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The Connection Between Imagination, Confidence and Performance

Published 6/17/2019

How do you see yourself and what do you expect from yourself? In today's episode we're talking about perceptions and expectations of ourselves. So much of our motivation is impacted by how we and those around us perceive ourselves.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What do you expect from yourself? I'm not asking this in the sense that you want to do something and then you do another and then you feel bad about it because you didn't meet your own expectations, but rather, how do you perceive yourself? What do you predict of yourself? What do you think that you are capable of? That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and I've created this show to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in your careers. So I want you to think about this question. This is the source of so much of our mental English, but also so much of our motivation. What we expect ourselves to do, what we project ourselves to be in the future, has a very profound impact on what we become. And it's not just true of ourselves, but also of other perceptions of us. Now interestingly, often these two things are interrelated, the way that you feel about yourself, the way you place expectations on yourself, often will be reflected by others. Others will see you for what you see yourself for. Now, this isn't always true, sometimes people have a locked perspective of you. They didn't update it over the years, for example. People who knew you when you were growing up, they have a hard time seeing you as a different person than you were back then, especially if you don't have a lot of interaction with those people. And similarly, when you have someone that you don't have a lot of interaction with at work, however, they first experienced you, however, they first interacted with you, however, work they saw you doing originally, is probably how they're going to continue seeing you until they have new experiences with you. But I want to get back to this original point. How do you see yourself, and more importantly, what do you expect from yourself? What do you imagine that you will do? We're going to take a quick break to talk about today's sponsor. And then we're going to come back and talk about how those expectations affect you, what the research says about it. And then I'm going to give you a little experiment to try to shape that expectation and that perspective. But first, let's talk about today's sponsor, Discover.bot. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last five to ten years, you've probably noticed that bots are everywhere. From all levels of sophistication, from simple games to highly capable, multifunctional bots to simple chat bots that can provide a friendly face to customers that are coming to your website. But most of us haven't spent much of our career learning how to build bots. What is the right way to do it? Discover.bot is an online community for bot creators designed to serve as a platform agnostic digital space for developers and enthusiasts of all skill levels to learn from one another, share their stories and move the conversation forward together. It's built by Amazon registry services. And this is a place where you can learn kind of the best practices of this space. There's plenty of places that you've probably already learned the best practices of API design. But what about an engaging chat bot dialogue or why emojis might be breaking your bot? If you are interested in bots at any level, then encourage you to go and check it out. Discover.bot slash Developer Tea. There's tons of content and there's a community waiting there to discuss these concepts with you. It's a brand new kind of open territory. Highly encourage you to go and check it out. Discover.bot slash Developer Tea. All in word. Thank you again to Discover.bot for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Okay, let's talk about this self confidence self perception discussion. Of course, you've probably heard this many times over. You've heard that it's important to believe in yourself. You've heard people try to encourage you and inspire you. But maybe you don't know that there's actually real science behind this. I'll give you one example of a study in there have been many. Just imagine that you are told that people of your gender, male or female, this happens in both directions, do poorly at a given task and then you go and do that task. Now imagine that you hadn't been told that or you had been told that people of your gender excel at this particular task. Even though gender is a broad category and there's a lot of people most likely that identify as the same gender as you, these framings matter. They matter a lot. You are most likely to perform in accordance to whatever I told you was true. In other words, if I told you that people of your gender tends to perform poorly, then you will perform less well than if you were told that people of your gender perform well. And the same is true for various stereotypes. For example, if I remind you that you are a very young developer before you go and you work in a project, then you're most likely to perform less well than if I remind you that you have an advanced degree. Of course, these are all theoretical abstractions and you have to take all of these research points with a grain of salt and knowing that maybe they'll apply a little bit differently to you but kind of drawing from some principles of psychology, this makes sense, doesn't