In addition to Goleman’s work, the burgeoning fields of neuroscience and positive psychology have also addressed focus. In the world of neuroscience, David Rock, in his book: "Your Brain at Work" talks about the role of the prefrontal cortex in managing new and complex information. Focus, particularly on new information, takes more energy. An example is often given of someone driving to work. As long as they take the same route over and over again, carrying on a conversation is possible since the brain knows this route and the pathways are deeply grooved. There was NO WAY I could multitask when I was driving in Italy! I’d have been hit by a scooter or never reached my destination if I did. Dealing with new information takes more energy and brain power. David Rock states that, if we think of the brain as a stage, we need to be cognizant of having too many actors on the stage and minimize these to effectively think.
Richard Boyatzis, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve, highlights the impact of focusing on problems instead of solutions. When the brain is threatened, as when we perceive problems, our focus narrows to concentrate all of our resources on survival. When the brain focuses on goals and dreams, (a positive focus) we gain a broader perspective. “We need the negative to survive, but the positive to thrive.”
So, what implications does this have for you? How can you intentionally shift a conversation from a problem orientation to a solution orientation? How can you shift your focus from what is wrong, to what is right: From what is not working to what is working? What will it take for you to turn off all notifications and for you to schedule time to think? What impact might it have if you did?