Take some time to write your values and motivations

Closed notebook on a table

When I think about my career growth, I often make a habit of comparing my growth trajectory at different points in time rather than focussing on more recent progress. I found spots where I compared the start of my web development career with job changes, specifically, instead of looking at achievements I’ve made along the way. I constantly look back at “the beginning” – forgetting that in “the beginning”, I knew basically nothing, then got to the stage of being a developer with some fairly solid knowledge in the field, within the space of a couple of years.

I was an excited, curious, and very pumped up individual. But everyone’s drive changes over time, and especially in this field of technology, stuff changes so much. Understandably, after some time, it’s not enough to rely on your natural energy to propel yourself forward. The same was for me, and I’m not ashamed to say that the speedy advancements of front end development have often gotten me down.

Many months ago, in the midst of a state of exhaustion, I came across Melissa Mandelbaum’s article Design your personal growth. After hearing stories from friends about their struggles with personal growth, Melissa wrote about her current growth framework that she revisits and updates each quarter. It was what I needed to realise some of my personal values and my vision on learning, so after using Melissa’s framework, I took my notes and shared what I’d written with my manager, and it helped us discuss a clearer direction and figure out where my mind was at.

I wanted to share these values and motivations because I think they are not just specific to working and career growth, but really reflect me as an individual. Much like my blogging values, they are evident of the kind of person I am: what encourages me; what I sometimes need to keep going; what is important to me.

Values

  1. Do stuff I love. ♥️ And stuff that makes me happy.
  2. Try to be curious, but never force it.
  3. Have respect for myself and for others.
  4. Give opportunities a chance.
  5. Time at work != time working.
  6. Always make time for tea.

I wanted to write a bit about why I think I wrote some of these values. In my notebook, there was not a single mark that showed me crossing something out to write something else, no handwriting slip-ups – I wrote these values without hesitation.

It’s really important to do what I enjoy and love doing. Throughout my life I have had a lot of hobbies and I have enjoyed each and every one. And I’ve usually stopped once it got boring. I feel very lucky to have a job doing something I enjoy. It comes with its challenges, of course, and at times I’ve wanted to give up, but I find something that pulls me back because I like it.

I do try to be curious about things even though they don’t pique my interest. I like to hear about new things or to know about something I don’t know about. At the same time, I don’t want to make myself find out more information about some new programming language (for example) when I am not even curious about it in the first place.

Respect is important to me, and that certainly comes from my experience being a woman working in the technology field.

Motivations

  1. Being recognised or receiving recognition for my work.
  2. Words of thanks or words of encouragement from people who appreciate my work.
  3. Seeing more tangible results, regardless of how much “work” was done (that is, regardless of the time spent on the task, or the amount of code that was written).
  4. Routine: putting some music on, being in a comfortable environment.
  5. Having a sense of time: no rushing.

Number 1 and number 2 are the points I feel so strongly about in this list. I may not build the next social network or write an amazing book about CSS, but when my work is recognised, no matter how big or small, it really motivates me to continue what I’m doing. This has been the case for me since I started blogging and writing – it really warmed my heart when people shared my work and commended it. The same goes for words of thanks. This is super emotional, I know, but sometimes I want to cry (happy tears!) when someone thanks me for something I have written. Whether it helped them figure out some coding thing, whether it inspired them to start going to the gym, whether they found a new band after I tweeted about a song I liked. Being thanked motivates me to continue doing that thing – in these cases, I’ve shared some thoughts, and I will continue doing that because people are grateful for it.

Encouragement is probably an obvious motivator for most people but I had to write it down. The amount of times I’ve been struggling to do something, having dreaded impostor syndrome and thinking “fuck me, why can’t I figure this out, I’m an idiot”, and an external voice interrupts my internal thoughts to tell me I’m doing a great job, and to keep going? It happens frequently and it I almost cry, haha. It’s sometimes all I need to keep me going.

Seeing results is a great thing. Although not everyone makes “smart” goals that are measurable, there is no doubt that seeing some kind of result, something that you have achieved, right in front of your face, is better than not seeing anything there at all.

Regarding number 5, I can’t stress enough how rushing really makes me frustrated. It makes me frustrated and anxious to the point where I can barely focus and it just feels like I’m being pushed to a limit. Even if I’m not the one causing myself to rush, but things like ridiculous deadlines can contribute to this.

Strengths and weaknesses

I was a little hesitant to write this because woah, why would I be sharing my weaknesses? But it’s interesting if you compare the two:

Strengths

  • keen to learn, sometimes in big bouts, and other times in smaller bursts
  • care about quality of work
  • like to try new things
  • persistent (I don’t always give up)
  • communicating with team members
  • I like challenges

Weaknesses

  • emotional (which can be good or bad)
  • sometimes a perfectionist
  • stubborn and not always open to change
  • easily distracted
  • don’t really like big challenges

Cool. So I like challenges, but I don’t really like big challenges. I like to try new things but not always open to change. WTF? 🤪 So the thing my manager and I noticed here is that I need a sense of balance. Balance is important for me to, well, feel sane. Not everyone’s strengths and weaknesses will be almost exact opposites like mine.


