The Modern Software Developer

Thought Recursion

During my time coaching software developers on their mindset and wellbeing, there has been a common theme that comes up again and again and again…

A developer thinks about a situation in a specific way, quite often a negative or unhelpful way, and then builds on that thought by thinking related thoughts that are even worse, potentially building a scenario that is quite often… terrible.

I liken this to the concept of recursion in which a function calls itself, potentially building on the result of its previous execution…

Thought Recursion occurs when we ruminate on a thought or situation and don’t let it go. It can send us in both helpful and unhelpful directions.
Thought Recursion can be unhelpful when we build on and exaggerate our unhelpful thoughts, impacting our mood and motivation to take positive action.

How can Thought Recursion impact your emotions, actions, and ultimately, your outcomes?

Enter a Thought

Rate your overall emotional state after having this thought?
Rate your actions/inaction after having this thought?

Do you generally manage your emotions well?
Are you proactive with regard to taking action?


We can build on a thought in a recursive fashion and the deeper we get into the call stack, the more impact those thoughts can have on us.
Thought Recursion can be helpful when we build on our helpful and constructive thoughts, boosting how we feel, making us more likely to take positive action.