03/31/2014 11:55 am ET Updated May 28, 2014

The Stress of Being a Computer Programmer?

There was a quite sensational article on BusinessInsider entitled "The Stress Of Being A Computer Programmer Is Literally Driving Many Of Them Crazy". A lot of discussion ensued, garnering such responses as "How to be a Sane Programmer". Most of this misses the point.

The fundamental point isn't unique to careers in IT. Ultimately it comes down to this: if you find your career so stressful it can literally drive you insane, you're obviously in the wrong career.

It's important to recognize the difference between "pressure" and "stress." Lots of jobs can be high pressure, and lots of people have personalities that seem to thrive on pressure. Stress is something else entirely. Humans are extremely versatile and adaptable; stress occurs when you've hit the limits of your adaptability. It has very little to do with pressure - you could be in a completely tranquil setting, and if you have a personality that requires intense stimulation, you might find the peacefulness quite stressful.

In any pursuit, some stressful events are bound to occur over the course of time. When stress is present in such intensity and duration that it threatens your sanity, one really has to question why you're spending any time in such an occupation. Different personality types are better suited to different pursuits, and chronic high stress is a clear indicator you're in the wrong pursuit.

In specific regard to Computer Programmers, the BI article talks about Impostor Syndrome and "Real Programmer Syndrome." It mentions "The trap of impostor's syndrome is that programmers think they need to work harder to become good enough." People putting in long hours of overtime to create the appearance of being Real Programmers have totally missed the point. Real programmers put in that time because we enjoy it, not because we feel obligated. And never confuse effort with results - Real Programmers are actually productive in those hours, they don't spend 15 hours a day for weeks at a time making little progress. If you're putting in all that time and floundering - you're in the wrong career.

A lot of people seem to have entered the field of computer programming simply because they heard they could make a lot of money in it, without any regard to whether they actually had an aptitude for it. These are folks who have ignored the advice "follow your passion" - they've jumped into something they hate, instead. The BI article shows the desperate consequences of such choices.

This world doesn't need more people living lives of quiet desperation. It needs more people who are full of life and a joie de vivre. Do what makes you feel and come alive.