens in mindfulness is you notice how chaotic and busy it is inside there.

So that's great. Just keep going. So you're succeeding. You're not actually failing, you're succeeding in that moment. And then what do you think is, you mentioned before that there were some studies at Harvard about how much we're actually lost on autopilot as opposed to being in the moment.

And there was a talk, if that was the same research that I'm aware of with Matt, Matt Killingsworth. He made a link between fulfillment or happiness, whatever word you want to use, and, and the ability to be present in the moment. So as you see it, what's the link between focus and fulfillment? It turns out that the research shows when the mind wanders, it tends to want worry, in preoccupation and things that are bothering us and upsetting us. So there's a correlation between how much your mind wanders and how unhappy you are. So you could see mindfulness as another path to happiness because it minimizes all of the internal angst that goes on.

Yes. And in that research, it seemed like the actual act of being present in the moment in itself was fulfilling in itself. Would that be fair to say? Mindfulness can be fulfilling in itself. Don't expect. My feeling is that you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

Right, if you have the expectation. For the practice to feel a certain way. It's like, you know, the attention is a muscle of the mind. And every time you notice that the mind is wandering and bring it back, you're strengthening that muscle. Right.

It's like going to the gym, you know. And if you workout with a set of weights, you may be bored while you're doing that. You may not enjoy it, but you're still strengthening that muscle. It works the same. Right.

So it'd be more, in that context, it would mean more like saying, if you are mindful over time, you're more likely to get mentally fit, which has a certain feeling to it, I guess, over time which would be similar to going to the gym over and over again, then you're just fit all the time with that kind of repetition. You just have a certain level of fitness there. Precisely. And the same with the mind and that fitness itself becomes, it means that you're more likely to have times of feeling good or energized, of happiness, but it's not going to happen instantly. And it may not happen during the session of mindfulness.

We keep going. Yeah. Yep. One of the things there's a lot of buzz around at the moment, I think is, is mindfulness in the corporate world and, and, and really integrating mindfulness into work life. If you were in charge of a large organization, say a multinational organization, what kinds of policies and procedures would you like to put in place so that people could focus more and have less distraction? I think that there are couple of things that managers can do to facilitate mindfulness of work.

One is to encourage people to practice mindfulness, to strengthen the muscle of attention. The second is to make them aware that multitasking is a myth. The mind doesn't multitask, that when you switch from one thing to another, you lose effectiveness in the thing you switched from. When you go back, you have to work, work up to the point again where you were before you dropped it. And the third thing is to realize that people who are knowledge workers, who work with their mind, need a period in the day when they have no distractions, when there's protected time.

They don't have meetings, they don't have to take phone calls, they don't have to answer texts or emails. That's the most productive time of the day. And it's a kind of a creative cocoon. And managers can help people have that time by understanding it's important. So I think those are three different ways you can facilitate mindfulness in the workplace.

Great. And I just have one one final question for you. And this is the same question that I'm asking everybody who's taken part in the Summit, and that is, you know, they, they say that mindfulness has gone mainstream. I think it hasn't really gone mainstream yet. I think the idea is becoming de-stigmatized.

I think it's, you know, it's, it's becoming kind of trendy. But I'm wondering what would happen if mindfulness were to truly hit kind of a critical mass where say half the population were practicing. And I'm curious to know what kind of a world you think that would create, how things could be different. I actually see, see that as a very possible future because of what's called social emotional learning in schools. I think the big breakthrough is not going to be in the workplace.

It's going to be in how we teach our children because attention itself is a crucial line of development, just as emotion self-regulation is, just as empathy is. Children learn these abilities in a developmental sequences as they go from, you know, birth through adolescence and so on. And it's been underrated and ignored in our culture's attention. And now that it's being disrupted so terribly, we have to get very serious about helping our children learn to be attentive and mindful. They can't learn if they're not.

