Notice your ‘firsts’

Do you remember the first time you flew on an airplane?

These are the types of ‘firsts’ we never forget – we’re either full of excitement or nervousness.

April is Stress Awareness Month and we are asking when experiencing your ‘firsts’ do you find them effortful or effortless?

  • Maybe you’ve had a baby
  • Started a new career
  • Started at a new school
  • On a new diet
  • Living in a new place
  • Left a career
  • Over whelmed by the volume of things you have to do

What we’re aware of is that whether you find it effortful or effortless it is your choice. If the story you’re telling yourself is ‘it’s going to be hard’ then it always will be – because that’s what you believe.

We all love to indulge in telling our stories, why something is difficult, complicated, tough and gruelling – equally what if we believe it will be easy, simple, straightforward and effortless? What could happen then?

Wherever you are in your story we encourage you to be kind to yourself, become more aware about how you approach your ‘firsts’ and consciously choose whether you want your experience to be effortful or effortless.

It really is your choice.


Neets, Carol & Neena
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Do you focus or fixate?

This week we are sharing what it means to us individually when we focus or fixate and what we do to shift our attention.

A key learning for me during my mindfulness journey has been the focus vs fixation of my attention.

Here’s an analogy that was presented to me and it resonated loud and clear. Fixated attention is like a cumbersome, murky, block of ice – Focused attention is like a flowing stream.

Fixating on objects, sensations, feelings and thoughts during the day for many of us is a regular occurrence. As soon as they arise in our awareness they are automatically coloured by our perception. Consider that you have a performance review scheduled for later today, how many times have you fixated on that and what automatic colouring have you applied to it? How much effort have you put into ruminating about it? Fundamentally what can you do until it starts? More importantly what have you not done as a consequence of fixating about it?

Mindfulness has enabled me to become aware of my automatic colouring, identify when I’m fixating and enabled me to redirect my attention and focus on the flowing stream.

I have noticed that when I focus my attention everything is possible, I’m flying, I have the brain power to apply to whatever I’m doing and my energy feels light and mischievous. It’s about fun and travelling light.

On the other hand when I fixate my attention, I feel irritated, I’m a bit repetitive and also my energy feels heavy – like I’m carrying a huge amount of baggage that just needs to be checked in so that I can travel through life with freedom and ease.

It takes a huge amount of effort to be aware of where I place my attention, for example it’s easy to fixate as it can be like being on auto pilot.

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who I can talk things through with and whilst talking out aloud I can hear myself and notice easily where I am placing my attention. Another way I move out of fixating is to say to myself  5,4,3,2,1 go (as per Mel Robbins 5 second rule) and think in a focused and positive way.

I have just moved from the UK – to Anchorage, Alaska – literally to the other side of the world. It’s an exciting adventure and a huge change, everything is different.

Driving is just one example of something that is different and I catch myself fixating about – something that I wouldn’t normally even think about – but here driving a brand new car, on the other side of the road in icy conditions means that it’s not so straightforward.

After the first couple of weeks of avoiding driving and worrying about it before I even got in the car I realised I was missing out and this needed to change.

Three things I’ve done to break free of this fixation:

  1. To do it, to get into action and just drive. I scheduled appointments with friends (so I couldn’t back out of it) and slowly I’m building up actual examples (opposed to the stories in my head) of how it’s fine. The next time I get in the car I think about the easy journey of yesterday, replacing the ‘what if I drive the wrong way down the road’ story I was obsessing about.
  2. Talking about it. I told a friend and she sympathised totally and told me some of her stories of how she felt when she first started driving in Alaska. Suddenly it’s not just me and it’s not just in my head, which makes it less scary.
  3. Humour. I’ve lightened up about it. Seen the funny side – like when I keep opening the passenger door and have to pretend that I’m just putting my bag on the seat before I walk round to get in the drivers seat!

Anchorage is beautiful and wherever I am I can see amazing mountains. Their vast steady presence always reminds me how lucky I am to be here. That gets me grounded and present again and slowly I’m letting go of my worry and I’m actually starting to enjoy my journeys in the car.

In summary
Next time you find yourself fixating, think about that murky block of ice obstructing your view or the baggage you are carrying around with you or even what you’re missing out on. Think about how you’re creating stress about something that may or may not happen or something that has passed and you can’t change.

Quieten your mind, move on, take action and focus your attention on the present.


Neena, Neets & Carol
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If it’s not scheduled it’s not real

This is one of Marie Forleo’s Productivity Tips ‘If it’s not scheduled it’s not real’. It took me a while to really understand what this meant, mainly because I consider myself to be a planned person – if it’s not in my diary, it’s not happening.

