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Why Focus Is The Hidden Driver Of Excellence

Why Focus Is The Hidden Driver Of Excellence

Dan Goleman is an internationally known psychologist and science journalist. He is co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He is also a board member of the Mind & Life Institute. As a science journalist, Dr.Goleman was awarded the Washburn Award. He was also awarded the Lifetime Career Award from the American Psychologists Association and was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has authored many books, the most lauded of which is Emotional Intelligence which was on the New York Times Bestseller List for a year and a half. Some of his other titles include ‘The Meditative Mind’ and ‘Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence’.

In this interview Melli and Dan talk about 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.

Dan speaks about how we can make HH the Dalai Lama’s vision for a compassionate world a reality and how we can become more conscious consumers and better custodians of the planet.

In the second video enjoy a mindfulness practice led by Australian mindfulness teacher Hannah Perkins.

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Show Notes

Join The Mindfulness Summit Journey here

Come and join the community discussions at any time on our Facebook page

Check out Melli’s blog, events and retreats at MrsMindfulness.com

You can check out Dan’s books and events on his website here

You can go to Dan’s work on ‘more than sound’ here

You can check out his book ‘A Force For Good’ here on Amazon

Dan mentioned the Environmental Working Group’s ‘skin deep’ website which you can find here

You might also like to explore…

If you’d like to know more about Hannahs teaching go to huntermindfulness.com/home/hannah-perkins




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132 Responses

  1. Matt Dickinson

    Dan, I just wanted to give you a personal thank you for your work. Melli and I first read Emotional Intelligence back in 1999 i believe, and it certainly had a profound influence on our understanding of how our minds work and improved our relationship with each other and others…. Thank you and wishing you well!

    1. Judith Levin

      Meli, This summit is spectacular and I so appreciate the many resources and practice guidance for myself and my clients. Question: As a result of my practice my mind at times is so quiet that it frightens me, Is this an experience that others report too? Of course I have benefited emensley over the years of mindfulness practice,, though that experience of such quiet is a bit of a scare for me. Thanks again for such a wonderful program. I send you blessings, Judith Levin

      1. Naphtali Zimmerman

        Judith – usually our ego will tend to get us drowsy or overexcited monkey mind in meditation.

        If you can just rest in quiet that is wonderful. When you are in this state next and fear arises – do not avert from the fear just ask “What if? What if I just totally examined the fear?” note non-judgmentally where it seems to reside in the body, how it affects your breath. Then talk to it lovingly like to a child frightened by something, “It is all OK, I am just meditating now. It is perfectly fine that I can be quiet. You do not have to be concerned.”

      2. Jennifer pepping

        I have had this happen a few times- intense fear when my mind is completely quiet. I think it is because I have become very attached to my thoughts- they have become a sort of coping mechanism over the years. So when things get really stressful, I have a tendency to retreat into my head. I’m trying to break this pattern, but it has proven difficult because while I don’t want to be attached to my thoughts, the fear and anxiety that results when I become detached can sometimes be unbearable. But I think examining and accepting this fear, like the previous poster said, is key.

      3. Hi Judith, How lovely Naphtali’s response is below. I wonder what it would be like to explore the fear that arises in the quiet. I wonder what it might be like to ‘lean in’ and explore it like a curious friendly observer. I think it is very common indeed for us to experience some discomfort in quiet moments. In fact Blaise Pascal once said ‘all the problems of mankind stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone’.

        So we often feel like running from the discomfort and fear…and there is an opportunity here to investigate, gently, openheartedly that fear. To embrace it with your loving awareness and with tenderness….and to simultaneously have a rest and stop all the running. Have a play with it and notice if there is some restfulness and wakefulness, perhaps even peace that airses in the moment you stop running for the fear. Know it will change as all things do, as you allow it to be as it is. I’m still practicing this one too!

  2. Teresa Gray

    Thank you Dan and Melli once again for another wonderful insight into mindfulness. I found particularly interesting that mindfulness with kindness will make a good world but mindfulness with selfishness would be disastrous. Always looking on the positive side it never occur to me the “other” side! Thank you for bring it to our attention as a very valid point.