They can't manage their own emotions, if they're not. They can't get along with other kids with other people, they can't cooperate or be good team members if they're not. You know, going into adulthood. So I think that the real mainstream, although it's great, it's happening in organizations, will come when we, when our educational systems recognize that a child's ability to pay attention in class is fundamental to the mission of the school to help the child to learn. And when schools everywhere adopt programs that help children get better and better at paying attention.

What we call mindfulness is one form of attention training. There are many other forms. And as this becomes a given in education, and I think it should, it's such common sense when you think about it, then we'll see real mainstreaming over time. And what do you think, how do you think that would change things? What kinds of changes would you expect to see in a generation growing up with much more of an ability to, to be fully present for their lives? I think the key actually is coupling mindfulness with cultivation of kindness. If we don't do that, it could go in the wrong direction.

Being mindful, being effective if you're selfish is not a great boon for society. Sorry, it's not. Let's,let's get that straight, mindfulness people. What matters is kindness. Mindfulness plus kindness creates a better world.

Mindfulness plus a bigger ego, better job, more money, more power, no empathy is a disaster. We don't want to go in that direction. So if we couple mindfulness with kindness. I think we'll have a better future. Dan, thank you so much for your time.

And I want to take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my own heart for the work that you've done in your life, because it's really profoundly touched my own life and my partner, Matty, and I'm sure that I speak on behalf of many people who are watching this as well. So thank you so much for the work that you've done and, and continue to do. Melli, I thank you for putting this together. I really appreciate it. I think you're doing wonderful work.

Oh, thank you. Yeah, it's my pleasure. And I obviously highly recommend that everybody watching this checks out Dan's books, I just finished reading Focus and I, I loved it and I'm going to read it again. And Dan, is there anywhere else that people should go if they want to find out more about what you do? Thank you. There's the website, morethansound, one word, morethansound.net as well.

I have a lot of materials, videos, and audios and books that you can't find anywhere else. So morethansound.net. And also you might enjoy this new book, A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for Our World. Oh, that's going to be next on my reading list. And Dan, thank you and wishing you all the best on your continued journey.

Thanks, Melli.

Talk

4.6

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Dan discusses why focus is the key to excellence in any field and why we need to be aware of the effects of technology on our brains.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien and I'm so delighted to be here right now with Dr. Dan Goleman. Dan is an acclaimed psychologist who's received two Pulitzer prize nominations for his New York Times articles on behavioral science and the brain. He's also the author of several books, including my, one of my favorite books of all time, the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence. And he's just released a new book, which I believe is going to be groundbreaking, called Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

Dan, thank you so much for taking this time out for the Mindfulness Summit. I know you're busy traveling around at the moment, so I really appreciate you taking the time out. I'm glad I could be part of it, Melli. Thank you. Dan, why did you feel that right now it was, it was so important to explore the topic of focus and to, you know, share those findings with the world.

Well, I think that because of technology, because we're all constantly interrupted and distracted by our devices, by our Facebook, by our emails, by our texts, that attention is under siege in a way it's never been before in human history. And that we need to become more mindful about what we're doing. People turns out are just not paying attention to what they're doing about half the time, according to data from Harvard. It's so important because attention, mindfulness, being present with what's going on is the fundamental ability that lets us be with the people we love, being with the people that we're working with, be attentive to what it is we're doing. And as our mind wanders, and we don't notice it wanders, we get carried away and, you know, at work, our performance suffers our relationships suffer.

So I thought it was time that we look at the capacity of attention itself. Mindfulness of course, is a way to, to train attention, to make it to cultivate the ability to be more present. Yeah. And your book title that, that our focus is the hidden driver of excellence, why is focus the hidden driver of excellence? No matter what you're doing, no matter what the domain you know, performance is chess, golf, relationships, management, mothering, it doesn't matter if you're not present, if you're not focused on what you're doing, you'll do it poorly. However, the more you can focus, the more you can be completely absorbed in what you're doing, the better your performance will be.

