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Mid-Year Resolutions

Published 7/1/2019

What do you want your life to look like in the next five years? In today's episode, we're reflecting on the year to date and looking forward to the rest of the year ahead. We'll work on a mental practice to motivate you as a positive outcome and build strategies for when you're faced with challenges along the way to accomplishing your goal.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
If you're listening to this on the day that it comes out, then today at noon marks exactly the midpoint of the year. In most years, at the beginning of the year, we tend to talk about goals, about setting goals and resolutions and building systems to support ourselves in those goals. In today's episode, I want to take us through a very simple exercise, just a review of the goals that we have. Maybe we didn't have explicit goals, but perhaps we had implicit goals, kind of identifying those, surfacing them, and evaluating how have we done. And then we're going to look forward. We're going to look forward into the second half of 2019 and talk about building habits into the future. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on the show is to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. And you're not going to have clarity if you go throughout your career without goals, without looking forward into the future. Now, this doesn't mean that you need to be thinking about, you know, three years, five years, 20 years down the road every single day. But instead, it's important from time to time to take an audit of your actions, your regular actions, more specifically your habits, and ask yourself if those habits are going to aggregate towards the future that you desire. So the first part of this exercise is to simply think back and whether you explicitly identified things that you were striving for in the first part of this year, or maybe you didn't identify them, but you know that they're there. Maybe there are goals that you had for even many years that you haven't been necessarily progressing towards. You didn't necessarily create a resolution at the beginning of the year, but you know that those goals still exist. So write these things down and it's possible that you end up with nothing on your page. And if that's the case, I want you to ask yourself the question, why? Do you genuinely not have any particular goals or any particular kind of hopes for your career into the future for your personal life? Or is it hard to decide? Most people fall in that category. It's hard to decide what those goals are. Now we've done many different kind of mental visualizations of your career in the future where you want to end up, the kind of work you want to be doing, or perhaps the kind of legacy you want to leave, what you want people to know about you. So I encourage you to take some time if you do have that blank page and go back and listen to some of those episodes. The simplest form of this is to try to in as excruciating detail as you can. Imagine what your life will look like in the five years. Make this idealistic. The kind of best way to configure this is something that is seemingly just out of range, something that would be pushing you in your career, in your personal life, maybe in your relationships, bring that kind of vision to the edge. And again, this is for people who don't have anything written down on that page. But if you do have something written down in the page and you realize that you don't really care very much about it, or at least you don't care about it in the same way that you used to, then these kinds of visualization and thinking forward exercises can be really useful because they allow you to have flexible priorities. They allow you to kind of grow over time, change direction over time. If you have been striving towards something for this whole year, but you're realizing that you're feeling burnt out, you're not really feeling motivated or energized by that thing, and it's important to think about why it could be as simple as you've been working so hard for this that you're just physically or mentally tired. And you may need to take a vacation. Or it may be that you thought you wanted one thing, maybe you felt the kind of the social expectation to seek after this particular goal, but now you're realizing that you don't really care about it and the social pressure is gone. So you can rewrite your goals and that's, you know, you have an opportunity to do that. Now, we want to take a minute to address kind of the obvious feeling that a lot of you will have. And that is the idea that this kind of exercise is really just a lot of motivational talk, right? This exercise doesn't really help me get to the goals any faster. It doesn't really help me think about what I want in life any better. And the skepticism is completely reasonable. But as it turns out, there is quite a bit of research that talks about visualization and its effect that it has on our minds. For example, people who mentally practice a physical skill, they actually have nearly the same benefits that they would have practicing physically. In other words, we can rehearse in our minds and prepare for things that really happen outside of just our minds. Now, this is less surprising for developers who are working on code. We visualize things all the time with our code. So if we extend the same practice to our lives, then we're going to be much more prepared for the obstacles that we face. There's also some interesting research that I want to bring up about visualization, specifically around the idea that visualization, positive visualization, might actually lead to more failure. And the simple reason for this is that when we visualize a positive outcome, then we get the same kind of mental release, the same feeling of satisfaction, and the pressure that we otherwise would have had is lowered. And so we don't have as much motivation after we do that positive visualization. So one way to think about this is, you want to understand what your goals are. You want to be able to establish those goals very clearly for yourself so that you can practice mentally how to arrive there, but you don't want to stop there. You want to also visualize the obstacles that you may face. That's where the real mental practice comes in. You don't want to practice simply success. Success is kind of a mental end point, and we don't want to create a mental end point. We want to create a mental practice where we are facing our obstacles and then overcoming them. So if you are like me and one of your goals is to lose a little bit of weight outside of your professional goals, you may have personal goals like this, then one of the things that you may practice mentally is not necessarily the feeling of what it will be like once you have, although that's important for your motivation. But also, what are you going to do when you're faced