The gift of feedback you don’t agree with

I’m back from my mini sabbatical – I went on a Soul Adventure in Sedona, AZ.  These adventures are designed to fill up your energy tank.  To restore you from all the giving you do for others.


Giving to others is essential for a sustained sense of fulfillment.  But no matter how much we enjoy what we do for whomever we do it for, we must restore our supply of clarity and connection to a spiritually connected sense of ourselves and to others in order to be able to face life with energy, passion, and compassion for those who mean the most to us.  To deny yourself this periodic “trip to the gas station to fill up your gas tank” is assuring struggle and burnout to set in eventually.


Your “gas tank” can be filled so many ways – vacations, hobbies, fitness or spa treatments, time with loved ones, etc.  but a soul adventure is different – it’s a sort of sabbatical from your day to day life in order to sequester your thinking, and feelings with a rich source of spiritually connected energy.  One that assures you more than a feeling of being well-rested or relaxed – it’s a feeling of a deeper sense of purpose – of confidence – that how you spend your time, money and energy is on target and destined to lead to a richer experience of balance, satisfaction and fulfillment in life.


The first session on my adventure connected me with an amazing practioner – Laura Harness for sandplay therapy.  I never even heard of sandplay therepy before but in short it is like creating a vision board in sand with a bunch of miniature items that might “speak to you” or symbolize things you experienced in the past or wish to experience in the present or future.


A secret about me is that creating vision boards has never worked for me.  Every corporate training session or executive retreat where they want you to create a vision board from pictures in magazines or from photos found on-line would only resort in built tension for me.  I never felt connected to pictures from magazines or from the pressure to find images that “spoke to me” on-line.  I would look at everyone else’s vision boards and think “Wow!  How beautiful!”  which would only turn up the volume on my judgement for my board which would even more appear like a hodge-podge of images that would then add to any confusion I might have already been feeling.


This session was different.


The room I met Laura in had shelves and shelves of miniatures – from animals, dolls, shapes, gems/minerals, money, toys, flowers, religious statues, jewelry – the items to select from just went on and on!


Laura invited me to simply pick up as many items that “spoke to me” and arrange them however I liked in a tray filled with white sand.  When I felt complete we discussed what I created.


In my creation I could see nearly every meaningful event in my life represented – both the good and those that were a struggle or a challenge.  The exercise helped me to see that anything that impacted me deeply – good or bad – served a purpose.


One life-themed struggle I identified was in not “knowing” something (represented by a trinket of 3 black arrows all bundled together yet pointing in different directions).  This pain in me around not “knowing” was heightened whenever I felt confused, was ignorant about something, or struggled to perfectly solve problems.


I recalled how consistently I thought that it was ok for others to not “know” something – but it somehow wasn’t ever ok for me to not “know” or be able to figure things out.  Not knowing something left me feeling needy and to be needy was weak and painfully shameful for me in the past.


My sandplay therapy session later revealed to me how much this self-intolerance for “not knowing” motivated me and lead me to become a “decision-making and problem-solving expert” – one who was highly confident in coming up with options to solve problems and to make and own decisions whether or not the results I intended or desired manifested.  I learned in life that I could not always “know” everything, but I could still make fearless, kick-ass decisions and guide others to develop confidence in their choices as well.


This session also helped me to see that confusion/ignorance/struggling to perfectly solve problems was a state of mind that provided a foundation upon which I could easily connect with others and it motivated me to become a conscientious decision-maker (for myself and to help others do the same).  Instead of putting myself on the hook for “being right” or a “figure-it-out master”, I could shift my focus to identifying others who were struggling with “not-knowing” something and offer them relatedness and my experience with that “condition”.


Embracing this “condition” and seeing it as an opportunity to connect with others, not judge them, hold a space of HOPE for their ability to come to confident decisions with or without sufficient “answers”, and share with them how I developed a fearlessness to move forward despite also feeling that way from time to time was the gas I craved to move forward and serve myself and others on a whole new level.


So what is a painful “theme” from your life that also affects you at work?


You might be able to recognize it in feedback you receive over and over again from many different people as well as bosses and/or co-workers – even if you don’t agree with that feedback.  What’s the gift of feedback you don’t agree with?  Let me share my experience with this…


In my first corporate job I got dinged for saying “I don’t know” if I was asked a question.  It seemed so strange to me at the time – if you ask me something, and I don’t know, why can’t I say “I don’t know”?  If my boss said, “hey, can you find out X for me?” I surely would have said “sure, I’ll get you that info” – but to be asked “do you know X?” and have “I don’t know” not be a valid answer – plus it would later bite me at performance review time seemed so unfair to my 20 something year old mind.


When I looked deeper at this, I recalled that “I don’t know” also seemed to be an answer my parents didn’t like from me, nor is it one that my husband seemed to favor or pardon.  You see, it’s not that punishment for not knowing something is real in my life – it’s that I am sensitive to and highly notice distain or pain for it.  Why?  Because I am meant to pay attention to this reaction in others – the pain that not knowing something creates for another – and to have compassion for it – to do something about it  – by example and by creating a design that others can leverage to alleviate their own state of pain from “not knowing” something they wish to know – like “how do I thrive despite being in a job I hate?” or “I wish I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up – even though I am already grown up?”


Can you identify the gift or opportunity that experiencing a painful theme creates for you?


I was able to get in touch with “the gift of feedback you don’t agree with” – of overcoming the pain of “not knowing” and pressure to “know” and transform it into an opportunity to identify and connect with others and share my experiences about how to move forward despite feeling that way (so much easier than to actually “know” or “figure it out”), only when I saw 3 arrows tied together pointing in different directions.


I locked eyes on this trinket – I didn’t even know why it spoke to me at first.  Once I started to arrange my items in the sand tray I got it that this represented confusion/ignorance/struggle to perfectly solve problems.  I placed a peacock figurine above it to represent my ability to overcome this – to develop confidence for my decisions and to develop a comfort level in being noticed by others who might also desire this ability.


Look out for items that might represent something for you.  If you see something that moves you – ask yourself what that trinket might represent for you.  Sometimes this is easier – and more fun – than therapy or the pain of embracing things as hurdles rather than gifts in your life.

About Gina Calvano

Gina Calvano is a certified coach and Senior Professional in Human Resources, with over 20 years of experience as a talent management professional in both the private and non-profit sectors. With a unique approach, she combines her strategic corporate expertise and accreditations with metaphysics and transformational thinking which has resulted in people all over the world feeling good about themselves and connected to a sense of purpose.

She created the Success Readiness Bootcamp™, a step by step process that enables people to easily discover their unique talents and abilities and match them to majors, jobs, industries and leisure pursuits. Gina is also the co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life with NY Times Best Selling Authors Marci Shimoff, Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood and Powerful Connections Made Easy™ with Aprille Trupiano, and is currently working on her next book — Caged in My Cube: The Turnaround Guide For Loving The Job You Hate.

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