Bestselling Author of 'Emotional Intelligence' Daniel Goleman Visits UM College of Arts & Sciences for UMindfulness Lecture

“Paying attention is more important than ever, because attention is under siege,” says Daniel Goleman, the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence. “Today, people consume five times more information than 20 years ago. Every time we stop what we’re doing to read a text or an email, we turn over our agenda for attention to someone else. Norms for attention are changing.”

More than 400 students, alumni and community members gathered at the UM College of Arts & Sciences last evening to hear Goleman discuss his most recent book, The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education.

Amishi Jha and Daniel Goleman

In it, Goleman and co-author Peter Senge put forward three kinds of cognitive control that they believe should be incorporated into learning in the classroom and beyond: inner focus (mindfulness), paying attention to other individuals (empathy), and paying attention to a larger group (family, class, etc.). 

Goleman’s visit was part of the UMindfulness Lecture Series, an outreach activity of the UMindfulness Research & Practice Initiative. Led by Dr. Amishi Jha, director of contemplative neuroscience and associate professor of psychology in the UM College of Arts & Sciences, and Scott Rogers, director of the Mindfulness in Law Program at the School of Law, UMindfulness brings together cutting-edge brain research and mindfulness/contemplative practice training.

UMindfulness was founded in 2010, allowing UM’s “departments, schools and campuses to join together for mindfulness,” Jha said.

Rogers – who provided videotaped remarks from Toronto, Canada – said Goleman’s work “has infused itself into the institutions in which we live and work, helping us to lead more fulfilling and satisfying lives.”

Goleman first became interested in mindfulness as a graduate student at Harvard University. Using a pre-doctoral travel grant, he went to India to meet with individuals involved in the nascent movement to bring meditation to the west. He noted that attitudes about mindfulness have changed significantly since that time, when he returned with evidence of the positive impacts of the practice – but his findings were not well received.

He has since written seven books and countless articles, including the bestselling Emotional Intelligence, which has more than 5 million copies in print in 40 languages. In it, Goleman discounts IQ as the sole measure of one’s abilities.

Goleman is currently the co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University and a board member of the groundbreaking Mind & Life Institute, which fosters collaboration among scientists and mindfulness practitioners.

In this capacity, he is working on a book with the Dalai Lama to recognize the spiritual leader’s upcoming 80th birthday.

Goleman believes that nurturing cognitive control – the ability to keep the mind focused and avoid distraction – is a key to addressing both personal and societal issues.

“It is a fundamental way to self calm and pay attention,” Goleman said. But the implications are also much broader.

“We are living in what geologists call the Anthropocene Age, the first era in which the activities of one species – humans – is degrading the handful of global systems that sustain life on our planet,” he said, adding that every material item has a variety of negative impacts on the environment.

The problem is serious because no one is in charge, time is running out, and the people who need to find a solution are the same people “stuck in it,” Goleman said.

In closing, he called upon the audience to move forward mindfully. “When you are making a decision, ask: Who benefits? Just me? A group? Just one group? Everyone? Just now? Or into the future?”

January 29, 2015