In today's episode, we're looking at ways to see unconscious decisions as they occur and potentially choose a better way that may benefit us in the future.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
No one consciously chooses something that is against their better interests. Now this isn't always true and of course we choose to do things on a regular basis that are against our interests but given two actions, the one that is better for us both in the short term and the long term should rationally outweigh the one that is worse for us both in the short term and the long term. The problem is that the decisions that we face on a daily basis are not that cleanly cut. For example we have a decision that may be better for us in the short term and bad for us in the long term and then the opposite decision. It shouldn't surprise you in that particular scenario that we are more likely to choose the thing that is better for us in the short term. But we operate under the assumption or maybe the illusion that we are making conscious decisions all the time. In today's episode we're going to look at a way that we can start to see our unconscious decisions as they are occurring and perhaps choose a better way. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. This show exists to help driven developers find clarity, perspective and purpose in their careers. If you're a driven developer then hopefully you realize that your career is not just about your coding ability, it's not about your speed as a developer, it's not even about how good of a design I you have, a product sense intuition for what customers have and certainly all of those things contribute to your career. But one of the most critical factors that you can develop as a software developer is self-awareness. And this is a fuzzy term that we don't talk about in explicit concrete detail very often. But you can think of self-awareness as the ability to observe and identify behaviors that you participate in. And this is really a philosophical discussion as much as it is a career development discussion. Because to some degree all of us have some level of self-awareness and arguably to some degree no one has full self-awareness. It would be prohibitively expensive on our minds to be fully self-aware. To prove this you can imagine that in order to function all of your bodily functions you would have to be conscious of all of those functions. Instead, a lot of your unconscious processes, the things that you don't necessarily choose to do, they just kind of happen. Your heart beats, your eyes blink, you have a sleep cycle, you don't choose these things. These are things that your body or your mind, perhaps your unconscious behaviors, are choosing for you. And again, there's not a single bucket that you can put these things into. We try to make a single description of these behaviors as unconscious behaviors or involuntary reactions to our situation, to the world around us, to our bodies. But the truth is everything that we're talking about here is complex. And it's not in discrete buckets. We can, for example, consciously choose to blink our eyes. And so to what degree is our consciousness controlling, our blinking, well it kind of depends, right? Similarly, we can't choose to beat our heart per each beat. But we can choose to do things that affect our heart rate, like exercise. Now while all of this should be relatively obvious once you hear it, there are some things that we do that are less obvious, that are somewhat automatic. And that's what we're talking about in today's episode. These are things that we could perhaps perceive as controllable behaviors, things that are typically done consciously. But the motivation or perhaps the assumed reason that you've given yourself for doing these things isn't conscious. It's something that is bubbled up from a different place. We're going to talk about some of these behaviors and ways that you might kind of reverse engineer them so that you can behave in a more conscious way right after we talk about today's sponsor. When you first start building an application, you probably use the easiest thing available to store your assets. Maybe it's just like an S3 bucket. But eventually you find out that you probably need a better solution for your asset storage. And most specifically, you need a better solution for dealing with images. And that's what today's sponsor is going to help you with. ImageKit allows you to optimize the images on your website or your app to improve the performance, the page load time, and SEO. It offers real-time image optimizations and transformations with a global content delivery network, making image management and optimization super simple. And it allows you to deliver great user experience and better SEO. It integrates with pretty much any platform. For example, if you started on S3, you can integrate with S3. You can also integrate with Maginto, WordPress, Shopify, pretty much anything else as well. You get features like automatic format selection, compression, resizing, smart cropping, etc. You can use the coupon code Developer Tea. That's all one word Developer Teato get $100 in credits. And the plans start at $0. Absolutely free to get started. Go and check it out. Head over to imagekit.io and use the code Developer Teato get $100 in credits. That's imagekit.io. Thanks again to ImageKit for sponsoring today's episode. Have you ever found yourself in a conflict? Be a verbal argument with a family member, coworker or friend? And you're halfway through the argument and you kind of wonder how you even got there. You try to look back at what the original problem was and unfortunately you can't even identify it. The argument has kind of fed itself and is continuing to feed itself. And you even feel like you're kind of playing a role that since you started out being upset or frustrated that you have to continue being upset or frustrated. This is a strange trick that our brain plays on us when we're in conflict and really in any kind of scenario