with a decision to eat the cookie or the salad? If you mentally prepare for those kinds of situations and this certainly extends into your professional life as well, then when it actually comes about, your brain has already in a way experienced it. You've already come up with a strategy, built those connections in your neural pathways, and you may actually make a better choice as a result of this. We're going to take a quick sponsor break, and then we're going to come back and kind of think into the future. How are we going to plan out our goals for the remainder of the year? Today's episode is sponsored by Get Prime. Have you ever noticed that the best engineering managers and the best engineers are really good at debugging? This seems to be kind of the core skill for great managers, especially because they don't just debug code. They also debug the way that their team is running. They find the underlying cause rather than treating symptoms, for example. And teams tend to show patterns as they are working together, and sometimes those patterns down the road lead to really bad results. So, it's important for the managers to be able to identify those patterns early and course correct. Get Prime has published a book with 20 of these patterns, and it's totally free. You can go and find it at getprime.com slash 20 patterns that getprimegit.com slash 20 patterns. Thanks again to Get Prime for sponsoring today's episode. You have your list of things that you wanted to do when you started this year out. Here's what I want you to do. It's easy for us to take on a long list where ambitious. We have a lot of things that we want to improve on in our lives. But as it turns out, when we can focus our efforts not to just one, but certainly not to five different goals at a time, if we focus our efforts instead to somewhere around two or three, we're much more likely to succeed in those changes. But what's even more interesting is that even though we're focusing on one, two, maybe three big goals at a time, a lot of the time the willpower that we've established in one area kind of tends to spill over into willpower in another area. So, if you're trying to change a habit, then changing one habit may have a spill over effect into other habits. For example, you may be more likely to eat healthy like we were talking about earlier if you establish a habit of exercise. Now, this isn't always true. We also face another bias as humans. This crazy effect called moral hazard where we do one good thing and we have the kind of internal sense that that justifies us doing a bad thing, a thing that we otherwise wouldn't have done in the first place. But for the most part, you can think about willpower and establishing some sense of discipline, self-discipline, as a rising tide that raises all ships. And so, here's what I want you to do. I want you to take that list and I want you to choose two things. If you must, you can choose three, and if you have a short list, you may even choose one, but try to choose two things that you really want to accomplish, that you really want to affect in your life in the near term. And the idea here is, by the end of the year, these two things should be done. And I want you to undershoot a little bit here. I don't want you to be too ambitious because in the worst case scenario, if you finished these two things early, if you establish a good habit, three months in, then you can pick more off of that list. Perhaps that list will change between now and then. But I want you to give yourself the luxury and the opportunity to focus on fewer things that you want to establish as good habits. Now, there's one more exercise that I want to share in today's episode because I think it's incredibly important for us to be able to make this list more manageable. Because if the list isn't manageable, then we end up doing nothing. So our aspirations as important and big as they are, they end up being frustrated over and over and over because we haven't managed our aspirations properly. Instead of just simply choosing one or two things on that list, I want you to physically draw out two columns. In the first column at the header of it, I want you to write, I will focus on these things. I will focus or you could just put focus on at the top of that column. And then in the second column, the top of the second column, I want you to write the word distractions. Typically, we think about distractions as a bad thing. But many of us, we have distractions that really we believe deserve our time. And it's not a bad thing for us to think about putting time into them. They are obviously bad. And so they end up detracting from our time because we think that they're important. Prioritization is not about removing the bad things. It's about removing the good and the bad things that are detracting from our main goals. So I want you to visualize the things that you believe you want, your aspirations, but the ones that are the least important on your list, I want you to mentally apply the label distractions to them. What this will do, hopefully, is give you the mental freedom to say no to things that you still believe are otherwise good. If you were to focus on them, you could say yes and feel good about it. But because you're focused on these other things, you want that mental ammo to be able to say no to those positive distractions. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Today's episode, of course, is applicable to pretty much anybody of any background. But I certainly think it applies to developers more specifically because a lot of developers struggle with prioritization in the industry because we have so much to learn. There's so many new things coming around. And it's very easy to get distracted, to get sidelined, and to chase after 100 different goals, learning 100 different things. And I want for you to have the freedom of focusing on fewer things so you can get more done. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to Get Prime for sponsoring today's episode. And for creating this wonderful book, the 20 patterns of engineering teams, go and check it out. And when I take a moment to say a special thanks to Sarah Jackson, she is producing these shows and she has done such an excellent job of getting these shows out at such a high quality. So thank you to Sarah. Thank you again, of course, to this spec network. We started the spec network to help designers and developers who are looking to level up in their careers have a place to have all kinds of content to consume on a regular basis. And this content isn't about just entertaining you. It's about helping you find a path that makes sense for you. The goal of this show being to find clarity, perspective and purpose. And there's so much other great content on the spec network that can help you do just that. Go and check it out. Head over to spec.fm. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, enjoy your tea.