In a recent integration planning session, I asked a workshop participant to share her SFD* with me. Her body tensed, and her voice sped up and took on a frantic quality. Her SFD told her that she was callous, weak, and petty. When I asked her to tell me the rest of the story- her key learnings and what she knows is true- her entire body shifted. I have never witnessed an outward transformation like the one I saw wash over her body. She let out a breath, her shoulders visibly dropping. She calmly and confidently said, with a small smile spread across her lips, that she did, in fact, know what was true. She pointed to her leadership history and her heart for others. A different person sat before me.
This transformation is exactly what happens when we process an SFD. This simple practice gives us the power to change our thinking, and to challenge our 13-year-old self, who is making up stories out of fear, exhaustion, or grief.
I challenge you to do this right now:
Take out a piece of paper.
* Unload the thoughts that are controlling you…conspiracy theories and all.
Use all the “always”, “never”, and “thinks” you want.
* 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.
* Rewrite the ending. Summarize in bullet form your key learnings, and
how you want to show up in this situation.
You can do this as many times a day as you need. I have notebooks filled with SFDs and even a note on my phone for emergencies. The act of physically writing the SFD is important for most people because of how we process and organize information, but some people have to do this orally. My husband is a verbal processor and I have learned to (sometimes) walk with him on his journey as he processes his thoughts out loud and arrives at a new conclusion. If you need to process out loud, find a safe person to process with and possibly someone not invested in the outcome (such as your wife ;))
My first experience writing an SFD was over a year after the incident that triggered it. The SFD was still under my skin, controlling my ability to take risks. Some SFDs take longer to process than others. You may come back to it or process it again later in a different way. No matter how you do it, or how long it takes, the relief is there. And sometimes it’s as vivid as it was for my friend- washing through your body like warm water and settling into your bones.
Putting my SFDs to paper has never failed me and this strategy has been a constant companion in my self-employment journey. If you want help integrating the Dare to Lead teaching into your daily life, I offer coaching for Dare to Lead trained individuals and small business owners.
*SFD is short for “Shitty First Draft”, and refers to the immediate story you make up when you experience shame. The practice of surfacing and processing the stories you make up was introduced by Dr. Brené Brown in her book Dare to Lead.