Retreat Into Competence

This weeks second pattern can be considered a bit of a counterpart to the first. The Deep End described going headfirst into a new challenge to get yourself out of a rut and advance your skills. But what happens if you go too far, like the pattern cautioned? What if you bite off more than you can chew?

This is where the pattern, Retreat Into Competence, comes in handy. It is in essence , as the name states, is a retreat from the challenge. If you take a challenge that seems to be impossible or you can not make any headway into, then the wisest course of action might be to simply take a break. Gives yourself a breather, but not just that. You want to not only take a break, but also invigorate yourself and bring back your confidence if you were close to throwing in the towel. So once you retreat, do something you are competent in. Change course for a moment and do something you know you are good at or enjoy. Then once you have realized how good you actually are, dive back into the problem with more energy.

By taking a step back, you can fling yourself back at the problem with much more strength. And by taking a step back and giving yourself some space, that allows you to talk to mentors or others you know that can help you. With advice, tips, and renewed confidence, actually solving the challenge before you becomes much more likely than continuing to bash your head against it over and over again.

Overall, this pattern makes a lot of sense to me. Throughout my life, taking a a respite from something that had me in a frustrated loop of failure, and then coming back, led to me succeeding soon after. This does not just apply to software craftsmanship, it is a pretty universal tip for problems. Retreating can even provide a new perspective that would be impossible to gain with the tunnel vision that usually comes about when focusing on a challenge for a very long time. I have also had times where the retreat becomes me giving up and never coming back too, like the pattern warns. It can definitely be a double edged sword, so take caution.

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