    1. Hey Teresa, I’ve found it quite fascinating hearing different perspectives from different speakers throughout the summit. Some feel that mindfulness itself brings forth our inherent sense of interconnectedness and therefore love and kindness. Some say mindfulness itself is not enough and we have to deliberately cultivate compassion. Some feel mindfulness is ‘morally neutral’. It’s a very interesting discussion and so is the ‘what’s the definition of mindfulness’ discussion. It’s great to have a space for all these voices to be heard and then for us all to see what rings true for us and to really just put this all into our own practice to see what unfolds. One thing for sure in my own life is that combining mindfulness with self compassion created a strong desire to help others and to bring them the peace i had found. I am deeply grateful for Dans work and sooooo deeply grateful for knowing Ms Hannah Perkins.

      1. Naphtali Zimmerman

        yep, some divorce the Buddhism from the practice. The fact is just plain weird to me.

        I became a Buddhist at age 14 (16 years ago) and it is simply the doubtless path for me, so I have some mixed feelings about isolating one aspect of Buddhism and quite frankly over-hyping it without regards to the bigger picture (like the 7 other Path Factors). On the other hand, if Buddhism’s gift to the world is to help others of all paths alleviate suffering then we should nurture that effort.

        So today I found from this interview that Jon Kabat-Zinn practiced Korean Zen Buddhism before he came up with MBSR. My number one question to all the speakers who do not acknowledge the Buddhist roots of what they advocate is why? Why are you ashamed or something of Buddhism? I am perfectly fine being a Buddhist and I have never denied that I am.

        For a perspective on WHAT we should, in fact, be mindful on a very good book is by Bhante G, “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness” actually much better than his Mindfulness in Plain English one.


        1. William Davies

          “some divorce the Buddhism from the practice. The fact is just plain weird to me.”

          I find this comment curious, as it seems to ignore the fact that meditation practices stretch back for thousands of years before the life of the Buddha, and are also found in other traditions and cultures. Western secular mindfulness so often DOES acknowledge a debt to Buddhist traditions, because so much has come from this origin, rather than others. I think this quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn in 2003 puts this into a clearer perspective:

          “We are all mindful to one degree or another, moment by moment. It is an inherent human capacity. The contribution of the Buddhist traditions has been in part to emphasise simple and effective ways to cultivate and refine this capacity and bring it to all aspects of life”.

          In the same way that you have never denied being a Buddhist, I have never claimed that I am one. And I too am perfectly fine with this.

  3. Rachel Harding

    I loved today’s talk, it was brilliant, as have all the other talks in the summit. I have learned so much this month and just wanted to say a massive thank you for putting this together!

  4. Chrisy

    Thank you Dan and Melli for the reminder to be mindful with compassion and then focus our efforts on doing our bit for this world. And another lovely meditation….thank you Hannah…I so enjoy the different presenters and the varying styles.

  5. Mandy Humphreys

    I can feel compassion and kindness growing inside me. I work with adult clients in my job, in an advisory capacity. I have noticed how my compassion is seeping out and my clients seem to be benefiting so much. This summit is teaching me so much. Thank you x

  6. Leslie Carleton

    Wonderful interview Melli, as usual. One theoretical (and somewhat, I’m sorry, tangential) issue I am puzzling over: I come from a family of artists and my husband, a family of artists and inventors. When I talk to people in my family one common thread is that they remember, as children, having lovely unstructured time when they were able to LET the mind wander, to fantasize (esp the inventors) and imagine. To do what maybe as adults becomes the kind of “worrying” that so many speakers have connected with the wandering mind. To me it seems that as children, this almost mindless wandering of the attention and imagination has helped give rise to wonderful, rich creative output and lives, both as children and now, as adults. And as adults, they feel that this rich, unstructured time of daydreaming and mental wandering helped foster a wellspring of creative energy and foundation from which to create. And my son is a circus performer/creator and I see him also taking time to mind wander and let creativity spring from there. So….I’d be interested to hear what other people think, because this seems in direct contradiction to the various almost condemnations of wandering mind/daydreaming.

    1. Theresa Quinn

      Leslie, I think similarly to you regarding mind wandering into worry/imagination. As I write this, I am deciding – for now – that the difference between the two – for me – is that one might be more aware of one process and not of the other, respectively. My mind wanders and I find myself worrying and inert. Whereas, when I am creatively imagining, there is delight, I am aware of this, I am motivated to make or do. So, perhaps the wandering is a product of lack of awareness while the other benefits from awareness…

    2. sharon meredith

      Hi Leslie,
      As Dan spoke of, there are many wonderful meditative practices
      Including visualization and imaging. I expect we will learn more
      about those in our upcoming session on performance. Of course,
      Dan’s book on meditative practices sounds like a particularly good
      Loving kindness and best wishes from Canada,

    3. L

      I too would be curious to hear someone address the positive sides of daydreaming and mind wandering. I think Shamash Alidina, who was so wonderfully gentle, talked about getting interested in where the mind wanders when it does…maybe there’s room for mindful wandering?