it? If we don't expect ourselves to do well, then it would be unlikely that we do well. If we expect ourselves to do well, then we have a vision. We have an imagination of ourselves doing well. If you talk to high performing athletes, you'll often hear the refrain that the athlete is envisioning whatever their particular performance is. They envision the final score on the scoreboard or maybe they envision going through the motions that they've practiced countless times before. They envision the success points and in many ways, this applies not only in those momentary actions and those physical movements but in our lifelong achievements and our careers. In many ways, if we don't feel like we belong, we have to take steps to bridge the gap. It's hard to imagine succeeding in a place where you don't feel that you belong and so it becomes necessary to build this sense of expectations, to build a culture of high expectations for ourselves and for the people that we work with. I want to be very careful and very sensitive to the tendency to create high expectations that turn into stress or guilt or some other kind of negative emotion. I want to be very careful and very sensitive to the tendency to create a positive motivation and an expectation that is derived from a sense of confidence rather than derived from a sense of need. If you're listening to this podcast right now and for whatever reason you don't feel that sense of confidence and you don't really know how to make up the gap, maybe you feel totally out of place, maybe the job that you have, the title feels like it's out of your reach and you don't feel confident about it. Here's my recommendation and it's going to sound overly simplified but once again this is based actually on research. Imagine yourself in a position that you aren't currently in. Don't imagine the version of you today and putting yourself into that position but instead imagine that you already are that thing. Imagine that you already have that title, that you already have a successful project in front of you, that you've already solved the problem. In many regards this is similar to a pre-mortem but it's kind of the opposite. It's a pre-success mortem if you want to call it that, where you put yourself into the emotional and mental state of having succeeded and the relevant research here comes from a study where gender was related to performance and one gender was instructed to imagine themselves, this is women instructed to imagine themselves as the stereotypical male. Now interestingly because of the perception that had been created that women were not as good as this particular type of task, when they imagined themselves as a stereotypical male it affected their performance. This simple imagination is a strong tool. Now let me be very clear here. This is only a study that is not my recommendation. I'm not telling women who are listening to this podcast to imagine yourselves as a stereotypical male. That certainly is not generalizable. What I am telling you to do is imagine yourself as one of the people who belongs in that group, in that successful group that you have in your mind. And here's the great news in that same study. When you take into account confidence, then all differences between gender evaporated entirely. And so what you believe about yourself in that particular study was the determining factor of your success. Now fill in the blank. There may be something else that you think is holding you back. Maybe it's a lack of experience, maybe it's a lack of education, maybe it's a lack of connections, or even a location that you live in the world, all of these factors could create for you a mental picture that doesn't include success. And what I'm challenging you to do is to kind of discard that thinking just as a thought experiment. This isn't a permanent thing where you have to say, okay, you know, forever and always, I'm not going to pay attention to my lack of experience. We're not trying to create fake levels of confidence where you just deny things that are true about yourself, but rather trying to give you the feeling of confidence, the perspective of confidence. Once you have the ability to imagine some future, it becomes less scary, it becomes less unknown, it becomes more comfortable with it, and interestingly, you become more confident. And I really hope that this confidence cycle can play out for you, that as you begin to imagine yourself doing better and better, doing more of the things that you want to do in your career, that imagination actually empowers you to seek after those things, and ultimately to develop the confidence that you need to take steps towards those eventual goals. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea, and thank you again to Discover.bot for sponsoring today's episode. Discover.bot is a platform for bot enthusiasts of all levels, whether you're just interested in talking about them, or if you want to build one, or even if you are deeply experienced as a bot builder, as content and a community waiting for you, and Discover.bot, slash Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you enjoyed today's episode, I'm going to ask you to do two things. One, leave a review and iTunes. This is the best way to help other developers find Developer Tea. And soon, this is going to actually be podcast, the podcast app on Mac. So make sure if you're listening to this episode after iTunes is gone, then I encourage you to leave a review in the podcast app, or whatever platform that you use. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, enjoy your tea.