This article we are going to explore how to build good habits, and how good habits help you as a junior developer level up.
Every developer started out as a junior developer. Don't beat yourself up if you don't compare to the senior developers you see on Twitter or even here on Dev. Your goal should be to get roughly 1% better every day, because that 1% is going to really pay off in the long run. A good way to remember how 1° or 1% can change an outcome:
- Water is really hot at 211°
- Water boils at 212°
- Boiling water makes steam
- With enough steam, you can move a locomotive.
Another important step in building a solid foundation for good habits is to forget about setting goals. Don't get rid of goals completely, on the contrary - goals are essential to having a target to work towards. As a junior developer, looking to succeed, first you need to focus on your system. This system will be the groundwork of continually building good habits.
What is a system and what should your system be? That depends on your end goal. Previously, I said not to get rid of goals completely. As an example, if you are a football coach, your goal would be to win a championship. Your system would be the way that you recruit your players, how you manage your assistant coaches as well as how you set up your practices for the team.
Changing your habits is challenging for multiple reasons, but the main things we do wrong are that we try to change the wrong thing and we try to change our habits the wrong way. There are three main layers to changing behavior.
- A change in your outcomes. This is about what you get.
- A change in your processes. This is about what you do action wise.
- A change in your identity. This is about what you believe.
First, new identities, which is what you are trying to create by changing your habits require new evidence. This is a 2 step process.
- Decide the type of person you want to be.
- Prove it to yourself with small wins.
Let's start with the first statement. Who do you want to be? Think of the type of person that would achieve the outcomes you are wanting. What do they do that you aren't doing. Your identity comes from your habits. Every thing you do is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.
- Who do you want to be?
- What do you want to stand for?
- What are your principles and values?
- Who do you wish to become?
Effectively, this produces a loop of sorts. In the military we call this an OODA loop. Observe, Orient, Decide, then Act. Your habits shape your identity and your identity shapes your habits. Your values, principles and identity drive this loop, NOT your results. Focus on who you want to become, not what you want to achieve, and you will be on the right path to building good habits.
In the next few articles I will dive deeper into Atomic Habits by James Clear and as it relates to developers by helping us build good habits and break our bad habits. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated and other ideas are also welcome.