And, and research, shows that in any domain, those people who are the most excellent, who are the top, you know, of the game, are the most focused. It's a state called flow. It's a state that champions, that people who are superb at what they do, experience spontaneously. And the key to that state is completely concentration, complete presence, complete mindfulness. And is, is flow the same thing as mindfulness, or are they a little different? They're a little different.

Mindfulness is the technique that we can practice to strengthen the muscle of attention. And as we become more and more present and focused and mindful, the state of flow can emerge. Flow is a particular brain state. It's a state of maximum neural harmony. It's a state of heightened cognitive efficiency.

It's a state where people are at their best. However, mindfulness is not the same. Mindfulness is a pathway to flow. So the more you practice mindfulness, the more likely it is that you would spontaneously go into flow? Exactly. Right.

And is it, is mindfulness the formal training of, of how you build this capacity to be more focused? Is it the only way, or are there other ways to train focus? Well, mindfulness is a particular kind of meditation. My first book was called The Varieties of Meditative Experience. I looked at the range of different ways of training the mind. And mindfulness, which comes from the Vipassana tradition in Theravada in countries is a technique that is quite powerful. It's not the only way.

There are visualizations. There are meditations on mindfulness. There are a wide range of ways to bring the mind to focus and bring it to presence. Mindfulness, however, seems to be the one that that's, that is in vogue today. And I think that's fine.

Yeah. And I think part of the reason for that is probably because of this huge body of research that's developed around that practice of mindfulness through the, through the MBSR program. There's, there's quite a good body of research there. So I think, as you say, it's quite in vogue because of that research. Well, MBSR, mindfulness-based stress reduction was started by an old friend of mine, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

I've know him since before he was doing MBSR. And his orientation is actually, it comes from Korean Zen, that was his training and from yoga. And he brought them together and really came up with what I think is an ingenious way of introducing it. The most compelling research on MBSR actually has to do with effects and with his original application was, which was in the medical arena. He told people, he asked people that, the medical school, where he was introducing this, send me your patients that you can't help anymore, he said.

People with chronic disabilities and, you know, cardiovascular, diabetes, name whatever it was. And the idea was that mindfulness based stress reduction would help them live better with the disability. It didn't cure the disease. Then a group at Oxford with John Teasdale said, well, if it works so well with medical patients, and it does, particularly with chronic pain, let's try it with people who are depressed, who medications won't help anymore. And he integrated it with cognitive therapy.

And found that a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression reduced remissions, that is having another episode of depression, by 50%. And it was actually better than medications can do. It was quite stunning. At the same time he was doing that, actually my wife, Tara Bennett-Goleman, who's a seasoned mindfulness meditator and was studying cognitive therapy, integrated it for kind of the more everyday range of self-defeating emotional habits. And she's found it's a very powerful method.

She has, her book was called, Emotional Alchemy, How the Mind Can Heal the Heart. She and I still do workshops together on that because it's, it's not just people with chronic pain, it's not just people with serious depression. Every one of us has a range of habits we've learned in our relationships, in our work life, whatever it may be that might be, in some sense, self-defeating and mindfulness is a crucial step in being able to change those habits. Because habit itself is implemented through an unconscious part of the brain. So in order to change it at all, we have to bring it into our awareness.

And that's the power of mindfulness, is that first crucial step in bringing a habit out of the unconscious into a space in the mind where we can work with it. And I think that's true across the board, that mindfulness lets us be more intentional about what we do, whatever we're doing, because we realize when we're not paying attention and when we are. That's fundamental. Right. It reminds me of that old Viktor Frankl quote, which is, you know, between, I think you know it, between stimulus and response, that's the space where we have the power to choose something.

So I think that mindfulness kind of opens up that, that space where we can choose whether we want to play out our old habitual response or we can choose something, something different. There's another way of putting the same idea, which is that mature is widening the gap between impulse and reaction. And mindfulness, if you put mindfulness in between the impulse and the action, you're going to make a better response. Yeah. I think one of the things that I hear most, some of the, some of the questions that I hear most often, I'd love to kind of put to you, one of the things I get asked a lot is, is there a best way to, to train focus? Is there, you know, do is, do you feel that there's a best way? What's your, what's your take on that? Or is that different for different people? There, it may be different for different people.

