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Tracing Chained Motivations

Published 11/6/2019

What causes us to do the things we do? In today's episode, we're discussing the complexity of motivations and identifying the chains of motivations in our actions as developers.

How can our chained motivations help us consider the motivations of our co-workers around us and how can we choose better actions to better reinforce positive behavior?

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What causes us to do the things that we do? This question that we've talked about so many times on Developer Tea, it's not one that has a single answer. And it's not one that we're going to answer in today's episode or any other episode, because this is, at some fundamental level, a mystery. If it wasn't a mystery, then we would be able to predict human behavior. We would be able to, without fail, understand our differences. Conflict would be resolved. But the truth of the matter is that motivation is difficult to understand. It's complex. Now, just because it's a mystery doesn't mean that we can't understand anything about it, it's not totally inaccessible, and it's worthwhile to explore our own motivations, our own reasoning for doing things. In today's episode, we're going to talk about finding the chains of motivation in your actions. My name is Jonathan Contrality Listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. So what do I mean by chains of motivation? Well, right now, I want you to take note of your body's position. This seems like a strange exercise, but stick with me. What posture are you holding? What clothes are you wearing? What was the last thing that you ate or drank? All of these decisions, whether we understand exactly what the motivation was or not, had motivating factors. For example, if it's cold, wherever you are right now, you may have dressed to maintain a particular body temperature. Now you didn't necessarily walk into your closet and calculate exactly what clothes you should wear in order to maintain that body temperature, and perhaps you made the mistake of not wearing the right clothes today in order to maintain that preferable body temperature. But every decision we make, every single small movement we make with our bodies, all of these can go back to some kind of motivation or multiple motivations. For example, when you walk into your closet, you're not only thinking about temperature, but you're also thinking about the social situation you might be in today. Or maybe you're trying to predict how comfortable you'll need to be today. But it's not always as simple as singular motivation that is tied to, for example, survival in this case. It's not as simple as having one motivation tied to one action. We're going to talk about today's sponsor for a moment, and then we're going to come back and discuss how chained motivations can cause us to make decisions that are otherwise kind of antithetical to what we really care about. Today's episode is sponsored by Flatiron School. We're coming up on December of the year. This means that we're kind of looking back at the past year and reflecting. And perhaps we're looking forward to the next year and making resolutions. It's that time of year. And if you're listening to this podcast, then hopefully you are driven to improve. And Flatiron School can help you do that. Here you are a parent, maybe you're a musician, or maybe you're traveling, maybe you're a nomad, or maybe you already have a job, but you're not really satisfied with your current professional skill set, or maybe you're an entrepreneur, whatever you are. Flatiron School can help you level up your creative chops in just 24 weeks. You can do this at one of the global WeWork campuses or online, and Flatiron School's committed instructors have both industry and teaching experience, and they're backed by the master teachers at Flatiron School, as well as the learning experience designers to ensure that you get the best possible support during those 24 weeks. On top of this, you can change your career with confidence because you're going to have one-on-one support with the dedicated career coaches, as well as the money back guarantee. Head over to FlatironSchool.com slash terms to learn more about what Flatiron School has to offer, and then sign up at FlatironSchool.com slash Developer Tea. You'll join a global community of change makers. That's FlatironSchool.com slash Developer Tea. Thanks again to Flatiron School for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. It's a worthwhile exercise to go back and trace your motivations for any given action. You can think about really simple ones that you don't have a lot of buy-in or a lot of reason to thwart your reasoning. So for example, you can imagine adjusting your position, as we mentioned before, your posture in order to feel a little bit more comfortable. But there's a bit of a paradox in that when we adjust our position to feel a little bit more comfortable, for some people that might mean slouching. And in the long run, slouching makes us much less comfortable. We end up having back problems or otherwise slowly weakening our core, our body, and some way. And so how can we resolve these two motivations? The one motivation of wanting to feel more comfortable, but also the same motivation of wanting to feel comfortable in the future. This problem continues to show up with other actions that we take, but we go even further. We chain our motivations together. Any given action probably has multiple motivators behind it, but it may also have other chained actions. So for example, you might be hungry, so you get up and walk to the kitchen. Walking to the kitchen on its own doesn't solve the problem of hunger. Of course, food is in the kitchen, but walking to the kitchen is a different action. These kinds of intermediary steps from motivation to resolution of that motivation or need to resolution are worth considering because they change the sort of net effects of your actions. And so you may be hungry and you go to eat at a restaurant, but the restaurant is really expensive to eat at. So you end up exchanging a lot more money than maybe is rational for you to exchange for that food. Why did you choose that particular restaurant? Perhaps another motivation. Perhaps a motivation for social status caused you to conflate your hunger and your decision to resolve that hunger. So we're getting into the weeds a little bit, but you can imagine that this applies to other types of motivation and understanding what motivating factors are causing you to act in particular ways can be really helpful because here's the reality. Or a given underlying need, our brains try to create a single, repeatable solution. In other words, we don't want to have to think about all of the possible ways that we can meet our own needs. This kind of thinking would be incredibly inefficient. And so we have go to ways of solving our needs. And because our brains are not optimization machines, instead they are functional machines. In other words, we don't always look for the optimal solution. We look for the easiest solutions. Sometimes our solutions tend to be quite suboptimal. So to solve our hunger problems, instead of going through the work that is necessary to make a salad, we might take out a very calorie dense sugary snack. So what does this have to do with our jobs as developers? Well, it has everything to do with our jobs as developers when it comes to our motivations. And this has everything to do with our relationships with others. When we think about the motivations that we are following, as well as the motivations that our coworkers are following, we should consider that sometimes our actions don't necessarily immediately explain our motivations because they are chained. And so it makes sense for us to consider what our habits are. These are the kind of the actions that we have expressed in order to meet our needs. And whether or not we can choose better actions to meet our needs. A very simple, pragmatic example of this. In order to gain confidence in our code, today we might go through rigorous manual testing, or maybe we request multiple people to review our code, but maybe there are better ways to gain confidence in our code, like automated testing or pairing earlier on that piece of code. When we think about our underlying goals and our motivations, especially the motivations that are core to what we are as humans, we have to recognize that most of our actions are satisfying our day-to-day feelings, but they may not necessarily be optimizing for our motivations. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to today's sponsor Flatiron School, head over to Flatironschool.com slash Developer Teato join today for 24 weeks that might change your career forever. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed today's episode, if you found anything in today's episode valuable, encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting you use, because we talk about this kind of stuff on the show all the time, and you have three episodes a week. So it's easy to miss a topic that might be relevant to you, and it's easy to fall behind if you like to keep up with the show. Developer Tea is a part of the SPEC network if you want to find other shows that are like Developer Tea, that will add to your career, it will help improve your career, help you level up as a designer or a developer, head over to SPEC.FM. Thanks again to Flatiron School for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Head over to Flatironschool.com slash Terms to learn more about what Flatiron School has to offer, and then sign up at Flatironschool.com slash Developer Tea. You'll join a global community of change makers. That's Flatironschool.com slash Developer Tea. Today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, and until next time, enjoy your tea.