Processing a Fall in the Professional Arena

by Julie Boll  - October 6, 2022

My arena was facilitating my first paid compression planning session at a board retreat.  The “fall” came after the first four hours of the session, which went beautifully. The room was full of energy, enthusiasm, and laughter.  Most importantly creative and innovative ideas were flowing. Then, we hit a road block. The topic I was facilitating hit a nerve and we were divided. The mood of the room changed and I could see the defeat on the executive director’s face. A board member, in frustration, exclaimed “what are you going to do about this?”  I froze. 

In that moment, I made up a story that I had failed. I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t do this work. No one would hire me after this. Looking back, this was my SFD (Sh*tty First Draft). 

The SFD refers to the immediate story you make up when you experience shame. Shame is elicited by a perceived failure or misstep. Dr. Brené Brown introduces the practice of writing your SFD in her book Dare to Lead.  

“If you are brave enough, often enough, you’re going to fall.”

Brene Brown

The SFD is now a practice I use often (I even have a place on my phone designated to do the exercise on the go). It allowed me to process the story I was telling myself and remember some key facts:

  • I was prepared.
  • I have a good relationship with the client.
  • The session generated a lot of valuable ideas.
  • The struggle we experienced is a sign of passion around the issue.
  • I’m proud of myself for learning something new and putting myself out there to facilitate this work.
  • I am learning and growing.

Do you have a fall you need to process? Here are a few simple steps you can take to process your fall by writing an SFD.  

Take out a piece of paper.

  1. Unload the thoughts that are controlling you…conspiracy theories and all. Use all the “always”, “never”, and “thinks” you want.
  2. Take a look at what you wrote. Skip a line and start listing the facts. What do you know is true? What would someone you trust say about this situation? List out anything and everything you know is true.
  3. Rewrite the ending. Summarize in bullet form your key learnings, and how you want to show up in this situation.

The act of physically writing the SFD is important for most people because of how we process and organize information. However some people are verbal processors and do better talking this out. If you need to process out loud, find a safe person to process with and possibly someone not invested in the outcome.

This strategy is my constant companion. By putting my SFDs to paper, I see the stories I tell myself about my ‘failures’ often are riddled with false information. And the focused reflection time allows me to show up the way I want to in the future. 

If you are interested in learning more about the skills, practices, and tools of Dare to Lead, let’s connect! If you are already Dare to Lead trained but need help applying the learnings and staying accountable, it might be time for a coach. Before engaging in coaching, I offer complimentary chemistry sessions. These help us determine if my coaching style and philosophies are compatible with you and your goals.

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