By Ron Bashian, MD, Guest Contributor
I picked up Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman, a new book from the respected author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, which first came out fifteen years ago. I believe the new book to be of of great interest to our community, so herewith I offer my review for your consideration.
The title, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, can appear daunting or even discouraging for an individual with ADHD. It seems to imply that there is no excellence without focus. To a certain degree that is true. Completely unfocused, we cannot progress. Random thoughts without some mindful context may not get us very far.
However, Goleman makes clear there are many elements of, interactions within, and varieties of focus. He emphasizes the substantial benefit of daydreaming, which occupies half of our thoughts. He points out the role of open-minded serendipity in creativity (Chapter 4: The value of a mind adrift). And he notes that individuals with ADHD “show higher levels of original thinking and more actual creative achievements” (White H. and Singh P., “Creative Style and Achievement in Adults with ADHD”, Personality and Individual Differences, 50: 673-675, 2011).
Likewise, Goleman speaks convincingly of the value of coaching, particularly as related to mindfulness. He cites a study with neuroimaging which verifies the benefit of positive goal oriented interviewing (p. 172). He speaks of the possibility that coaching might increase empathy in medical students (p. 113). And he references a study in progress, using fMRI to measure the value of inspirational coaching and mentoring (p. 284).
The book is highly informative, clearly written, and provides a fascinating reading experience. It describes focus from its inmost function, to reading others, to system awareness, to practical implications, to focus in leaders, and even to how society may sustain focus in light of the long-future implications of our decisions.
That is not to say the book is perfect. There are minor flaws. For instance, Goleman refers back almost casually to numerous neuroanatomical structures, which he assumes you’ve remembered. The index also appeared sparse to me (“attention” and “coaching” references are incomplete, and his “triple focus” (inner/other/outer) concept is not even indexed.
Towards the end of the book, Goleman takes on the business world. He talks about CEOs who often lack mindfulness and empathy and are often preoccupied with personal gain and competitive success regardless of human cost. And he tells the story of one banker who clearly realizes how his bank could benefit from a separate career track for those with emotional intelligence, who can keep an organization from fragmenting or imploding (p. 242).
I believe that our ADHD clients might just become those special and valued people. We, as coaches, affirm and encourage the inner desire of individuals with ADHD, who have already experienced vulnerability and hardship, and help them to uproot the sense that they are failures. Individuals with ADHD can play a specific and needed role within the business world. They desire connectivity with others, they know that all people are valuable, and they earnestly seek personal direction and meaning. With an eye towards reinventing business (p. 252) and even capitalism (p. 258), in connecting with people (p. 229), and by sustaining environmental mindfulness (p. 240), there are encouraging future possibilities for our society – and for people with ADHD.
Ron Bashian, MD, is both a pediatrician, who has worked for years with young people with ADHD, and an active ADHD coach. He has received 40 hours of specific ADHD training and is in the process of getting his International Coach Federation certification. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, his mobile phone, 703-403-5134, or his web site www.validationcoaching.com.