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Future Thinking & Imagination Barriers

Published 6/1/2018

When was the last time you slowed down your thinking to focus a little further out. Today, we're going to focus on our fears and anxieties about our future selves and use that to help us do our current work well.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What was the last time you took a moment and slowed down your thinking and sought a little bit further out? Now, unfortunately, a lot of the time when we think about the future or we think about the past, we do so because we want to control those things, because we're driven to try to replay an event from the past, for example, to imagine an alternative and better scenario, or sometimes we ruminate on worse scenarios. What if that one thing that I almost did? What if I did it? It would be a nightmare. And that can haunt us. And our bad decisions can haunt us and cause anxiety. And our hope for the future or perhaps a better way of putting it our fear of the future can cause even more anxiety. In this cycle of anxiety, really guilt and shame and fear, they feed into each other. What I want you to do today is slow down and take a moment to intentionally, rather than unintentionally, think about the future. And that's the point of today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. If you're a driven developer and you're looking for your career purpose, this show is intentionally made for you. It's made for you to help you find that purpose and ultimately to help you do better work. And we talk about all kinds of things on this show. A lot of the time, we end up talking about practical things. And very often, it becomes really useful to talk about practical things. And the philosophies and the beliefs and the values that we hold on the show are to focus on whatever is in front of you most of the time, to take the time to do your work well and to hold yourself to a really high standard. And so learning practical skills and really learning practical mental models that you can use in a skillful way. A lot of the content of the show ends up in that place. But today's episode is significantly different. Today's episode is dedicated to you taking a moment to think about your future on purpose. Now, as we already mentioned, unfortunately, a lot of the thinking that we do about the future is reactive. It's reactive to a particular scenario that we find ourselves in. For example, if we're thinking about our jobs, we might think about the future of our jobs. We might think about our monetary situation in five years down the road or we might think about what level of promotion am I going to? What level of leadership can I attain and what ladder can I climb? Or we may think about our family and then we think about the future because we have a mortgage and we think about how that mortgage affects our future or we think about the presidency or we think about all of these various things that trigger these future thoughts where we put our energy into the future because of some present thing. Some stimulus that pushes forces our brains into the future or some stimulus that forces our brains into the past. If we intentionally engage that future thinking, or we intentionally engage past thinking for that matter, although today's episode is focused on future thinking, but if we intentionally engage that, then we have a little bit more control and more design over those thoughts. And those thoughts can be more productive. They can be more conducive to action. So as we've already mentioned as well on this show, the hope is to develop better actions for ourselves, to develop better thinking for ourselves. So I hope that you are encouraged as you listen to this show on a weekly basis, hopefully two or three times a week, you're getting value out of the show, but I hope you're encouraged to continuously be bringing yourself back to the present because most of the thinking that we do that isn't in the present is either useless or harmful. It's either a waste of time or it's actually a bad use of time. It's unfortunately negative to us because it causes us to spin out of control in our thoughts. Now, if any of this doesn't sound familiar to you, there are certainly episodes where we talked about mental health in the past on the show. There's episodes where I've discussed my own struggles with anxiety and in those episodes I make the same disclaimer. I am not a therapist by any means. I'm not credentialed at this stuff. So don't trust my word for it. This is all just me sharing opinions anyway. So everything here on the show really you can take with a grain of salt. But when it comes down to focusing on the future, it's important that you do it in an intentional controlled way. I've used that word intentional a few times to actually take the time to do it from your own volition on your own without being prompted or pushed into thinking about the future. And technically, I guess you can consider this episode a prompt, but only do this when you have time to engage it on your own when you feel free, when you don't feel stressed, when you can take a few minutes, kind of quiet down a little bit, maybe get away from people, put your headphones on or do whatever it is that you need to to get into some kind of focused space and think about the future. Now what do we want to think about with the future? Well that's what we're going to do. I'm going to lead you through a little bit of an exercise after we talk about today's sponsor, Bitrise. With Bitrise, you can have mobile, continuous integration and delivery for your whole team. Bitrise has over 170 integrations and you can take those integrations and build your own kind of workflow, right? A beautiful platform to build a workflow out of these various integrations. No scripting is needed. Now, of course, you're a developer and so you have the opportunity to use scripting and that's what's so cool about Bitrise. They don't just have major integrations from platforms that already exist. They also allow you to use lower level integrations. That's the part that I think is really interesting. So realistically, it's not limited to those 170 official integrations. You can extend this to any process that you can imagine using as long as you can write a little bit of code. Some of the stuff Bitrise does includes automatic platform and configuration detection, build, test and deploy in just a few minutes. You can run the same config locally with your open source CLI by downloading their special bitrise.yaml file. To learn more about Bitrise, have her to bitrise.io. That's bitrise.io. Thank you again to Bitrise for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So you're going to think about the future, but it's very difficult to imagine the future. When we think about the future, often we do so in a depersonalized way. In other words, we think about what will the media look like? What will all of the people in the world be driving? What types of devices might we be using? Often, we are thinking