If mindfulness doesn't suit you, you might find walking with mindfulness. Some, you know, some people can't sit still that easily. They get bored or fall asleep. I used to fall asleep when I started meditating. I was student at the time, I was sleep deprived.

And probably needed the rest. Now yoga, mindful yoga is helpful. It's good to find something that you experience is beneficial and enjoy doing. And mindfulness, I think is that. Now in the book, Focus, I talk about two levels of mindfulness.

One is within our own mind, the other's interpersonal. Empathy, being present to the people that you're with. And I think that that second ability is cultivated through loving-kindness practice. I don't know if you've talked about loving kindness, in this summit, but it's extremely important. In fact, the tradition from which mindfulness was extracted, always combines a setting, a session of mindfulness with ending with the the wishing wellbeing for yourself, for the people you love, for the people you know, for people you don't know, for people you have difficulty with, for people in your general area, for people everywhere.

And actually it trains the brain in a different set of circuitry, which is very important for empathy and relationship. People who do that kind of loving kindness practice systematically, just as mindfulness makes you more concentrated in the present, that turns out to make you more present to other people, more empathic, more attuned, more likely to help them if they're in need. And I feel the best way to train the mind is to combine both. Do you know that? I would have to say, somebody asked me the other day, do you see any themes coming up, you know, as you're doing all these interviews during the summit? And I said, I think the big one is compassion, combining self-compassion and compassion for others with the practice. There has really been so much of an emphasis on how important that is.

Yes. And I I've just finished a book. You have, you may not know about it. It's called A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for Our World. Oh wonderful.

It just came out. Now the Dalai Lama, of course, embodies compassion, encourages mindfulness. He says, the first step is getting your destructive emotions under control. This is a very good tool for that. The second, he says, is a dogma and ethic of compassion.

And then after that, you have to act, he says, it's not enough to keep your own house in order. The world is in disorder and we all can do something. We all should act now. And his version of compassion is surprisingly muscular. I was really amazed.

It's not just being nice to people. One thing is he sees is compassionate, is looking at public spirit, corruption and collusion and bringing transparency and accountability. Oh, that's a, that's almost a political act. Yeah. He says dirty business, dirty politics, dirty religion, to be precise, we have to clean it up.

He says our economy is extremely unsure. The gap between rich and poor has been growing for centuries. And we have to have a more compassionate economics. Businesses should do good, not just, well, not just make money. He says we all can help the needy, but you know, find ways to help those in need also help themselves.

He says you know, the earth is our house and our house is on fire. The environmental crisis is something where we all can bring mindfulness to our daily habits, to what we buy ,to what we do. It's another arena for compassion, understanding that we're all the same human being beneath surface differences. You know, the world is full of conflict and intergroup struggles and prejudice and bias. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for dealing with that.

And he's not saying we should all do all of this, but each of us has some sphere of action where we can influence things for the better. And he says, take your mindfulness and compassion on the road. It's not enough just to get your own life together. We all have a responsibility for each other. I'm very inspired by his message.

And I think, you know, as you're saying that too, it occurs to me that you know, what, what I've found through cultivating compassion also is the courage to see what's difficult to see. Because it's very easy to kind of be very overwhelmed. We live in difficult times, Dan. Like, you know, I really, I was having a conversation with someone recently and just saying, Hey, being, being human and being on this planet these days is not easy because it's kind of overwhelming, you know. They're saying, you know, that the planet's in danger and all of this, and we've got technology and it's really overwhelming and it's, it's tempting to, to just shut it out and stay in your little world and put one foot in front of the other every day.

But I feel like what compassion does is gives me permission to feel what I feel and, and to comfort and soothe myself as I can knowledge the difficulties of life. And that gives me the ability to kind of take whatever action I can. I feel that's how compassion kind of works in my own life anyway. So yeah. That's true.

