Finding Motivation as a Developer

Finding Motivation as a Developer

Many people keep asking me where I get my motivation from, how do I find so much time and energy to do so much?

I certainly don't have all the answers but I do think it is something you teach yourself. Life experiences, books, talks etc help you figure out what it is you want and then once you have goals it's all about how to apply your time to achieve those goals. Sounds easy right!

collection of inspiring books

Me at 16 years old

To be honest I have always been a very active person. I have always been involved in many things. At 16 years of age I was in secondary school, I was on the school hockey team and the school football team where we trained at lunch times and after school, I was practicing Taekwondo twice a week, I was going to drama school, I was working in the cloak room of a nightclub and I was working as petrol pump attendant.

My weekends were having to choose between a hockey match, a football match, drama school, a Viking Re-enactment (yes I used to be a Viking and re-enact battles with a spear or sword and shield as well as put on living history shows), or a Taekwondo competition. I would sometimes work in the nightclub till 4am and then get a lift to Dublin to compete in the Taekwondo competition that day. You would often find me asleep in the corner on top of my gym back between my fights. Funnily enough I used to win all my fights and have numerous trophies. Looking back, I really don't know how I did it.

It was pretty crazy but my parents had taught me that if I wanted to go to drama school I needed to find a way to pay for it. Same for Taekwondo and the bus fare etc. At 16 I was pretty independent. I knew what I wanted and found a way to make it happen. It did mean that I had no time for boyfriends at that age and very little time for TV. Luckily social media wasn't a thing back then and mobile phones were just starting to come out.

Achieving Goals

So fast forward many years and I am now working in tech and working remotely so how do I stay so motivated? For me it's all about goals. Goals are important and they can change, which is also fine. They can be long difficult goals to achieve or short easy goals.

For example after I got my 3rd degree in Taekwondo my goal was to get my 4th degree. This was a 4 year goal. The first few years it just meant training, competing, umpiring and teaching as I would normally do and if I missed a class or two it was no big deal.

Leading up to the 4th degree grading meant putting in extra time and having a clear training plan. I had a full time job so I needed to find time to train that worked around my job. I would get up every morning and put my suit on and on my roof terrace I would practice my patterns as the sun was rising. Every day, just half an hour was enough. Then I would go to work. At lunch time I would study Korean terminology. After work I would train.

I had no club at the time and no one to train with, so I would record myself doing a flying kick against a bag hanging in the gym and then watch it back to check the angle of the kick. To pass the exam I had to break some wood with this flying kick so the angle and exact spot had to be correct.

One of the patterns had a movement in it that was very hard for me to do so I made sure to practice this every day. Just a few minutes so the muscle would get used to it. Then once a month I would fly to London for training. Yes, I literally got on a 2 hour flight just so I could get some intensive training in which was amazing. This is where I took down all notes and then went away and worked on all the things I needed to fix. And a month later I would fly back and do it all over again.

This was dedication. I had a goal and I wanted to achieve that goal. And the fact I had no club, no instructor nearby was not going to stop me.

Giving up is Easy

Sometimes we make excuses. We look at others who have succeeded and we compare ourselves to them and think how much we would like to do what they do but they have it easy and we don't. Of course those that lived in London had it much easier than me. They were training in a club with others various times a week. I was training on my roof terrace and beating up a boxing bag. I could have just given up and said it's not possible, it's too hard. But giving up is easy. Many people take the easy route and just give up which is why so many people don't make it to black belt.

The same goes for coding. When I became a mentor for OpenClassrooms (after first studying there and having had a mentor) it was incredible to see the amount of people who just gave up. They were paying to have a mentoring session and sometimes they just didn't show up or they would turn up and say, sorry I didn't have time to do anything today. One student even wanted to pay me money for every time he didn't do anything so he would be held accountable. This is just crazy. Believe me I know what it feels like to just want to give up, especially when it's hard.

The video below was filmed by OpenClassrooms in 2017 while I was studying JavaScript. I had just got rejected from a job interview but choose to keep going. The video was filmed with no script, no rehearsals, just me saying how I felt and I have watched it many times listening to my own words to remind myself never to give up.

So how do you get up in the morning and decide to make time to achieve your goals? Sometimes it's just about making small habits. For me getting up an hour earlier and training on my roof terrace (or in the living room when it was raining) was a new habit I created. It wasn't that difficult as it didn't mean having to travel somewhere. Yes the floor wasn't ideal and neither was the space but you can make anything work if you really try hard enough.

Ok so now what motivates me?

To be honest Life motivates me right now. I enjoy living. Believe me there was a time when I didn't. I have been in deep dark holes not wanting to see the next day. I have spent days sitting on a sofa watching tv and not wanting to leave the house. Sometimes we all go through things. How we come out of it is what matters.

As you get older in life you also realise that your days are numbered. You are not going to be around forever. As much as my goal is to live till at least 100, it might not happen. We have no idea how long we have left so my goal is to live each day like there is no tomorrow. To enjoy life to the full and to not let the little things worry you. Although sometimes they do, believe me controlling that is sometimes hard. But I have a big sign on my wall that says "Do more of what makes you happy". And that is what I strive to do.

do more of what makes you happy

I am very very lucky to have such an amazing career, something that I had to work very hard to achieve. But it means that I get paid to do something I love doing and is something many people don't have. People at the gym moan on a Monday morning about how it's Monday and they can't wait for the weekend.

I love Mondays. It's the start to another amazing week. Don't get me wrong. I know what it feels like to feel like that. To not like your job and just wish for the week to be over. But in tech I feel that most of us don't feel this way and that is pretty cool. Or perhaps it's just me.

Choosing to love life is important

Choosing to do more of what makes you happy is important. Choosing to see the positive side of things is important. We all get to make these choices. There will always be people who have it better and easier than you and there will always be people who have it worse and harder than you.

change your thoughts and you and you can change your world

Life itself is one big challenge. But it can be an amazing one if you let it. Figure out what your goals are, small goals, big goals and start working towards them. They could be learning a new language, studying something, giving a talk, writing a blog post, getting an new job etc. Then once you know what your goals are create small habits so that you can achieve those goals. And remember that we are not going to be here forever so stop putting things off and start working towards your goals today.

Start living and doing more of what makes you happy. For me it's sport, programming, learning, traveling and helping others. For my husband it's watching TV. We are all different. Don't compare yourself to others. Find what it is that makes you happy and start doing it.

I have talked a lot about Taekwondo in this post and in previous posts and you may be wondering if I am still training. The answer is no, which might come as a surprise. Right now Taekwondo isn't making me happy. Training alone and online is just not what I want to do and so I am doing more of what makes me happy which is more social sports such as Padel and cycling. I may return to it one day as it has been a major part of my life for over 25 years but for now I'm ok with letting go. This is really important, to let go of the things that are not making you happy.

Life on Your Terms

I leave you with this amazing video from Billy Yang about living life on your terms which I highly encourage you to watch.

And I also recommend watching his recent one, The Good Life, filmed after the pandemic. I personally find them both very motivating.