about our own lives because the picture of the future world, it's hard to imagine that it's the same world that we're in now. That it's the same world with us in it. Very often, instead, we imagine it more like a movie that we're watching. What I really want you to do is grasp a hold of this idea that it's really the same world that you're in now just fast-forwarded. You can view it like a movie. You can imagine that it is a movie, in fact, but you are in that movie. It's really get grounded to get an anchor, a sense of place in that future world. I want you to think first, and this is going to be a little bit strange, but I want you to think about the pair of shoes that you might be wearing in that future world. Of course, we need to be sufficiently in the future. Otherwise, you may be wearing the same shoes you're wearing now, right? Imagine five years or ten years or even thirty years, depending on where you are in life now, imagine thirty years in the future. What shoes would you be wearing? Now the shoes that you're wearing can tell you a lot about a person. Imagine why it is that you're wearing those particular shoes or where those shoes are. What is the floor that those shoes are on? Are you in your home or are you in a different place? Are you traveling? Are you in a new home that you're not currently living in? Or perhaps you imagine yourself walking or in a particular place of work. So imagine those shoes, but now I want you to imagine a little bit more about where you are and where are those shoes taking you today? Where are you going in that future world? What does the day look like? Imagine really specific details, though. I want you to imagine the kinds of things that you might eat for breakfast that day. And imagine what goals you have met for yourself, maybe even physical goals, fitness goals. This is a very quick way to kind of ground that future thinking in a tangible expression that you already understand. The meals that you're eating, the places that you are. When you look in the mirror, the things that you see, not only the signs of physical aging, but also your expression. Are you happy in this future world? And what is it that is kind of driving that expression? Are you passionate about something? Are you excited? Are you looking forward to something? Or are you content? Are you more in a reflective state than you are in kind of an active state? Now all of this is building up a picture of where you are in the future. And hopefully you have built up a positive one. Because very often we don't think about this future possibility and hopefully a future reality. And so we imagine that we're just going to end up in this place. Now what I want you to do is take this picture of yourself, take all of the imagination that you just put into it, but I want you to make everything you imagined one step better. What would that step be? Where would you be if it was one step better than you had originally imagined? It doesn't have to be significantly different. And perhaps the answer is that there is nothing better, that you actually have found the optimum thing, the optimum vision for your life, but it's very likely that if you're like most people you've set some limit. You've set some standard, some ceiling on yourself based on your own expectations. And it's important to consider where that ceiling is and then consider whether or not you can imagine yourself going beyond that limit. And this is really what growth is about. This is the reason that I'm having you do this exercise. It's very often we unfortunately, and really naturally we set limits on ourselves based on our own expectations based on the expectations of others, perhaps based on culture. And these are things that can distort our view of reality and of possibility. And it's important that we break that stuff away. That we start thinking about ourselves more in terms of possibility rather than in terms of constraint. So what limits did you impose? What limits did you see on yourself? Did you achieve everything that you want to achieve in your life? And that sounds like a very big question. And the goal isn't to necessarily be a motivational speaker on this episode, although I'm sure it kind of sounds that way. Instead it's to help you stoke that kind of fire of growth. The belief that something is possible is a prerequisite to that thing actually occurring unless something random causes it to happen. But for all of your intentioned efforts, all of your energy, all of your outpouring of time and effort and energy and resources, all of these things you put forth. If you don't believe in some outcome, then all of that energy will essentially be limited by that belief because the way that it's going to work out is you'll stop. Whenever you hit that goal, whenever you hit that ceiling, you'll imagine that that's the end. Questioning those limits, questioning whether or not those limits are valid. And even if you believe that they might be valid, imagine that you're wrong. Imagine that you have blind spots. Imagine that your cognitive distortion is holding you back. What could you accomplish if you're wrong about your limits? That's what I want you to ask yourself today. I know this episode has been very different from the average episode of Developer Tea. And I hope that you enjoyed it. And I really love to hear from you if you did because far too often, software developers are put into a bucket of personalities. And that bucket of personalities takes on this false identity of coldness or calculated people who have very little ambition. And I want you as a developer to deny that if it's not true about you. I want you as a driven developer to take a hold of the things that have been kind of put on you by society or by yourself or by your friends or family or whoever it is that has kind of predefined or constrained you with some external definition. I want you to break that away and rediscover some of those things for yourself rather than taking on the stereotypical role of a technically minded person who only thinks in concrete. If you have the opportunity and the desire to think more abstractly, I want you to take this as your opportunity to do that. And I really love to hear from you. I love to hear feedback on this episode on this line of thinking you can reach out to me at developerateatgmail.com. You can also reach out to me at Twitter. That's at developerate on Twitter. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I hope it was encouraging and inspiring. Thank you again to BitRise for sponsoring today's episode. BitRise is mobile continuous integration and delivery for your whole team with dozens of integrations for your favorite services. Go and check it out. BitRise.io. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you don't want to miss out on future episodes, things like practical advice that we talked about in the past, but also more episodes like this one, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you are currently using today. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.