    4. Cerys

      Hi Leslie, great question. Dan mentioned not only focus but flow, and I wonder if that isn’t part of how creativity and mindfulness can coexist. I think of mindfulness as awareness plus equanimity (non-judgment). It fosters my creativity because my inner critic is quieted & not so agitated trying to discredit my quirky creative thoughts :0 Plus if I’m writing a haiku or song lyrics or my daughter is drawing, an ability to focus aids that…. I wonder too if awareness actually fosters creative daydreaming in that we are more tuned in to all the imaginative thoughts and images then we can creatively act from a deeper repertoire 🙂

  7. Kathi Dwyer

    I have had the opportunity to participate throughout this summit, and wish to thank Mellie and all of the guest speakers for taking the time to enrich my life, and expand my understanding and practice of mindfulness. I have shared this summit with friends here on the east coast of the U.S ( New Jersey) and we are all reaping the benefits. Thank you once again, and I’m looking forward to listening and learning!

  8. Jo-Anna Roberts

    Thank you for another great interview. I am so pleased to hear from Dan Goleman. I have read a couple of his books, so it’s a great encouragement to hear about his latest work.

  9. Cecelia

    Yet another wonderful interview! I like the kindness aspect. I think that is soooo impotent in mindfulness practice. Sometimes Its difficult when I am around others who may only be criticizing others and flying off the handle. It is these times for me, that I have to step back, take a breathe and just be my true self around others. Thanks you agin for this month of Mindfulness! I am learning so much about how to live my life better.

  10. C Jones

    I have enjoyed today’s interview greatly and the meditation also. I am a happier and more tolerant person since discovering mindfulness even though my initial aim was to manage a chronic illness more effectively. Thank you

  11. Gail

    Melli thank you so much for this summit. I am learning so much and my goal at 56 years old is to make mindfulness an integral part of my life. I wish I had come to it sooner, as I wonder how I would be different today if I had been practicing for the last 30 years. But I am excited to start now. There seems to be so much to learn! Thanks again!

  12. Deana Hueners

    I, too, would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Melli, the speakers, and all those who may be working behind the scenes to provide this truly life-changing opportunity that is touching so many people. I have learned so much and have been offered so many additional resources that I’m confident that when the summit ends, I’ll be able to continue to study, learn, and practice. As a professor at a small, technology-focused university in the U.S., I have already started incorporating some of the tips for dealing with technology in my life and sharing some of the research on the myth of multitasking and the benefits of mindfulness with my students. I feel that these past few weeks of learning about and practicing mindfulness have resulted in making me a calmer and more compassionate teacher, co-worker, wife, daughter, and friend. I am taking part in the summit from South Dakota where the nearest available workshop I’ve found is a 5-hour drive away, so I am so grateful for this online mindfulness summit. Thanks once again to all those who have made this possible!

  13. Antonia Ruiz-Koffman

    “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it” ~ Pirkei Avot. All of us doing a little, is a very powerful thing.

  14. Aziza Sami

    Thank you Dr.Goleman for this talk and for your ground-breaking Emotionsl Intelligence which opened up new horizons and a path that is vastly different from the narrow social ‘givens’on what intelligence can mean. Melli and Matt thank you also…this summit has done much to consolidate all that one has known or read about mindfulness.It has been a great privilege to listen..every single day..to a very special person talk…and an outstanding mind – as it opens up new realms for us…and for our lives

  15. Darren

    “Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”

    ― Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

    Conditions created through experiences of psychological trauma, in my experience (validated) hijack the human brain. With PTSD, for instance, we end up stuck, locked in survival mode. This means that our threat detector (identified as the amygdala) gets really active, while the pre-frontal cortex literally shuts down. Getting to be our best (flow) takes re-education. As we re-educate ourselves (using practices such as Mindfulness-Self-Compassion Meditation-Loving Kindness Meditation-and literal study through academia) we do seem to build new neuronal-pathways. “What Fires Together Wires Together.”