where we feel the need to react to something. For example, in the middle of that argument, you may stop and think, well, I'd really like to just stop being mad right now. So what is it that keeps us from choosing to let something go in that moment and decide that whatever we're fighting about is actually not worth fighting about that. It's kind of silly. A lot of the time, at least in this particular kind of scenario, we have competing outcomes that we're trying to run calculations on, simple calculations. Like if I do decide to no longer be angry, then perhaps I'll feel embarrassed. Another reason you may not want to drop your anger all of a sudden is that we want to act in ways that are continuous as humans. We want to agree with ourselves. So when we say that we're going to do something, we find it dissonant to not do that thing. But even more difficult, if we have told another person or we've declared it in some public atmosphere that we were going to do something and then we don't follow through. There's a lot of dissonance for this because somewhere in our development and our evolution as humans, we realize that we needed to be able to cooperate with each other. And arguably one of the things that we need to be able to cooperate well with each other is dependability. When someone says they're going to do something, they actually follow through and do it. And the people who are most dependable are likely the ones who are most socially accepted and therefore likely to succeed. Of course this is all theoretical, but we can imagine that this would be very important, that it would be very important to be cooperative. But the interesting thing is when we're in the middle of a fight, we aren't thinking that we need to follow through in order to be cooperative. This is an unconscious decision, a decision that has been kind of embedded into our brains, whether through evolution or through personal experience or some other way that we can't really put our finger on. We choose to do things that we're not consciously aware of why we're choosing to do that thing. Even when we ask ourselves why we're doing that thing, often the answers that we give are actually answering a different question. We sidestep the real question of why, what are the trade-offs, what are the things that we've calculated in order to make this decision. And instead we answer with a different answer, like for example explaining our feelings. So what can we do about these unconscious decisions that we make, that we have conscious reasoning for, but that reasoning is either incomplete or flawed altogether? Well, one thing that we can do is try to find a behavior that we can identify. Only one that is relatively easy to identify. You can do this with behaviors and you can do it with feelings. And when we say feelings in this particular case we're talking about bodily sensations, the things that you would describe as your actual feelings. But if you could find a behavior that you always turn to in a given scenario, and specifically in a scenario where you're behaving in a way that you wish you wouldn't. Maybe that's being passive-aggressive, for example, or having a verbal conflict with a coworker, or maybe it's procrastination. There's a whole list of behaviors that perhaps you participate in that you'd like to adjust. You'd like to figure out how to kind of decode those so you can get rid of them and replace them with better behaviors. Well, one thing you can do, especially if these behaviors are the result of some unconscious decisions, very few times do we sit down and say, yes, I think I'm going to procrastinate. Because when we choose to procrastinate, this is a different thing. This is resting, it's something that we actually actively participate in. So if these are behaviors like procrastination that you've arrived at by some difficult to determine path, then perhaps the best way to understand this is not to find the beginning of the path, but to walk backwards on the path once you've arrived at that place. So what are the feelings that you have right before you are participating in that behavior? What are some of the things that you do, the words that you say maybe? For me, for example, some of my kind of flagged behaviors that I, that's what I call these, are retreat. When I feel like I need to stop offering my opinions, another flagged behavior that I have is when I start writing really long messages, this seems to be a common pattern for me. When I feel like I need to express something to resolve some kind of conflict, I feel like it's the best way to resolve that conflict and very rarely is that the case. So it's important that you start to identify these flagged behaviors for yourself so you can begin to bring those unconscious moments where you're reacting to your unconscious thoughts or your unconscious motivations and bring those, bubble those up to the surface, trying to observe your behaviors to uncover that the unconscious thing is happening. By no means is this easy and very often I fail at identifying these behaviors until well into the behavior and sometimes well after the behavior has occurred. It's very difficult to continuously remain self-aware. So I'd encourage you to take your time with this. Don't expect this to change overnight. Habits are something that are built slowly and often they take a while to replace. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to ImageKit for sponsoring today's episode. You can start with $100 worth of credit, managing your images with things like automatic format, tracing, and compression, and optimization, head over to ImageKit.io to get started today. Use the code Developer Tea checkout. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. Developer Tea is a part of the spec network. If you want other fantastic content designed for developers and designers who are looking to level up in their careers, head over to spec.fm to get started today. Today's producer was Sarah Jackson. I'm Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.