I found the exercise useful to help me “reset”. In all honesty it helped me feel inspired by, well, my own self. Me writing about my strengths and weaknesses and the things that are important to me made me realise that the things that are important to me haven’t changed.

Recently, I was feeling a little unmotivated, career-wise probably unsure what to focus on next, and chatting with Lucy reminded me that I actually had these personal values written down and totally forgotten about them. Writing this blog post has brought me back from a place of frustration and panic.

If you do the exercise yourself, let me know, I would love to see how it helps you. 🙂

Leave a Comment

Comments on this post

I’m definitely going to have a go at this exercise.

At the end of 2017 when I was considering leaving my job, I spent a lot of time thinking about what motivated me and what my values were when it came to my career. I realised that they were vastly different from when I started my job, and that my job was no longer working for me.

I think it’s great that you could talk to your manager about your values and motivations. When I sat down with my manager to talk about why I wasn’t enjoying my job she wasn’t very supportive. She just tried to defend the company, and just shot down my ideas. I knew at this point it was time for me to leave and find another job that did motivate me and that did support my values.

Your list of things that motivate you is literally the same as mine; particularly recognition and encouragement. I had a terrible experience in my job where one of my colleagues took credit for some work I had done, and actually got rewarded for. It hurt because I though we were a team, but clearly it was a case of every man for himself, and even after I raised a complaint, I still wasn’t given the recognition I deserved.

I can’t wait to find something else that actually does motivate me!

You know, it’s interesting that you said you like encouragement because I’m about to thank you.
I deal with a terrible jumbled thinking process. I’m not a very organized person so, naturally, it translates into the way that I think and feel. One minute, I can be so excited about a project I’m doing and the next, I’ll be totally unsure about it. I think one of the problems is that I’ve never taken the time to itemized them in this way. Another reason is that I didn’t know how to.

Well, now I do and I thank you so much for that. I really do.

I hope that writing out your values and motivations continue to help you recognize self-growth and help you appreciate your efforts to obtain your standards!

I am going to do a similar list. 2017 I tried to make stuff I always wanted to make and I want 2018 to be an expansion of that.

Your list is inspirational!

I like this as a way to track progress and reflect on myself as a person. Seems much, much better than having to, like, read back on posts?? Because I don’t blog about everything?? I blog about a fourth of what happens in my life, mostly. On the other hand, this exercise was a bit emotional to do, heh. I do think encouragement is a mundane one, but on the other hand, it didn’t make my list, because I grew up without encouragement—thus I had to learn to go on without it. So, today, it makes me feel very weird, like I’m having to do something within the approval of another person. BUT I do favor recognition. I like when I’m recognized and my name is on someone else’s website or Twitter mention or someone is like, “Omg, my friend told me about your blog, but I’m addicted.” I think it’s cool.

Thank you for sharing your “answers” to this! I know they’re personal and all that jazz, but when you share more personal things, it inadvertently gives me confidence to do the same ’cause I feel a little less alone.

Hm, seems like a nice exercise. Might be worth a try. But not sure if I will or not.

But its interesting to see your results of it!

Great post and I am so happy that you were able to do this and discover a lot about yourself! I think it is essential that you are aware and honest about your strengths and weaknesses because it allows you to see yourself as you are and begin to understand what is the right things for you.

I have found that when I am rushing and consumed by the pressure of dates and time limits, it hugely reduces the amount I am able to do. I was trying so hard to create a lot of artwork in a due time and it turned into a major art-block. Most of it was all anxiety that I caused myself. I am learning to re-think about what I am doing, so that I have a slow and cautious attitude and it doesn’t seem like a huge mega task, but something I really love to do. 😄

I feel similarly with challenges… I like to be challenged, in a scaffolding way, but I get timid and scared when presented with a huge challenge where I’ve no idea where to even begin.
This post was kind of cathartic for me, at this point in time, because I’m at a career crossroad. I’ve been on a fly-high trajectory for the past 3 years, changing jobs every year, moving up, salary and experience wise at an extremely rapid pace. At this job, I wanted to stay and build my career. But “building a career” without switching jobs = very slow process. Much slower than I had come to expect because of the way I was hopping from one job to another, acquiring so much knowledge and experience every year. I felt like I was stalling, and wasting time, and it honestly took a while for me to come to accept that I’m not stalling… It’s just giving me time to fine tune what I do know, allow me to expand my expertise in subjects in a stable environment, and provide me a deeper expertise in core tech areas.
When I began my career in tech, I was literally at 0. So of course I’d make leaps and bounds in short periods of time! Now that I am fairly proficient at what I do, the next step is going to be a lot longer process and a lot harder, as I have to now find a specialty for myself, and as my manager tells me all the time, “no one else can do it for you; you’ve gotta figure that one out yourself.”

Here’s to a balling 2018 for the both of us to make advancements in careers and lives, and gain deeper understanding of ourselves, our core values, and motivations 🙂