Search Inside Yourself

aut5 2015 This is both the name of a book and an internal course that is the bee's knees at Google. Apparently the class has a waiting list stretching six months and the book has already been translated into 24 languages. As Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google explains ‘it’s based on one of the greatest aspects of Google’s culture – that one individual with a great idea can really change the world.’ Add to that the subtitle ‘The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)’ and chances are that HEADWAY readers will want to know more.

The author of Search Inside Yourself 1 is Chade Meng-Tan, a Singapore-born engineer who was hired as Google employee in the early days and who made a significant contribution to the company. Meng tried for a long time to create a meditation course at Google, but could not find the right positioning – until he met Daniel Goleman. After this meeting he understood that he had to align it with emotional intelligence, a way to reach those who so far looked at the course as some hippie b******t.

The course is broken into three parts: attention training, self-knowledge and creating the right mental habits.

Emotional intelligence is trainable, says the author, a claim based on neuroplasticity. It begins with training attention. Mindfulness is nothing else than ‘paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally’. Mindfulness trains attention and meta-attention (or the attention of attention), which is the secret to concentration. When your meta-attention becomes strong, you are able to recover a wandering attention and create the effect of continuous attention or concentration. With enough practice, it becomes almost effortless to get into a relaxed and alert at the same time status of the mind, which has dixit Meng a spontaneous side-effect of arising happiness. But Meng also states that with mindfulness meditation training we can upgrade the operating efficiency of our brain or with other words, we can process more stimuli in a more efficient way. MRI’s of mindfulness meditators and non-meditators show that meditators have a thicker cortex in brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing.

In the second part of the book, Meng spends a lot of time on self-awareness, for which he uses the Goleman’s three emotional competencies: emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-confidence. He gives some useful insights and exercises in particular on how to avoid that your emotions get the lead or how we can get from compulsion to choice.

Meng makes a strong case to learn to become more optimistic by overcoming our strong negative experiential bias (it takes three positive experiences to overcome one negative one).

Later in the book he describes how we can create the right mental habits, which will help us strengthen our empathy.

Overall the book is an interesting read but not rocket science… As is often the case, the people who will need it most won’t like it (they will find it too touchy-feely) and the ones who like it, won’t need it. Besides, they will already know most of its content.

1 Search Inside Yourself: The Secret to Unbreakable Concentration, Complete Relaxation and Effortless Self-Control Paperback published by Collins by Daniel Goleman (Foreword), Jon Kabat-Zinn (Foreword), Chade-Meng Tan (Author), May 2013