    MSBR: brilliantly helps to train the self-management of our emotional life. We tend to hang our emotional experiences, on events external to our ‘self’. Our partner, for instance, may be struggling with her own sadness, or anger with life, which we unconsciously interpret as our doing (for whatever reasons). Then our own emotions become dependent on her emotions, and vice-versa. We end up hanging blame on each other, for our own emotional experiences: when OUR emotions belong only to us.

    We have zero control really over our external lives. We can’t dictate our outside of ourselves experiences, other than doing our best to make quality, conscious choices for ourselves (and jointly, hopefully, with our partners should we be in intimate relationship). Life will throw us curve-balls all the time, that we simply can’t see coming.

    What do we have control over? If we take charge of ourselves, commit to retraining our minds, although we will still have little control over external life-experiences, we can learn to take better control over our reactions to external events. This, we can learn to do, doing so is the path I’ve found to healing the troubles created through psychological trauma, and resultant PTSD, Depression and Addictions. The Mindfulness Summit remains the greatest gift to date, in helping me to reeducate my own mind.

    Brain hijacking with these conditions, makes us unavoidably self-absorbed. We need to develop a sense of compassion towards mental illness labels. Labels of psychological ‘dis-order’ have left us all, I think, stigmatizing mental health conditions, from the inside-out. Those of us who end up with completely fractured psyches due to traumatic experience, can end up so lost.

    There is a toxic shame associated with mental illness, stigma, that keeps us so unwilling to seek the help we need; admitting to mental health ‘disorder’ frightens us from acceptance, because denial (we think) will save us from excommunication. There is no helpful truth in approaching mental health/emotional imbalance (out-of-order) conditions in the brain, from a place of denial. We will not get anywhere in terms of integration (in a healthy way) of the traumas we’ve lived, running away or hiding.

    To recover back to any sense of normalcy, takes a total refit: “We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that caused them.” (Paraphrased-Some say, Einstein’s words). “You can’t live a new way of being until you’ve mastered a new way to think.” (Marianne Williamson- Paraphrased).

    This summit, with daily exposure to quality instruction, for me, is making all the difference.

    Mindfulness: Retreating from life saddled with the truth that our brains create wandering minds, with the brain firing off thoughts from memories stored, with some of those memories being painful, creates perceptual filters that can keep us stuck in states (however subtle) of fight-or-flight. Crafting a discipline, a daily ritual that belongs only to us (productive self-absorption); with Breath-Work and practice working with our wandering mind, can help us to straighten ourselves out in miraculous ways.(this time spent with daily practice through the summit is proving this to me).

    Not all of us will be saddled with the complexity of trauma. However, our lifestyles in the west are creating issues with emotional self-regulation for many of us. The stress of western life is proving to be causing a mired mess of typical, almost normalized set of social dysfunctions.

    “Coupling Mindfulness with the Cultivation of Kindness.” These words, from Dan Goleman. I agree. We don’t need any further teachings to simply support ego-inflation.

    Healthy Mindfulness
    Compassion for Others

    Abandonment of fear of intimacy; Learning to be Mindful is learning to be real, authentic at the level of our BEST nature as humans. This should be the goal. This is the takeaway from our time spent with Dan Goleman today, for me.

    Blessings, Melli. This gift you’ve shared is priceless. Thank you Dan Goleman and thank you Hannah Perkins for todays quality guidance through the Mindfulness Summit.

    Be Well

  16. gerri roche

    Thank you Meli for a wonderful interview. Had appreciated Dan Goleman’s influence in education with his work on Emotional Intelligence but meeting him in this interview has given me a new appreciation of his depth of understanding about mindfulness. I really like the message about loving kindness that keeps coming up in the summit. It is so important.


    Pay atention to every little moment. Focus your mind in every task or feeling. All of this I have to apreciate to Dan Goleman. Here in Spain, we know very well the other side: a multitask mind. Thank you very much Melli and Dan.

  18. Alison Penman

    Mindfulness linked with compassion is great, but to hear now that this can be related to compassion for the planet has really fired me up to try and encompass as many aspects of this as I can. It just makes so much sense.
    Thank you Melli and to all those who contributed to the Mindfulness Summit. You are changing the world – the way we think and hopefully the way we behave.

  19. Jim Bright

    More books to go on my list ! I’m especially interested in the “Focus” one. I’m always interested in the responses from the speakers to Melli’s final question about mindfulness hitting critical mass. I think if it did, we would have people like Dan Goleman and friends to thank for bringing it to the west and planting the seeds of mindfulness for many of us.

