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Improving Confidence and Neutralizing Threats Through Detached Perception

Published 1/21/2019

What drives us to respond to situations like being behind on a project? In today's episode of Developer Tea, we're talking about over-working and investigating why we've decided to overwork ourselves.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What drives us to do things we don't want to do? I'm not just talking about bad habits. I'm talking about responding to situations in ways that we wish we hadn't responded. For example, responding to stress by getting upset or deeply anxious. We responding to a situation like being behind on a project in a stress-inducing way, like working too late and losing some sleep. Sometimes we respond emotionally and sometimes we respond out of our tiredness. And we're not going to be able to track down all of the reasons that we do things that we don't wish that we would have done after the fact. But instead, I do want to narrow in on one of the reasons that this happens and then provide you a maybe not very intuitive way to combat that specific reason. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on this show is to help driven developers like you connect to your career purpose and do better work so you can have a positive influence on the people around you. I have a little bit of a confession to make. I am feeling a little bit sick. That part's not the confession, but I believe part of the reason that I'm sick is because I've been overworking myself recently. And I've been trying to kind of investigate my own mind a little bit and figure out why I've decided to overwork myself. You've probably been in a similar scenario where you've taken extra steps. You've gone the extra mile, but eventually your body or your mind or your family or relationships. At some point you're going to find breaking points. When you push everything else out of the way and you try to push some particular priority too far up your list. I want to be very clear on this show that this stress is no one else's fault. This is my own doing. This is my own decision to allow myself to react in poor ways to the stress that I'm dealing with. And the stress I'm facing is very normal. It's everyday work stress. So what is it that causes us to do this? Well, as I already mentioned, there are plenty of reasons that we may respond in ways that we wish we hadn't. There are ways that we can do things well. And then it's kind of a sliding scale from the best decision you can make to the worst decision you can make. Most of the time we're somewhere in the middle. And I believe one of the driving reasons for this kind of poor decision making is actually a lack of confidence. And this isn't a superficial lack of confidence where you don't think that you are capable of doing your job. And it's not the kind of lack of confidence that comes from repeated failures. This lack of confidence is the result of mental chatter. This stories that your brain spins and tells you back to yourself. The temporary responses to temporary threats. The kind of overcompensation that our brain tricks us into thinking that it will fix things. This kind of lack of confidence is something that we all face at one point or another. Many of us as seasoned developers, for example, in periods of transition, we face seasonal changes where we may not feel as productive as other times in our career. We may transition between projects, we may feel a sense of insecurity about our skills, our talents. For some people, this can be insecurity about age. And that can happen at any age. It may be insecurity about your personality or likability and how those internal stories that your brain kind of naturally tells you, they're geared towards protecting you. They're geared towards avoiding threats. It's a little bit like a difficult coding interview. If you've ever gone through a technical interview that was particularly hard and maybe even kind of niche in terms of the information that is covered, then you may have experienced something similar to what your brain does with threats. Your brain is okay with accidentally labeling something a threat that wasn't actually a threat or making a small threat into a big one. Similarly, a coding interview is okay with saying that a good programmer isn't very good. In other words, a difficult technical interview may be designed to tolerate false negatives. In the same way, your brain is kind of designed to tolerate false negatives. It's okay if we avoid all of the threats, it's okay if we also avoid some non-threats. The problem is that our brains aren't really tuned very well for what is actually threatening in especially in a modern world. We receive a lot of signals in our day-to-day work and the internal dialogue seems to never turn off. We have ways of decoding these experiences in our brains and sometimes, perhaps far too often for some people, and really everyone at some point, we're going to get it wrong. We're going to judge something as either more threatening than it is or threatening when it's not threatening at all. And this causes a kind of special flavor of lack of confidence. It's not a lack of confidence that can be overcome with affirmations. It's not a lack of confidence that is about self-image. It's a lack of confidence that's based on these internal dialogues that create the kind of generate fear, almost out of thin air. 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 a kind of slow thinking way of addressing this fear. It's perhaps overcoming those false internal dialogues, maybe even silencing them. But first, let's talk about today's sponsor, Clubhouse. Clubhouse is the first project management platform for software development that brings everyone on every team together to build better products. This is your software developers, your designers, your product people. If you're working with clients, your clients, everyone seeing the same thing in the same place. Clubhouse provides the perfect balance of simplicity and structure for better cross-functional collaboration. Its fast, intuitive interface makes it easy for people on any team to focus in on their work on a specific task or project while also being able to kind of zoom out and see the bigger picture to see how that work is contributing towards the overall project. If you're like me, one of the first things you look for is whether or not a service has an API. This is important for future integrations and for customizations that you might want to do, integrations into your own systems. And of course, Clubhouse has a simple API and a robust set of integrations. But you don't even have to go and build most of those integrations are already built for you. Clubhouse also seamlessly integrates with the tools that you already use every day, getting out of your way so you can deliver quality software on time. Listeners of Developer Teacan sign up for two free months of Clubhouse by visiting clubhouse.io slash Developer Tea. That's all one word. Clubhouse.io slash Developer Tea. Thank you again to Clubhouse for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about confidence, not