Find Meaning and Bring Happiness to Your Software Engineering Career | by Seifeldin Mahjoub | Jun, 2022

Change your perspective and get a better sense of satisfaction

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Photo by Kafai Liu on Unsplash

If you are feeling stuck, frustrated, demotivated, or burned out, it might be a symptom that you are not feeling great fulfillment at your job.

While software developers have overall high satisfaction rates compared to other professions, many of us are prone to these feelings in some phases of our careers which is only amplified by the pandemic and its subsequent own burdens.

In this article, I will share with you a process that helped me find a greater sense of satisfaction and changed my perspective on how I view my job.

The Wheel of life is an exercise and tool used widely in coaching to find balance and happiness in different domains of life, and it helps massively with goal-setting.

It starts by identifying specific domains and then rating the satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10. Afterward, a graph is drawn, which facilitates a bird-eye view of your situation

This makes it easy to spot areas where there is a lack of satisfaction; therefore, one can tackle it by planning and taking action to improve the situation.

Below is a typical example of the Wheel of Life

One thing to note is that these areas or domains will be different between individuals and that it should be clear for you what every domain entails. So take your time, and prepare yourself mentally before doing the exercise to pinpoint what matters to YOU.

Choose What matters to you

The first step is to figure out which domains matter to you, and your brain should automatically give you some suggestions. You can complement these by asking yourself some questions such as.

Why do I go to work?

What is something that I did that I’m proud of?

What were some memorable moments I’ve experienced?

What excites me?

During the peaks of my career, what was happening?

What do I do in the job that brings joy to me?

You could come up with the domains like (React, AWS, Code Reviewing, FOSS ) or (Growth, Relationships, Compensations, Freedom, and Impact)

There is no correct answer, so let your intuition guide you.

Rate Your Satisfaction

Afterward, you rate your satisfaction on a scale of 1–10, with 1 being the center of the wheel. It should look like a spider web or a bumpy circle.

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Take a few moments, look at your wheel, be grateful, and appreciate your current situation.

Now notice if you see anything that wasn’t expected. The visual representation should help you realize new realizations by providing a birds-ey view of your satisfaction.

After defining the domain(s) you would like to improve, it’s time to develop goals and an action plan to change the situation.

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson

Set SMART goals.

S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. These elements work together to create a goal that is carefully planned, clear and trackable.

Goal setting to helps in providing direction, motivation, and helps in decision making, and adds a great sense of personal satisfaction and purpose in life; SMART goals are great for that.

You can use the 5 W questions to transform a widely vague goal into a sharp and clear SMART goal.

Who is involved in this goal?

What do I want to accomplish?

Where is this goal to be achieved?

When do I want to achieve this goal?

Why do I want to achieve this goal?

For example

I want to publish a blog post on medium in four weeks

Specific: The goal of publishing a blog post is well defined

Measurable: The goal can be measured by words count and publishing status

Achievable: There are tons of articles on the internet

Relevant: Writing is a creative outlet that helps oneself and others.

Time-based: the goal should be achieved within 4 weeks.

Set up Milestones

Breaking up your goal into short-term goals or milestones will bring better deadline management and give you chances to identify possible challenges and keep you motivated along your journey. Building on the same goal, you could define milestones as following

  1. Create a draft in 2 weeks
  2. Send the article to a friend to proofread in 3 weeks
  3. Publish the article in 4 weeks

Acknowledge your habits

We often feel that most of the choices we make daily are well-crafted decisions, but many studies have different findings.

A Duke University researcher found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed daily weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

You can learn more about habit-building in this article, the gist is to take a conscious look and see what existing habits you have that will help you reach this goal, and what habits will become obstacles, creating routines is a great way to kickstart a chain of new healthy habits.

Software can help massively with sticking to habit building, I recommend Habitica an OSS habit-building app based on gamifying your life.

It is also essential to reflect on your progress, just as we do retrospectives in software teams, you can do that with yourself, too, by reflecting on your milestones and progress towards your goal, you can ask simple questions like what went well, what went wrong, and what can I do to improve next time.

It’s important to detach from the goals, as constantly chasing new goals will never bring fulfillment except for a limited small amount of time, and then you will be on your way to chase another goal.

We live in the present, so enjoy your current you, write down your gratitude, and embrace the powers of compounding results.

Here are more resources that I found helpful while reading about this topic. If you found it helpful, please leave a comment and share your experience with us and use the post to keep yourself accountable.

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