Today I clearly understand what it means and it’s helped me finish off something I’ve been working on for a while – a daily planner.

I created a daily planner because I’ve been wondering where the time goes, I have a list of things to get done and never enough time in the day. I’ve read books about productivity, listened to podcasts and even attended old school time management courses so where was I going wrong?

Here’s what I realised.

I wasn’t scheduling everything in my diary – what I mean is, I didn’t plan in travel time for meetings or appointments, I just knew what time I had to leave and get back. I didn’t plan in phone calls, I just knew that at some point that day I would make those calls. What this meant was I would look at my diary and think I only have one meeting today – when in reality by the time I had travelled to the meeting, had the meeting and travelled back, it could take six hours of my time! And that’s where the time was going, it just wasn’t scheduled in.

The daily planner helps me to be more productive and realistic about where I spend my time. Here’s how I use it:

  1. Every morning I fill in the planner for the day ahead. I don’t do it the night before as I can become pre-occupied with what needs to happen the next day and not sleep well.
  2. I make sure I include travel time, phone calls, etc. – so I can actually see how much time I have free.
  3. I write down the three must do things for that day (my lists are normally long but that doesn’t help me focus – it just makes me feel like I’ve failed and haven’t accomplished much) and I PLAN those into my day!
  4. I make sure I keep the planner visible on my desk and not buried under paperwork.
  5. Under the notes section – I write things I need to do if I have time or things that come up during the day that I may need to carry forward to the next day.
  6. I write something inspirational for me – it might be something like FOCUS! or a quote that makes me smile through the day.
  7. I love doodling, so I use the space at the bottom for just that!
  8. Lastly, the next morning I make sure I transfer the things over from the notes section that I need to do that day.

It’s a simple tool to use.

Feel free to download the daily planner and see if it helps you achieve more and remember ‘if it’s not scheduled it’s not real’.


Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
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Help young people get an insight into your career story

This week, 5-10 March 2018 is National Careers Week (NCW 2018) and National Apprenticeship Week (NAW 2018). Both promote the importance and need for innovative ways to connect young people to the multi-faceted world of work. And the bottom line is that schools and colleges need help from people like you in the workplace to make this challenge a reality.

On Thursday 1 March 2018 KPMG UK kindly hosted a ‘Borough Breakfast’ for Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) enterprise advisors. CIPD in partnership with the Careers and Enterprise Company and the Mayors Fund for London have a growing number of professionals who commit their time to supporting a school or college to develop a careers strategy. Like many of my fellow enterprise advisors I braved the snow and severe transport disruptions to get to Canary Wharf and hear an enlightening talk from fellow enterprise advisor, Clare MacDonald. As the Deputy Director for Careers and Basic Skills at the Department of Education, Clare discussed elements of the government’s new schools and colleges careers strategy published December 2017.

The central point of discussion was the need to introduce careers advice from an early age and establish sustainable links with local labour markets. This is reinforced by the current strong rhetoric on skills gaps;

‘acute shortage of skilled workers’,‘struggling to fill key vacancies ‘, ‘income inequality’ and ‘social mobility’.

It seems a formidable task and every contribution could help ease the load and make a real difference.

The value of workplace encounters through what I have termed ‘collaborative careers conversation’ will go a long way to connecting, mentoring and inspiring our next generation. It may stimulate entrepreneurism, investment in skills and it may offer alternative pathways to those young people seeking something diverse or unique. The outcome of your discretionary effort will have merit for at least one individual.

So, I ask you and your networks to consider having at least one, ‘collaborative careers conversation’ with a local or connected school during 2018. It could be as informal as sharing your career story, a company presentation or any platform that can offer a lens into the world of potential careers to a young mind.

Today, through my network I have signed up two people to come along and share their career story with a local school in Hillingdon, UK.

If you want to help young people get an insight into your career story, contact me.

Neena Speding
Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Emotional Intelligence Thought Leader & Collaborator
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Thought for today…

Sometimes life can feel overwhelming.

Whatever you’re dealing with, instead of looking at it as one big impossible unachievable time-consuming thing, break it down into small steps and my recommendation is the smaller the step the better.

Then, take a small step everyday.

Remember one small step is better than no step all.


Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
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The space in between

You know what you want and what you need to do to get it.

You also know what you don’t want.

So, where do you spend most of your time? 

Do you get stuck in and go about making happen what you want?

Or do you spend a lot of time thinking about what you don’t want?

Or do you spend your time in the space in between?

I recently discovered what I’m calling ‘the space in between’ when I decided to finally lose some weight.

For me it’s the space where I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want AND yet doing very little about it. There’s a lot of talk, a lot of planning and buying new notebooks to write things down, there’s research and then pulling it all together. And then…nothing!

