I just finished my last week at the University of Michigan. As I contemplated what would be the most valuable thing that I could do as I was leaving, I decided to offer an intensive class that would cover concepts from the Fear to Freedom coaching that has been so impactful for me and many others who went through the program. The actual coaching program is six weeks long and that time commitment can limit the number of participants.
I had developed a one-hour class for a women’s conference at the request of a friend and taught two sessions that allowed me to refine the content. The responses from the conference participants were incredible. One of the women who attended told me it was life-changing and had fundamentally changed the way she thought of taking care of herself. She said that even her unconscious choices were now more aligned with who she wanted to be. That feedback gave me the confidence and motivation to teach the concepts more broadly. I had evidence that a one-hour investment could change someone’s life for the better.
I sent out the invitation broadly to IT professionals at the medical school, hospital, and across campus. The response was enthusiastic and we had to add an additional class to accommodate the demand. Since we wanted this to continue after I leave, April Jefferson, our culture coach, taught the classes with me.
We crammed a lot into an hour. After introducing the Fear to Freedom model, we brought in Brene Brown’s work about shame and suggested that much of our fear is about “not being enough”. We talked about Jim Loehr‘s research on the power of story and how we needed to increase our positive energy to change.
Then the real work began. We asked each participant to take seven minutes to write their current story about something they wanted to make substantial progress on in four weeks. They were instructed to write without filters. Brene Brown calls this the s*****y first draft. After the writing was finished, each participant rated their story from 0 to 10, with 0 being in complete fear and 10 being in complete freedom. We talked about what we observed and learned. Many people commented on how much they were in fear. I could relate. I used to live on the fear side. Now I visit, but have learned how to recognize that I am choosing fear and I do my best to move to freedom.
After talking about building shame resilience, we introduced the rules of writing a positive written intention and asked each person to take seven minutes to rewrite their story in past tense with the best outcome they can imagine. In every session, this was incredibly powerful. The shift in energy in the room is noticeable. The participants rated their new story on the fear to freedom scale. Almost everyone in the class moved toward freedom. Some participants described the new feeling of confidence that they could meet their challenge and were motivated to take concrete steps toward improvement.
The feedback from the class has been very positive. One incredibly talented and competent young professional told me that the timing and information were critical for her. She had always struggled with self-doubt and assumed she could “achieve” her way out of it. The class made her realize that many seemingly successful people struggle with those same feelings. She would offer evidence to the contrary when her colleagues expressed self-doubt but she wasn’t as generous with herself and kept perpetuating her own negative self story. She expressed how much the class meant to her. She and her friend were starting “The Gifts of Imperfection“ by Brene Brown to build their shame resistance and move toward freedom. This made me very happy.
My challenge for you this week is to choose something you want to change and write two stories; your current story and your new story as a positive written intention. I would love to hear about your experiences.
Here are the references from the class in case you want to read more.
Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
Brene Brown, Rising Strong
Jim Loehr, The Power of Story
Desmond and Mpho Tutu, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World
Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life