I read a lot of advice – on any social media platform it’s hard not to. Everyone spouts endlessly about hustle, self care, the grind, being the best you, on and on forever. There are memes and videos and heartfelt shout outs to gurus and coaches.
All of that advice is fine, but it always leaves me cold. It all feels so extreme and if you fall down one rabbit hole of advice or another, it will probably lead to a lot of unhealthy behavior.
I’m a developer. I’m incredibly hard on myself. I work with people who are also incredibly hard on themselves. They all seem to feel worse about themselves than I do, and I’ve been trying to figure out why – and what I do or what experience I have that tells me when to let up on the self-criticism.
It’s taken a while but I think I’ve figured it out.
I’ve been doing some form of agile development for a very long time. More than a decade but less than two. It’s fine and I’m not going to go into details about it because it doesn’t matter.
My favorite part of that process, though, is the retrospective. It’s where the entire team gets together every two weeks and answers three questions:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What are we going to do differently next time?
It’s a chance for the team to refine their process, learn how to work better with each other and improve personally. The best part is that my teams always write everything down so we have a record of our retrospectives over time so we can see our growth over time.
It’s so effective that I now use it on myself. And this is where the moderation from the title comes in. Every time something goes wrong or I’m under stress, I go through those three questions. It’s calming, and a chance to reflect and commit to doing better.
But, it’s not open ended. I can’t spent forever on how badly I messed up or on how great I did, and I always have to finish with how I’m going to improve.
That process allows me to continue to be self critical, continue to hustle and not just love through the grind of startup life, but to love it, take care of myself and be aware of what I still need to work on.
The goal of agile isn’t perfection; it’s constant, sustainable, incremental improvement. That’s a goal I can get behind for myself too.