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The Nuances of Behavior and Research

Published 9/4/2019

In today's episode we're talking about behavior changes. Specifically motivations and how tricky it is to find the things we need to accomplish the goals we're focused on.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
The science of motivation is tricky, to say the least. We know some of the things that we want, and unfortunately we often don't know how to get them. And some of the things that we want are just about our own behaviors. We wish we would spend less time on social media and more time exercising, eat less ice cream and more kale, spend more time reading rather than watching TV. These are the things that we talk about on this show because they're about our behavior. And this absolutely plays into our career path. If we can't find ways of cornering our behavior and developing good habits, then we're unlikely to become, for example, lifelong learners. And so this motivation science is difficult because some things that might seem intuitive are not as intuitive as we think they are. My name is Jonathanca Trowell and you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on this show is to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. When I say that it's not intuitive, I mean, that the thing that you think you should do may actually be hurting you. For example, we have some basic ideas of how we might adhere to our commitments. One of them is to proclaim publicly what you're committing to doing. But then we hear that there are studies that show that you sharing your goals with everyone might actually give you the same kind of mental reward as actually achieving them, which means that the pressure to achieve them ends up being lower. In other words, you shouldn't share your goals. So which one is it? Should I share my goals or not? Another example of this is decision fatigue. We've heard that we need to make fewer decisions in our day because we only have so much power to make it decisions. And this is true, but only if you believe it's true. In other words, if you never heard about decision fatigue and if you never even entertained that concept, then it's possible that you would never experience that phenomenon. This is also similar to stress. Good stress versus bad stress. We've been told our whole lives to avoid stress because it's bad for our health. It's bad for our mindset. But the truth is it's less about the stress itself and more about how you relate to the stress. If you can view the stress as something that's good for you, then you can actually benefit from that stress. And so there's all of these things that we have even well-intentioned and well-educated beliefs about that turn out to be not true or at least different, true in a different way, nuanced in ways that we didn't expect. In today's episode, I'm going to share one thing that you should be doing that's less intuitive than you might think. But really the theme of what I want you to take away from this episode is that even though research is being done on all of these cognitive things, even though you might have a really good theory about what is true for you, about your behavior or your habits, it's important that you stay open to new information. And remember that most things are more complex than you might read in a study. So we're going to talk about one of those nuanced things in today's episode. But first, I want to talk about today's sponsor, Linode. In the time that it takes you to listen to this episode of Developer Teaor Make a Cup of Coffee, Linode allows you to deploy a server in the Linode Cloud. You can pick from any of their 10 worldwide data centers, including the newest data centers in Toronto and Mumbai. You pay for what you use with hourly billing across all plans and one price add-on services. Your server will be running on a 40 gigabit internal network and the industry's fastest processors. What we love about Linode is that it's a company built by developers for developers. For that reason, you have a bunch of tools at your disposal that Linode knows you'll appreciate. For example, it's an officially supported Python CLI. They have a new Cloud Manager that they've built. It's an open source single page app built on React and they're hiring, by the way. So there's tons of communal involvement that you can get out of Linode. Go and check out their hiring page at linode.com slash careers. Or if you want to launch a server in just a few minutes, head over to linode.com slash Developer Tea and use the promo code Developer Tea2019. Check out that's linode.com slash Developer Teaall one word. promo code is Developer Tea 2019. Thanks again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So you've probably been told the advice that if you share your goals with someone else that you're more likely to stick to them. This idea of accountability runs strong in research fields. And the concept is simple. We want to maintain some level of dependability. We want others to see us as consistent with what we say. But unfortunately, there's kind of a little bit of a backfire that happens. That is when we share what we are planning to do, when we share our goals with others, the act of sharing those goals might give us a little bit of a reward. And you can gain a bit of an intuition about this by imagining telling a story to another person about what you're planning to do. When you tell the story of what you're planning to do, very often that elicits an emotional response, maybe someone telling you that they're really proud of you or that it's exciting, that it's impressive. And often that response itself will provide you with a reward that satisfies the motivation to do the thing that you were telling them that you would do. In other words, you're less motivated after you tell someone what you're going to do. So how do we reconcile this theory of accountability and consistency with this reward mechanism? Well, as it turns out, there is a new study that just recently came out. It says, it's not just sharing your goals with anyone and everyone. Specifically, you want to share those goals with people that you look up to. Most often, someone like a manager, someone that has a higher status than you. And the reason for this is because you care about how they perceive your follow-through, not just your commitment to doing that thing. So what you do when you tell these people that you look up to your goals is you set yourself up for a really powerful psychological effect. And that is loss of version. Specifically, you don't want those people that you look up to to become disappointed in your failures or to see you as someone who doesn't follow through. This loss of version, of course, is less pronounced when you tell someone that you don't look up to your goals. The easiest heuristic that you can follow here is if you're sharing your goal with someone, make sure you're sharing it with someone whose opinion you care about. This is one of many scenarios where just looking at kind of the basic research on a given subject may lead you down the wrong path. Instead, remember that nuance matters. Look into the further details. You'll often find that the story isn't as simple as it might seem at the first glance. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Today's episode wouldn't have been possible without our awesome sponsor, Lynneau. Go and check it out, Linode.com slash Developer Tea and use the code Developer Tea2019 at checkout. That's going to get you $20 worth of credit on any of linneau services and products. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you enjoyed the episode, you can reach out and let me know at Developer Tea at gmail.com. I'd love to know your thoughts. You can also reach me on Twitter at at Developer Tea. Today's episode is always going to be available on spec.fm along with all of the other awesome content that is specifically designed for you as a driven developer to level up in your career. Today's producer was Sarah Jackson a huge thank you to her. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.