just the kind of confidence that allows you to get up and look in the mirror and know that you appreciate yourself, you value yourself. This is a different kind of confidence. The confidence to act in the face of uncertainty or in the face of what you're proceeding as a threat. Most often this happens in interpersonal situations. We don't often experience, for example, environmental threats as developers. Most of the time our threats are interpersonal experiences. So I want to share with you a very simple and practical exercise that you can do when you're trying to kind of calm down that internal dialogue. But first you have to know what that fear, what that lack of confidence feels like. And the reason for this is because you have to know what the feeling is so you can use that as kind of a flag to remind yourself to slow down to turn off those dialogues in your head. They're kind of feeding that false narrative, whatever it is that you believe about that situation. That's causing you to believe that it's a threat to slow down and walk through this exercise. So for everybody, anxiety, fear, they present themselves in different ways. But often for me, for example, one of the red flags is that I continuously revisit a particular word that someone has said to me, a particular phrase, a conversation. I try to remember my own words, the way that I present myself, and I'm overthinking a moment in time. And usually when I'm doing this, I'm overthinking it and I'm preoccupied with that. I'm unable to move on from whatever that conversation was and I'm overthinking it. Everyone has different triggers. This one is probably a common one, but it's important that you kind of observe your own behavior and observe your own emotions and try to identify the triggers that spell out to you, hey, maybe I'm overthinking something. And one of the ways that you can learn about these is after you find out that you've over thought. Right, after you find out that something that you were worrying about, there wasn't really a good reason to worry about it. Usually this is post-conflict. This is after something has resolved. Take note, try to recall the behaviors and the feelings that you had when you were experiencing whatever that anxiety or fear was. But finally, let's get into the exercise because the most important thing there is finding out when to do the exercise, right? Because this isn't something that you're going to do every morning with your journal. You can practice it. And certainly the exercise is actually useful, not just in the context of reducing that internal dialogue. But if you are specifically facing these kinds of issues, then you need to understand your own signals enough to know when you are anxious or when you are telling yourself these false narratives. Okay, so the exercise is very simple. Try to describe the situation from the following points of view. And there's three points of view that I want you to describe it from. Number one is the person or the people that you encountered. So you're going to try to explain whatever this moment in time or conversation or experience was with the people that you were with. And remember, they can't read your mind. You can't use your own descriptors. You have to try to understand things from those people from their perspective. The second perspective to try to explain things from is an onlooker. Someone who doesn't have context. Someone who is just watching the interaction from the outside in. They don't have the history. They don't have whatever information that you have and that the other person that you are talking to has. They're simply looking from the outside in. The third and final perspective that I want you to articulate is yourself in six months or maybe a year, maybe even as far out as five years, but your future self, where whatever this conflict is has resolved itself in one way or another. Imagine that your future self is in a secure place, you're safe, you're calm, and whatever this problem is, like I said, has resolved itself and try to look back on your present self from the future. This is kind of difficult, right? Nobody can tell the future, but what we're trying to do here is get yourself out of your own mind. Remove yourself from the contextual information that you have because your mind can be kind of a trap. It's sort of an echo chamber where you start to think one thought and that thought feeds another thought. And there's this feedback loop where your thoughts start to perhaps spin out of control. One way to kind of trip the wire is to try to remove yourself from your mind and put yourself into perception only mode. The other person's perception, a onlookers perception, and finally your future self, that perception. In almost every case that you'll face, those perceptions are going to be much less threatening than you perceive it right now. Periodically you may imagine that tension, for example, was present. You may be able to identify feelings that you have from those other perceptions. You may, for example, yourself looking back on this scenario, you may still feel some kind of self-consciousness. But for the most part, those feelings are going to be much less intense. When you can escape your own context and get a different perspective and try to articulate a different perception, a lot of the extra context that your brain is kind of embellishing the truth with falls away. And the reason that this can affect your confidence is because you'll start to recognize that sometimes you're your own enemy. That sometimes this protective mechanism in your brain actually isn't serving you very well. And things are typically better than you expect them to be. This gives you a better sense of confidence as you approach a conflict, a difficult conversation, any kind of scenario where your brain starts to trigger that fear mechanism, that protective mechanism, now you can take a sidestep and avoid that spiraling kind of internal feedback loop. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I hope this episode has been helpful for you. And once again, this is not something that you will figure out. This is the kind of thing that you're going to face throughout the rest of your career. Certainly, something that I face and I'm well down the road in my career as well. Thank you again for listening to today's episode. Thank you to today's sponsor clubhouse. Go and check it out clubhouse.io slash Developer Teato get two months free on clubhouse. Developer Tea is a part of the spec network. Head over to spec.fm to find other incredible shows for designers and developers looking to level up in their careers. We're 650 something episodes into this show and almost every single one of those episodes has been touched by Sarah Jackson. I just wanted to take a moment to thank Sarah for all of the work that she does on this show. Sarah has been an incredible editor for this show and producer and so many other roles that she fills for Developer Teaas well as the spec network and all the other shows on the spec network. Thank you so much to Sarah for your incredible work. Thank you again for listening to today's episode and until next time, enjoy your tea.