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Two Perspective-Sharpening Tools For Your New Year's Resolution Making

Published 12/17/2021

In today's episode, we'll talk about two ways to improve your perception and perspective when making your new year's resolutions, or any other big decisions or changes in your life.

These two tools will help you make adjustments to what you are paying attention to, and reduce the friction in your decision-making process.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
With new years with new chapters comes change. Whether we are looking to improve in an area or stop doing something, change is often a part of how we look at a new year, a new chapter. It doesn't have to be a new year if you're listening to this some other time. As we approach the end of this year or as you approach any kind of chapter turning moment in your life, it's likely that you're thinking about change. You may also be thinking about change at any other point. It turns out that people are most often thinking about change during transition periods. There's a lot of good information on this particular subject in Daniel Pink's book, When. But regardless of what your reason is for thinking about change, it's important to use good tools of perspective. What can so often happen when we consider making change is that we never try to work on the way we're thinking about the decision. We think a lot about the decision itself, but rarely do we think about the thinking. Rarely do we think about am I approaching this decision from the right perspective? Today's episode, I want to give you two perspective tools, perspective gaming tools that allow you to improve your vision, improve the way that you perceive whatever this changes that you're trying to make. A lot of people right now are looking at making job changes. The market has just made this a very common endeavor right now. A lot of people are changing jobs. It doesn't have to necessarily be a change in your job. It could be a shift in your career, a change in the way you think about work, a change in the way that you think about your relationship with work, or maybe your relationship with other people. Maybe you're going to shift gears out of another career path and you're just now coming to this podcast because you're thinking about becoming a software engineer. If so, then I wish you the best of luck on this journey. Here's the thing. We are pretty consistently bringing in a lot of bad information, a lot of twisted information into our decision making processes. We can't always fix that information. Because we need to adopt broad strokes, tooling, broad strokes, tactics that allow us to go against a handful of those biases, a handful of those distortions. We're going to talk about two of those tools today. The first tool is a very simple one. I want you to write yourself an email. In this email, imagine that you have sent yourself a different email that you've asked yourself for advice. Lay out the basics of your decision. In fact, you can do both of these emails. It will probably help you explain to yourself, verbalize, or get it out in words what the specific factors are that you're considering. The decision that you're trying to make and all of the contributing information goes in the first email. Then in your alter ego self, imagine your job is to give the best advice that you can to that person. If you can cast yourself into another person's role who's asking you the same questions, the same information, the same situation, what would you say to yourself? We've given someone advice to this on the show before, and that's because it is backed by good science. The theory is that this works because your brain changes modes, so to speak. You go from thinking about your emotional state or how you would feel about your decision to a problem-solving state. You start considering and weighing the evidence or the factors of the decision more cleanly, more carefully like you would if it was somebody else's problem. It's kind of a bonus exercise here. If you use this particular technique, this tool, what you can do is start to look at the difference between what you were feeling and the advice that you gave yourself. What is the primary difference? What are the things that you were hung up on when you were just trying to think about the problem for yourself versus the problems that you find when you're giving yourself advice? It's possible that you're being overly optimistic about a particular decision and when you give yourself advice that optimism disappears. Similarly, it's possible that you're being overly pessimistic. You're focusing only on the negatives. For example, if you're thinking about taking a new job, you might be convincing yourself not to do it because you're concerned about the negative impacts that it could have, but you're ignoring the positive impacts it could have, or you're downplaying those. If you're giving yourself advice in an email, you're much more likely to recognize a more balanced perspective rather than an emotional one. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then we're going to come back and talk about another tool you can use to improve your perception, to improve your perspective as you are making your big decisions. Today's episode is supported by Cored. Cored is the messaging tool that gives you direct access to hiring teams inside technology companies in London, Europe, and New York. Cored enables what is currently not possible, a simple conversation with someone who wants to hire you. The wider impact of these conversations is far reaching, with Cored, engineers find work through conversations rather than applications. Interactions and replies are meaningful, fast, direct, and relevant. Cored teams inside the world's most advanced technology companies use Cored to hire from recent Y-combinator alumni to publicly listed technology companies. Whole teams are built on Cored that wouldn't otherwise exist inside companies whose work develops vaccines, tackles, climate change, and builds autonomous vehicles. Check it out. You can get started today on Cored, heading over to Cored.co slash T. Thanks again to Cored for their support of Developer Tea. The second tool for improving your perception, and this is especially, I want to kind of back up for a second, this is especially when we're talking about making