I think that in, in a way it takes courage to act with compassion. Yeah. But the other thing it says is, don't take on the overwhelming task, just take small steps. If each of us, if 7 billion of us take small steps together, that's a very giant step. So we can do it in our lives with whatever leverage we have.

Even looking at the things we buy and making better decisions. You know, there's a wonderful website, for example, called the skindeep.org, which analyzes the ingredients in personal care products, shampoo, lip balm, whatever it may be. My shampoo can have 50 chemical ingredients I've never heard of. It looks at each of those ingredients in the medical databases and tells you if they're related and how they might be cancer causing, or they might disturb the ecosystem. And it rates the toxicity of brands so all of a sudden we can be mindful of what we buy and we can make choices, healthier choices for us and for the planet.

Because what we, you know, shampoo our hair with washes into the water system and animals and organisms are exposed to the same thing. So compassionate for ourselves in that concrete way, it turns out to be compassion for the earth too. So that's a very easy, small step any of us could take toward a better environment. And, you know, it escalates from there. I love that.

It's, it's, it's I feel like there's simple, practical things that, the little things that we do every, every day, as you say, the way we eat, the way we consume, the way that we live our daily lives, it's not only affecting us, but everything is interconnected in that way. Yeah. The other If you just decide to buy only organic foods when you can, or non-GMO, you're in the earth actually, as you're, you know, taking away the economic power of those approaches. Yeah. You can't really, you can't really help one without the other, can you? When you help yourself, you, you help the planet, when you help the planet, you help yourself.

So, yeah. The other thing that I get asked a lot in fact, I'd say it's one of the most common kind of things that I first hear people say when they're on retreat or doing a course on, on mindfulness is, you know, I can't do it. I've just, my mind is wandering all over the place. I've got such a busy mind. I, I just can't meditate.

What would you say to if somebody made that comment to you? I would say that's the first sign of progress. What that means is you've noticed how active your mind actually is. But when we're tuned out of the mind, when we're mindless, that goes on all the time, we just don't notice. We're driven by it. So the first thing that happens in mindfulness is you notice how chaotic and busy it is inside there.

So that's great. Just keep going. So you're succeeding. You're not actually failing, you're succeeding in that moment. And then what do you think is, you mentioned before that there were some studies at Harvard about how much we're actually lost on autopilot as opposed to being in the moment.

And there was a talk, if that was the same research that I'm aware of with Matt, Matt Killingsworth. He made a link between fulfillment or happiness, whatever word you want to use, and, and the ability to be present in the moment. So as you see it, what's the link between focus and fulfillment? It turns out that the research shows when the mind wanders, it tends to want worry, in preoccupation and things that are bothering us and upsetting us. So there's a correlation between how much your mind wanders and how unhappy you are. So you could see mindfulness as another path to happiness because it minimizes all of the internal angst that goes on.

Yes. And in that research, it seemed like the actual act of being present in the moment in itself was fulfilling in itself. Would that be fair to say? Mindfulness can be fulfilling in itself. Don't expect. My feeling is that you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

Right, if you have the expectation. For the practice to feel a certain way. It's like, you know, the attention is a muscle of the mind. And every time you notice that the mind is wandering and bring it back, you're strengthening that muscle. Right.

It's like going to the gym, you know. And if you workout with a set of weights, you may be bored while you're doing that. You may not enjoy it, but you're still strengthening that muscle. It works the same. Right.

So it'd be more, in that context, it would mean more like saying, if you are mindful over time, you're more likely to get mentally fit, which has a certain feeling to it, I guess, over time which would be similar to going to the gym over and over again, then you're just fit all the time with that kind of repetition. You just have a certain level of fitness there. Precisely. And the same with the mind and that fitness itself becomes, it means that you're more likely to have times of feeling good or energized, of happiness, but it's not going to happen instantly. And it may not happen during the session of mindfulness.