  20. Jim Bright

    I had a little smile when Hannah mentioned noticing things like an itch during the meditation practice. I ALWAYS get an itch as soon as I start, it’s like the mind summons the itches to annoy me haha

  21. Josephine Sweeney

    That was an incredibly wise interview….I loved it……my favourite so far…….so much common sense and wisdom came from Dan….I agree totally with his comment at the end “coupling minfulness with kindness creates a better world”. Mellie your questionning was spot on.. Much love & Light Josephine

  22. Eroca McCready

    Experimenting with mindfulness among the fruit trees here in Costa Rica, and also noticing the tremendous variety of sounds: insects birds , people, vehicles and so on. We are so grateful for this opportunity to expand our knowledge in a warm, loving, peaceful place.

  23. Shantelle Bates

    I found today’s session fascinating, the idea that we can lose focus so easily even while we are doing things, and it makes sense that being mindful would bring it all back into perspective and change our view.
    Just sitting and pondering you realise, I know I did, just how much we do in a day and the idea of not focussing on it but doing it by rote just seems weird – but it makes sense. We do to get it done, to move onto the next and the next, and never stop to think of what that one task (no matter how small) can affect.
    Today has been an eye-opener, thanks Melli and Dr Goreman for today

  24. Åsa Holmberg

    Melli: I also want to give you my greatful thanks for doing this fabulous course! I’ve seen different sides of mindfulness and it feels like I now got a deeper knowledge and tools to work with. Somehow it feels a bit sad that the course is over soon. I really enjoy reading all conversations here in the classroom as well, and wonder if you might think of creating a closed Facebook-group for all of us in this class, where we can continue the discussions and share our progress? Just a thought. Love from Åsa in Sweden. <3

    1. Robin Frisella

      Same here! I’ve tried every which way to get to the Day 24 video, from both phone and computer, but the only video that comes up is the expired one from yesterday, Day 23.

  25. Robin Frisella

    Hello, I have logged in to watch the Dan Goleman interview and enjoy the mindful meditation, but the page, while titled “Day 24-Dan Goleman,” displays the day 23 Mindful parenting video. I’d hate to miss a day of the wonderful summit- is there a fix for this? Thanks.

    1. Leah schwalb

      I too am unable to access today’s talk (as the link for Day 24 keeps going back to Day 23); is it possible to offer an extra day of access to Day 24 once the issue is resolved?
      Thank you!

  26. RoseMary

    I am unable to connect with day 25 with Dan Coleman – his name is at the top of the page, but the interview from yesterday is showing – I can’t connect to that one either – this is the first difficulty I have had. I am enjoying the Summit very much Mellie. Thank you and your team for all your work – I feel very blessed to be able to learn and listen to your interviews.


      I also cannot access Dan Goleman. Same issues as RoseMary. Absolutely love the Summit and hope the glich is corrected, so I can watch the remainder. Mellie, great job. Frst difficulty i have had. Love all the different speakers, with varying points of view. Fantastic!

  27. anna maskiell

    Hi Melli – yes me too – unable to access Dan’s interview, it just goes to Dr Race (who was super!)…I’ve tried every way in that i can think of but all road lead to yesterday! Dan + Hannah session sounds super… hope you can relink soon.

  28. erikandra tain

    There seems to be a connection problem to listen and watch the speaker: Dan Goleman; it keeps reconnecting to day 23 with Kristen Race.

    Can something be done about this?

  29. Stephany MacDow

    I’m experiencing the same problem: the title says “Dan Goleman” but, the video and introduction are for Kristen Rice (although there is no access to the actual video). Any suggestions about how to access Dan’s talk at this point?

    And Mellie, I also wanted to say that I am ABSOLUTELY LOVING the summit and am sad that it’s quickly coming to an end! You and Matt (along with the speakers and many other people, I’m sure) have done such an amazing job at this and I wanted thank you for your hard work, dedication and commitment to increasing the vibrational frequency of this planet!! With your efforts, mindfulness may just reach critical mass sooner than expected!! Take care!!

  30. Tom Stoss

    I’m sorry to report it is the same for me. Dr Race’s video is above and it won’t grant me access to either that (which I did view yesterday) or Dr Goleman’s video. I had hoped to watch the Goleman video this evening (10/24/15 @7:45pm).

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