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How exactly does the "mental block" look like? Does it mean that you see several possible approaches and struggle to decide which one to use? Do you feel the pressure of the "into something maintainable that will run for 5+ years" requirement?

If the answer to 2nd and/or 3rd question is "yes", your description sounds like a specific phase in the process of your professional development.

A lot of people grow with their competences (be it knowledge or skills) to the moment when they start to realize the limitations of their competences. The moment when they see a bigger picture of their work, the broader consequences of a possible error, they feel bigger responsibility etc. It's a moment when doubts start to creep in and self-esteem plummets. The paradox of this phase is that objectively such people are very competent and capable to solve the problems they face. But they become paralyzed by the pressure and self-doubt.

If this reminds you your situation (at least partially) then the solution is called coaching - a method created to help competent people who lost their faith in own competences, overcome the difficulties and grow further.

Other (often proposed, even here) solutions like switching a job, going to some seminar, being more controlled by your boss or taking a vacation do not solve this specific problem, and quite often lead to bigger decrease in self-esteem.

Hope it was helpful and coherent - it's quite complicated subject to present in a short comment.




> How exactly does the "mental block" look like? Does it mean that you see several possible approaches and struggle to decide which one to use?

Sometimes yes (paralysis by choice), but in this case no. In this case defeat and "I can't do it" are my initial response, and I shy away from programming.

> A lot of people grow with their competences (be it knowledge or skills) to the moment when they start to realize the limitations of their competences. The moment when they see a bigger picture of their work, the broader consequences of a possible error, they feel bigger responsibility etc. It's a moment when doubts start to creep in and self-esteem plummets. The paradox of this phase is that objectively such people are very competent and capable to solve the problems they face. But they become paralyzed by the pressure and self-doubt.

That fits. I know I know nothing. Then I wonder what it means to know. What is meaning? You get the picture - it's a destructive deconstructive spiral brought around by doubt. I inhabit "Imposter Syndrome", still trying to find a way out.

> If this reminds you your situation (at least partially) then the solution is called coaching - a method created to help competent people who lost their faith in own competences, overcome the difficulties and grow further.

Do you have any pointers for finding a competent coach please, vs someone who's overconfident in their own abilities?

Thanks for taking the time to comment, you've been really helpful.


>defeat and "I can't do it" are my initial response, and I shy away from programming.

Was it always the case? Also: how do you finish your projects then?

>a competent coach please, vs someone who's overconfident in their own abilities?

I'd say that anyone demonstrating a strong confidence either in the results (ie. guaranteeing to help you) or own skills (ie. talking a lot about self) has a giant red flag over his/her head. Good coaches have an interesting mixture of modesty (no bragging), genuine focus on other people (more questions than statements) and assertiveness - healthy interpersonal strength when it comes to the coaching process, tools etc. Ideal coach will:

1. Be very clear upfront about the distribution of responsibility between him/her and you - it should be ~50-50. That means that being a coaching client is a quite a challenge and it isn't always an easy experience. Anyone painting a sunny, broad staircase up for you is a red flag :)

2. Recognize you as an individual - without jumping to conclusions too early.

3. Describe you the idea of coaching and how it is different from advice, counseling, therapy and other forms of help which are sometimes confused with coaching. Anything what smells new-ageish or like proven receipt for success = mega red flag :)

4. Describe you the process you will go through. Usually it's something like: analysing your needs->setting development goal(s)->performing some action->discussing the action+feedback->setting next goal and this repeats until your main goal is reached (or the agreed upfront number of sessions is finished). It's very important that coaching is like a good project: it has clear, measured goal and is meant to end at some point. If the end is lost in a distant fog - yes, it deserves red flag.

5. Be very precise and metrics-oriented - there's no place for unclear mumbo-jumbo in coaching. Unless someone likes red flags of course :)

So, these are the essential characteristics. Also it is very important that you should feel comfortably in contact with that person - imagine openly discussing your struggles, doubts as well as receiving feedback form him/her. Regarding formal requirements: respected certificate (ICC/ICF/IIC/IAC) is a proof that someone was trained enough to know the process and toolset. But certificate isn't necessary because the process&tools are actually quite easy to learn - everything depends on mindset/attitude and that's something what could be shaped during the training but as usual - no guaranties.

Feel free to ask if something requires more info.


> Was it always the case? Also: how do you finish your projects then?

No. Until I was 12-13 I had a real 'can do' attitude; I executed and others looked on in amazement. And up until 5-7 years ago I loved programming and making the computer do things.

Thanks for your excellent pointers to assessing a good coach - those are going to be really helpful. I only have a question about 3) as I don't know what the difference is myself :)

> 3. Describe you the idea of coaching and how it is different from advice, counseling, therapy and other forms of help which are sometimes confused with coaching.


> Do you have any pointers for finding a competent coach please

I second this request. Finding competent, egoless developers who are willing to share their knowledge is extremely hard.


Unfortunately I can't point you to any specific person or organization, because I assume you are somewhere around US (guessing by posting time). However when I read HN, SO and sometimes specific subreddits I see people who have a natural potential to be good coaches: that unassuming, focused on the other person attitude and ability to provide constructive feedback instead of criticizing and unsolicited, inadequate advice.

> competent, egoless developers who are willing to share their knowledge

I think it's important to say that by coaching I mean a very specific method of working with skilled & knowledeable people, who are actually already capable to solve their problems but are mentally blocked as OP described. That said, you shouldn't expect that coach will share knowledge or provide you with a ready solution for. For that case mentors (more broad, general advice) or simply advisors/consultants (specific stuff) are the best option. The role of the coach is to inspire you to discover and use the solution by yourself. (I know that it sounds weird but it's the way it works - competent but blocked people usually do not use the advice they get, for many reasons). So, sometimes I joke that a perfect coach doesn't use statements - only questions. Of course in practice sometimes the role of coach and advisor mix a little bit, but this also should be explained upfront.




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