New Year, New Start – Spruce Up Your Decision Making in 2020
More shocking than finding out Tina Turner turned 80 years old this year is realising that we are days away from 2020. Say what?!
That’s right, folks – the new decade is just around the corner and the “slow down” buzzer doesn’t seem to be working... Oh, the memories… The goals left unachieved… The plans left unrealised… Oh, no! We’re here to help you out before the Self-Loathing Monster gets to you, settles down for a cup of tea and starts berating all your decisions and plans. With science (and some common sense, too) we’re going to share some tips to help make those plans and New Year’s resolutions stick like duct tape!
So, let’s get started!
Rewrite Your Story
Rewriting our own narratives is a powerful technique backed up by psychology, coaching and many motivational theories.
But before we get to that, it’s important to do some soul-searching (oh, boy!) on why you want to change that specific thing in your life. What’s the reason behind it? Does it align with who you are as a person and with your values in life? For example, if you’re trying to cut down on waste, why does it appeal to you? Is it just a trend or is it something more? Does it relate to sustainability, perhaps your concern for the environment?
Or maybe you want to develop yourself further, work-wise – if you’re a junior programmer you might want to check the 2020 trends on programming. According to Forbes Magazine, “AI is one of the most transformative tech evolutions of our times”. You can then research the market’s upcoming trends and skills and understand what kind of training you need. Either way, it’s crucial to define your ‘why’ from the beginning because, later down the line, you’ll look over it again and again, searching for those two magic words: motivation and persistence.
Another game-changer is replacing the word ‘resolution’ with ‘intention’. Words have a lot more impact than we think, and we need to be mindful of how we put our goals down on paper. While ‘intention’ is more of a personal, energy-focused and open construct, ‘resolution’ can be a bit too rigid and daunting. Saying that “I want to contribute to open source projects” sounds a lot better and much more attractive than “I have to contribute to open source projects”, right? (*dread*)
What does ‘Rewriting your Story’ Actually Mean?
Start by writing down your present situation as accurately as possible. For instance, “I decided to explore a new programming language by dedicating at least 1 hour every other day to learning it, but so far I’ve only spent an hour on it a week, and sometimes I don’t spend any time on it at all.” Yup, be that specific. Now, think about the things that prevent you from following through with your plans and mention them in your own ‘personal story’ too. It might be that you’re too tired at the end of the day and would rather be playing a game on your Playstation when you get home, for instance… Leave no stone unturned when you’re writing everything down!
Now, rewrite this story and create a new one where you achieve all those things. Be realistic but don’t get too caught up in the details. The important thing is that you create a new vision and image of yourself and what you want to achieve. This technique is simple but it can result in profound change if you try hard enough!
Less is More
We humans are ambitious creatures. I mean, we did put a man on the Moon and we’re well on our way to living in Mars, right? So, with all this going on, why is my learning routine not happening? (*cries*)
While it’s great to keep your eye on the prize, we need to remember that a lot of hard work and effort comes before the finish line. And this hard work, or process is made up of a number of small steps. So, as you define your goals, select small and concrete actions. Contributing to an open source project is too broad to be an effective goal. You need to break goals down into things like, “today I’ll fix that minor bug” or, “I’ll write some missing feature documentation on my favourite library.” As you decide on your goals and actions, it’s also important to understand if they’re doable long-term and if (and exactly how) they’ll fit in your routine. You may need to make some room by changing other habits (cough… social media time... cough…).
The magic word is habit. We are simple creatures who thrive on routine. It makes us feel safe and reassured. Our beautifully designed brains are here to keep us alive and they don’t like change one single bit. That’s why it can be hard to replace old habits with new ones. However, science tells us that these automatic and conditioned courses of action can be changed if done gently, progressively and in manageable but specific steps. So, it’s very much possible, y’all!
Keep It Up!
Alright, we all know that feeling when we are halfway through something and temptation creeps in (‘…it’s just a tiny itsy-bitsy piece of chocolate’ or the classic treadmill drama scene: ‘2 minutes left?! That’s an eternity!!’).
It’s important to keep in mind that we all fall off the wagon every now and then – it’s only human! And more importantly, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it. Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day! If we skip a day or two, it’s fine. We can always continue where we left off last time. Isn’t that better than stopping and having to start all over again? Above all else, just remember to be kind to yourself.
What we need to realize as well is just how essential consistency and discipline are. They can make or break any growth process. While we might slack sometimes or need to slow down, it’s crucial to keep going.
A few tricks to make sure this happens are, for instance, finding a buddy! There are lots of wonderful people working on open source projects who are keen to help you! For example, you could drag a friend to join you and work together in some library or framework that you love to use. Sharing challenges is always enjoyable in its own terms, but they also make your goals public which, in turn, makes you more likely to follow through with them. Plus, you are contributing to the community, which will boost your karma!
You can also keep records of your progress where you write time invested on learning that new coding language, features you would like to implement, new pieces of info, experiences, wishes and pretty much anything that helps you see the bigger picture and how you have advanced. Trust us, going back and looking at how far you’ve come is one of the best feelings ever, and we just don’t seem to do it enough!
Use visual and auditory tricks. According to science, we become conditioned primarily through visual and auditory cues. GitHub has cool visual tools where you can visualise your commits over time. Also, if you leave your notebook on your nightstand where you will see it every day (and not hidden away!), it will make it easier for you to turn actions into a habit as time goes by.
In the race towards achievement we often forget to “stop and smell the roses”. However, this is one of the most essential things to do. Showing gratitude for what we have and recognising the small victories are some of the most powerful motivating practices you can do. After finishing those 500 words, pat yourself in the back and celebrate it! As, once again, science explains, short-term reinforcement actions are critical to help newly acquired behaviours stick. If you keep yourself rewarded every now and then, it feels more real than a big finish line which can be months or even years away.
Adding to this, you know how they say, “life is about the journey, not the destination”. Well, it’s true! If we focus on the process instead of the goal, the path will become much more doable and interesting. In the same sense, if you think about your decision as a quest or an adventure, you’ll be much more able to get through the bumps on the road, no matter how small or big your goals are. And this, in turn, will help you have a greater sense of control over the unfolding of events. Problems? Nope, only tiny hills to overcome!
One More Thing…
Making decisions and pursuing our ambitions isn’t the easiest of tasks, but it’s worth the challenge. Breaking out of our comfort zone is essential if we want to keep evolving - and the approaching New Year is a great opportunity for that.
Remember, make conscious choices and stay focused as much as you can! As we all know (or not), that’s the secret to success…
Meanwhile, check our careers page to understand if your heart beats for any of our opening positions.
Happy holidays, everyone!