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Become a developer by changing your habits

thramosal profile image Thiago Ramos ・4 min read

This was first published in my Hey World blog. Access here to subscribe: My Hey Blog

Nowadays I am reading a lot about how to build new habits and how to improve as a person in some aspects in my life and as I was re-reading James Clear’s book about atomic habits everything started to get together like pieces in a big puzzle. I had heard the audiobook years ago but I just took it for granted.

But now, I immediately remind myself of a conversation I had with a friend of mine that was trying to become a developer but didn’t know where to begin. He had tried before some years ago and it didn’t work for him so he quit. As I was listening to his story I wasn’t sure what to tell him, I was literally out of ideas on how he could practice so he wouldn’t quit again so I told him what everybody had ever told me:

“If you really want it and feel you don't like it, you just need to practice and you will, eventually, overcome the point where you stop hate the thing and start enjoying it”

Back then I didn’t know how terrible this advice sound and now, re-reading James Clear’s book I think I know where I failed.

See, you can’t become someone if you believe you can’t be that person. You simply can’t become a runner if you don’t believe you are a runner. But the thing is, no one will wake up one day a tell yourself out of nowhere: “I am a runner” and actually believe in it.

But, the good part is that it doesn’t need to be that way. You don’t need to believe 100%. You need to tell yourself that you are a runner and go run.
The next day you wake up and think, I am a runner, I did run yesterday and it was awesome. Of course, my legs are hurting, but that’s ok, I am a runner and this is part of my evolution as a runner, let’s run today.

In the beginning, this will be harder than it sounds, but as you go run the idea of being a runner will start to become your identity. And, by looking at your calendar you will see proves that you are a runner because you ran all those days. And you will start to feel better with yourself because you will become healthier and that will only enforce your identity that you are a runner.

Once your identity is formed it will be harder and harder to let go of running and all of this started because you said to yourself: I am a runner.

See, it’s not about results, it is about identity. You don’t need to say: I will run to lose weight. You need to say: I will run because I am a runner and that’s who I am.

I was stunned when I read this simple idea. And I remember all my conversations with this friend and how I became a software engineer.

I remember I had this clear idea that I was a programmer way before I knew how to write software well. Of course, it took me years and years to learn and become a good software developer whatever that is. But the part that I had forgotten was that I did saw myself as a developer even before I made my first program. And when I started to learn how to program, I remember I was doing it every day for hours.

In my mind, I was a programmer, not a person who wants to learn how to program. That was who I was. Back in the day I had a full time job as a salesperson in a music store. But I already saw myself as a programmer not a salesperson, and by study every day for hours, I was becoming a programmer and that was only reinforcing my identity, the identity that I already had made the decision that I would be. I was a programmer.

It is so clear to me today that I thought it would be good to write about it. We are surrounded by coaches of everything nowadays. Coach for health, coach for focus, coach to tell you who you are, coach of this and that, and this is a dangerous subject to write about but I have no intention whatsoever that this text sounds like this. One thing this text has in common with coach speeches though, in some ways it is telling you something you already know but keep reading.

One thing I came to believe was that my friend was quitting because he was just trying to learn to program to find a job. He didn’t believe he was a programmer, that he was a software engineer and I do believe that if you don’t change your mindset, and are forced to change your identity it will be hard for you to accomplish the tasks of study hard every day to learn any subject.

I do have a lot more to say about this and maybe I will write down more thoughts about it but I don’t want this letter to take long.

So, tell me. Do you want to learn to program? Did you see yourself as a programmer? If not, start to. You are a programmer, you are everything you want to be. Sounds foolish but it’s true. Start to believe in this and then, get an hour in your day where you could be watching TV and start to learn a programming language. And the next day, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat to yourself: I am a programmer. And when you have another free time, don’t watch TV, continue the studies. Soon enough you will generate so many proofs that you are a programmer that you won’t need to tell yourself you are a programmer anymore because you will be.

Peace folks. Hope you all stay safe.

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