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.

Neena
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.

Neets
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.

Carol
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
Collaborators
eight circles

 

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Eight positive benefits of mindfulness

The relationship between mindfulness and stress is well documented. Our awareness of stress and the negative impact it has on ours and other lives is becoming more perceptible. Mindfulness, as a stress reducing therapy, is becoming increasingly used in clinical practice and its impetus in and outside the workplace is gaining steady traction.

Whether it’s traditional Buddhist or western secular practice, mindfulness to the novice, is effortful and not effortless. Its results often create a relaxed physiological state but it goes far wider than this; obtaining ‘optimal functioning’ is the desired state. As Sara Lazar, Ph.D. Harvard Medical School states, “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,”

So, to help you consider whether there is value in establishing ‘optimal functioning’ through mindfulness practice, here are eight areas where research has identified, and continues to reveal the positive impact of mindfulness based meditations;

  1. Cellular aging: keeping your cells younger for a healthier and longer life
  2. Focus: neural pathways of Task Positive Networks and Default Mode Network Meditation is associated with reduced activations in the default mode network
  3. Attention: attaining, sustaining and directing your attention to attend to what’s important to your values and well-being
  4. Empathy: relatedness to others; correlations with compassion for self and others
  5. Self-Awareness: physiological, psychological, emotional and cognitive awareness
  6. Self-regulation: making room for your feelings through reflection and acceptance
  7. Well-being and mental ill health: physiological and psychological triggers and responses
  8. Biases: An important facet of mindfulness is “non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.”

As can be seen, a whole range of physiological, molecular, cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses can be evoked and these can positively contribute to facilitating adaptation to change.

Mindfulness is not a ‘one size fits all’ practice or intervention. Future research will enlighten us on how to tailor our mindfulness practice, current research enables us to explore numerous pathways.

 

Neena Speding
Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Emotional Intelligence Thought Leader & 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
eight circles

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Where are you placing your attention?

A lot of you will have heard words along these lines. In fact anyone working on their own self development has a version of this to help them raise their self awareness.

Today I had a conversation with my colleague Neena Speding about what ‘where you place your attention matters’ means to me. Interestingly it means something different to both of us.

For me, I’ve come to realise and accept that I have a full life and diary. This means I can easily become distracted by interruptions, after all I am a people person and love those moments when I really connect with people. Great for me and them, not so good for my accountant who is waiting for me to complete my spreadsheet.

As I get older I know that if I want to get anything done I need to focus and give whatever I’m doing my full and undivided attention.

I have become an advocate of doing one thing at a time. This is taking some getting used to as I was a big fan of multi-tasking – I thought I could do everything and be everywhere all at the same time. In reality I was setting myself up to fail and disappoint everyday and that’s not how I wanted to live my life.

So, where I place my attention matters hugely depending on what I’m doing – now that I’m practising placing my attention on one thing and one person at a time I seem to get more done.

Where are you placing your attention?

Neets
Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
eight circles

 

 

 

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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.

 

Neets
Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
eight circles

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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!

 

Neets
Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
eight circles

 

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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.

Neets
Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
eight circles

 

 

Make time to listen

This week I’m recommending a wonderful book I’ve been reading by Nancy Kline called Time to Think in which she talks about the importance of creating a thinking environment because ‘the quality of our attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.’ It’s powerful and reminds me what a super skill listening is.

As a coach and trainer I’m often told I’m a great listener. And, yes it’s true I am pretty good at it, but reading the book I have become aware how often I forget to listen when I’m hanging out with my friends and family. Many times I catch myself falling short – like when I realise I’m multi-tasking on the phone to my friend, diving in with my advice on her problem or interrupting my husband to share my story about the time that thing he’s describing happened to me too.

This results in a situation where they tell me that ‘no you don’t understand’ or ‘I just need you to listen’ and they’re right – I feel the same way too on receiving unwanted advice. These are the people I care about the most and I want to give them the respect and space they deserve by really listening.

Do you catch yourself listening to answer or add your comments too?

I have noticed that when I let go of the impulse to jump in and talk, conversations are more relaxed. I’m learning fascinating new things about people just by being present and paying attention. They feel heard, sometimes that’s all that was needed and often they find their own answer in the process.

When was the last time you really listened to someone when they were speaking? Challenge yourself to listen to their story, listen to their emotions and really hear them. Be prepared to be surprised.

 

Carol Conway CPCC
Coach & Collaborator
eight circles