What stops me from making it happen, from taking the steps I know I need to and getting what I want?

Here are my top eight:

  1. The thought that it’s going to be difficult or complicated
  2. The thought that it will take me ages to get it
  3. The thought that I will make a fool of myself
  4. The thought that I will fail
  5. The thought that I need to think about it some more
  6. The thought that it won’t be perfect
  7. The thought that I can magically manifest it
  8. In reality am I just interested and not committed?

Think about something you want – maybe you’ve wanted it for a long time and think about what you need to do to get it. Do any of my eight realisations apply to you?

I do know that the best way to get what I want is to make it happen, take some action, get started and move on from the space in between. To help me make a shift and get going I’m using The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins  who says,

“The moment you feel yourself hesitate (when you know you should do something) start counting backward 5-4-3-2-1, then GO. The Rule is a proven form of metacognition. When you use it, you shift mental gears, interrupt your habit of overthinking and awaken your pre-frontal cortex – making change easy. The rule acts as a starting ritual”.

So here goes, 5-4-3-2-1 I’m pressing the publish button!


Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
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Nudges do work

Recently I have been incorporating the ‘Telomeres Manifesto’ as a nudge in organisations, to better manage stress and well-being.

Simply put, the nudge theory states that small changes in the “choice architecture” of people can lead to meaningful shifts in behaviour. During his time as Google’s SVP for People Operations, Laszlo Bock investigated and invested in understanding how behavioural science could improve the workforces’ health at work and home. He deployed an array of nudges that delivered steady progress with impressive metrics demonstrating how nudges motivated employees to make healthier and wiser lifestyle and dietary choices.

Whilst some opponents of nudge theory are concerned with it being a potentially manipulative practice, Laszlo noted “nudges are about influencing choice not dictating it” (WORK RULES, 2015).

From my perspective, a transparent alignment to an organisation’s purpose, value and behaviours (PVB) and an equally transparent dialogue about nudge theory ethics and its limitations, are conversations that need to be had before nudge development. Nudges do work.

As a nudge the ‘Telomeres Manifesto’ (below) serves not only as an aide-mémoire but can assist an organisation to design an environment where it can change attitudes and behaviour towards managing stress and well-being. It has sparked curiosity, encouraged exploration and offered a scientific insight to well-being. Clients have unanimously said it offers them a choice they weren’t aware of.

It is always a rewarding challenge working with organisations to promote and navigate well-being in the workplace. The fact that we can leverage behavioural science to nurture decision making is of benefit and the continuing application of scientific discovery means that the journey is evolving with evidence based data.

Try the Telomeres Manifesto as a nudge in your environment.

Neena Speding
Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Emotional Intelligence Thought Leader & Collaborator
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Your cellular health is reflected in the wellbeing of your mind, body, and community.
Here are the elements of telomere maintenance that we believe to be the most crucial for a healthier world:

Mind Your Telomeres

  • Evaluate sources of persistent, intense stress. What can you change?
  • Transform a threat to a challenge appraisal.
  • Become more self- compassionate and compassionate to others.
  • Take up a restorative activity.
  • Practice thought awareness and mindful attention. Awareness opens doors to wellbeing.

Maintain Your Telomeres

  • Be active.
  • Develop a sleep ritual for more restorative and longer sleep.
  • Eat mindfully to reduce overeating and ride out cravings.
  • Choose telomere- healthy foods – whole foods, omega‑3s, skip the bacon.

Connect Your Telomeres

  • Make room for connection: Disconnect from screens for part of the day.
  • Cultivate a few good, close relationships.
  • Provide children quality attention and the right amount of “good stress.”
  • Cultivate your neighborhood social capital. Help strangers.
  • Seek green. Spend time in nature.
  • Mindful attention to other people allows connections to bloom. Attention is your gift to give.

Create Telomere Health in Your Community and the World

  • Improve prenatal care.
  • Protect children from violence and other traumas that damage telomeres.
  • Reduce inequality.
  • Clean up local and global toxins.
  • Improve food policies so that everyone has access to fresh, healthy, affordable food.

The future health of our society is being shaped right now, and we can measure part of that future in telomere base pairs.

The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer. (p.327)
Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel, 2017

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’.
Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein, 2008

WORK RULES! Insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead.
Laszlo Bock, 2015


Your journey in 2018

  • What do you want to see and experience along the way?
  • Who is travelling with you?
  • What are you really looking forward to?
  • How do you want to feel?

I have decided wherever my road takes me, the journey is going to be an easy one. Easy is my word for 2018.

After all it’s easy if I think it is.

Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
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