We keep going. Yeah. Yep. One of the things there's a lot of buzz around at the moment, I think is, is mindfulness in the corporate world and, and, and really integrating mindfulness into work life. If you were in charge of a large organization, say a multinational organization, what kinds of policies and procedures would you like to put in place so that people could focus more and have less distraction? I think that there are couple of things that managers can do to facilitate mindfulness of work.

One is to encourage people to practice mindfulness, to strengthen the muscle of attention. The second is to make them aware that multitasking is a myth. The mind doesn't multitask, that when you switch from one thing to another, you lose effectiveness in the thing you switched from. When you go back, you have to work, work up to the point again where you were before you dropped it. And the third thing is to realize that people who are knowledge workers, who work with their mind, need a period in the day when they have no distractions, when there's protected time.

They don't have meetings, they don't have to take phone calls, they don't have to answer texts or emails. That's the most productive time of the day. And it's a kind of a creative cocoon. And managers can help people have that time by understanding it's important. So I think those are three different ways you can facilitate mindfulness in the workplace.

Great. And I just have one one final question for you. And this is the same question that I'm asking everybody who's taken part in the Summit, and that is, you know, they, they say that mindfulness has gone mainstream. I think it hasn't really gone mainstream yet. I think the idea is becoming de-stigmatized.

I think it's, you know, it's, it's becoming kind of trendy. But I'm wondering what would happen if mindfulness were to truly hit kind of a critical mass where say half the population were practicing. And I'm curious to know what kind of a world you think that would create, how things could be different. I actually see, see that as a very possible future because of what's called social emotional learning in schools. I think the big breakthrough is not going to be in the workplace.

It's going to be in how we teach our children because attention itself is a crucial line of development, just as emotion self-regulation is, just as empathy is. Children learn these abilities in a developmental sequences as they go from, you know, birth through adolescence and so on. And it's been underrated and ignored in our culture's attention. And now that it's being disrupted so terribly, we have to get very serious about helping our children learn to be attentive and mindful. They can't learn if they're not.

They can't manage their own emotions, if they're not. They can't get along with other kids with other people, they can't cooperate or be good team members if they're not. You know, going into adulthood. So I think that the real mainstream, although it's great, it's happening in organizations, will come when we, when our educational systems recognize that a child's ability to pay attention in class is fundamental to the mission of the school to help the child to learn. And when schools everywhere adopt programs that help children get better and better at paying attention.

What we call mindfulness is one form of attention training. There are many other forms. And as this becomes a given in education, and I think it should, it's such common sense when you think about it, then we'll see real mainstreaming over time. And what do you think, how do you think that would change things? What kinds of changes would you expect to see in a generation growing up with much more of an ability to, to be fully present for their lives? I think the key actually is coupling mindfulness with cultivation of kindness. If we don't do that, it could go in the wrong direction.

Being mindful, being effective if you're selfish is not a great boon for society. Sorry, it's not. Let's,let's get that straight, mindfulness people. What matters is kindness. Mindfulness plus kindness creates a better world.

Mindfulness plus a bigger ego, better job, more money, more power, no empathy is a disaster. We don't want to go in that direction. So if we couple mindfulness with kindness. I think we'll have a better future. Dan, thank you so much for your time.

And I want to take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my own heart for the work that you've done in your life, because it's really profoundly touched my own life and my partner, Matty, and I'm sure that I speak on behalf of many people who are watching this as well. So thank you so much for the work that you've done and, and continue to do. Melli, I thank you for putting this together. I really appreciate it. I think you're doing wonderful work.

Oh, thank you. Yeah, it's my pleasure. And I obviously highly recommend that everybody watching this checks out Dan's books, I just finished reading Focus and I, I loved it and I'm going to read it again. And Dan, is there anywhere else that people should go if they want to find out more about what you do? Thank you. There's the website, morethansound, one word, morethansound.net as well.

I have a lot of materials, videos, and audios and books that you can't find anywhere else. So morethansound.net. And also you might enjoy this new book, A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for Our World. Oh, that's going to be next on my reading list. And Dan, thank you and wishing you all the best on your continued journey.

Thanks, Melli.

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