significant changes, making decisions that are hard to reverse, using these techniques will help you make these bigger decisions. Very often, these kinds of techniques would be overkill in simpler decision making situations. By no means should you apply this to every decision, but if you have these tools readily available, if you can recall them or have a list of these kinds of tools that help you make better decisions and kind of reduce some of the effects of those distortions we were talking about earlier, then you're much more likely to at least reduce the amount of uncertainty or noise or bias in that decision making process. We can't say that this is going to guarantee a successful decision, but with more information in theory, this should give you a better way of making decisions, a more grounded way. The second tool that I want to talk about using some basic thought experiments, some basic thought experiments to reduce your problem. What does this mean? Very often, when we're trying to make decisions, we are trying to weigh too many factors. We have five or ten factors that we're trying to weigh in our job decision making. Maybe we have five to ten different factors that we care about, values on our list, or we have ten different companies that we're trying to choose from. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to put all of those options on the table, write down whatever options you have. Your goal here is to limit this list to reduce it down to as minimum as possible. This doesn't mean that these items are not important. What we're going to try to do is eliminate the items that are unlikely to create the difference in your decision making. In other words, let's imagine that you have salary as one of the options that you're considering or one of the factors that you're considering between two jobs. The salary at one job is essentially equivalent to the salary at another job. You can cancel these out on your list of determining factors. You can cancel these two things out. The important thing here is to recognize that they don't have to be absolutely equal. What we're trying to do is look for significant disparities between our options. Something else is likely to be so close that the flux, the change over time between one option versus the other is likely to make them essentially equal. In other words, functionally speaking, there's not a huge difference in our lives as a result of the difference between these two factors. It's important to note that there is one exception to this rule. That is, if there's something that you particularly care a lot about, this exercise is going to bring that forward. If you feel yourself hesitating and cancelling out one of these factors, then it's likely that you value that factor perhaps more than the other factors. It's also possible that you actually value one of the factors on your list so little that a significant disparity between one option or another option on that particular factor doesn't really matter that much to you. The goal isn't necessarily just to find the things that are equal or essentially equal, but it's also to find the things that you don't actually care about. You thought that you cared about it. Maybe you put it on your list out of habit because it is the socially acceptable thing to do to consider that particular item, but actually if it went one way or the other, it wouldn't really matter to you. One way to find factors that matter a lot to you is to substitute one from option A to option B. In other words, let's say you have two drop-offers on the table. Option A is offering you $5,000 more than option B, but option A is also offering you a 4-day work week, whereas option B is offering you a little bit higher of salary and a 5-day work week. What you can do is take the 4-day work week and substitute it in to the job with the 5-day work week. Does that make that job more exciting? Or does the higher salary from option B applied to option A make that job more exciting? The idea here is to try to reduce the number of things that you're trying to evaluate so that you can have a clearer picture of which job comes out ahead on the things that you care the most about. We're focusing a lot on jobs, but this could be, you could substitute in a technology tool choice. You could have five or ten factors that you're using to determine what tooling you're going to use, and then as you look at that list and you start substituting things out, if technology A had something from technology B, then it would be a no-brainer choice, well it seems that that thing that you're substituting is incredibly important to you. By reducing the number of factors that you have to consider for a given decision, you're less likely to be distracted by things that you actually don't care very much about, and instead you're going to make your decision based off of optimizing the bigger things. You're calling ties on all of the things that don't matter or that are essentially equivalent so that you can make your decision on things where there is actually a disparity. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea, thank you again to today's sponsor, Cord. Cord is the messaging tool that gives you direct access to hiring teams inside technology companies in London, Europe, and New York. Get direct access to hundreds of people hiring your skill set. You'll send and receive messages from hiring teams themselves with everything happening in a simple messaging thread with a calendar integration built in too. All data is live and transparent including salary, tech stack, interview process, and response times you can get started at cord.co slash T-E-A that's cordcord.co.c.o.c. Thanks so much to Cord for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this discussion, if you're going to use these tools, I'd love to hear the output of these exercises for you as you begin to think into next year and beyond the kinds of changes that you care about making, these kinds of perception building tools or perception supporting tools and new lenses for you to try on, all of this is going to change the way you think and I'd love to hear more about it. You can share your story and discuss problems like this with other engineers like you on the Developer Tea Discord. Head over to developertea.com slash discord to join today. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.