What the heck do I even want?

Note: I’m writing this for myself. Think of it like a journal entry, and don’t expect to get much out of it.

A while back, I realized that I’ve been in roughly same role for about 6 years now, and that rocked me. I spent the next month burned out and thrashing, trying to figure out what should come next. And then I lost interest and fell back into the role again.

Now that I’ve calmed down, I’m trying to take a less panicked and more thoughtful approach. That’s why this post exists; writing helps me think.

Where I am

I’ve spent the past 6 years as a technical lead. That’s part leadership, part architecture, part client management, and a tiny bit of (GASP) writing actual code.

And sure, over time the balance has changed. I do less coding than I used to, and more leadership and support. I’ve also gotten more into process and agility. But my job description is the same as it was 6 years ago.

If you asked me 6 years ago, “where do you want to be in 6 years?” then I don’t know what I would have said. Maybe something about owning my own product company and making money while I slept. But I do know that I would not have said “doing the same stuff I’m doing today.” Yet here I am.

They say that leadership isn’t what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. I guess the same thing goes for personal development. And I have tolerated stagnating. Do I actually want to be doing the same stuff I was doing 6 years ago? Or did this happen because I didn’t ever stop it from happening?

Did I opt into this, or fail to opt out? What if I’m still doing this in another 6 years?

To answer that question, I have to figure out what makes me happy. So here are the parts of my job that I like more than the others:

  • …something something team jelling?

…Oh. Ok, well, here are the things I don’t like:

  • CSS
  • Sales

Ok, that’s not the guiding list I was hoping for, but maybe that’s the point. I am easy to please. I’m fine doing most anything (except sales and CSS) as long as it seems valuable. That is a blessing and a curse. It means that I like my job, but it also means I’m not super motivated to move on, because I’m happy wherever I am.

…Wow. I’ve been in the same role for 6 years because I’m so easy to please that I’ve never felt an urge to move on. My own easygoingness has been the thing holding me back. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that most changes or promotions have happened to me.

Even now, I’m only thinking about any of this on principle. It feels wrong to be doing the same thing for 6 years, but I have no other reason to want a change.

Where to go

So what now? If I made a change, the next logical step would be working on the teams instead of in a team, right? Instead of helping make the sausage, I would make the machines that make the sausage, that kinda thing?

In theory, that would get me:

  • Power over more people and teams than the team I’m on. But do I want power? Do I enjoy the power I have now? I’m not sure.
  • Respect inherent in the role rather than only the respect that I earn myself. But is that kind of respect meaningful? Or could respect that isn’t self-earned actually be harmful?
  • More leadership opportunities, such as the fostering a culture among many groups and working on inter-team communication. But would I miss the familiarity and comfort that comes with working with the same team full time?

Jobs To Be Done theory says that inertia and anxiety are the 2 forces keeping you from switching solutions. My current role has the inertia, and the thought of moving on brings anxiety.

But what’s my JTBD? It can’t be that I want to be happier, because I’m too easy to please. It must be that I want to grow. Growth is my JTBD.

What the heck do I even want? I want to grow. The pull of growth is enough to break through the inertia and anxiety. I have to stop looking for what will make me happier and instead chase what will make me grow.

I’ve spent the past 6 years growing inside of my role. Will the next step make make me happier? Doubtful, because I’m happy wherever I am. But it will make me grow, and that is enough.

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