Focus Beyond Success

by Jim Owens PMP - Date: 2007-04-07 - Word Count: 885 Share This!

Many people get really anxious when studying for the exams such as the PMP (Project Management Professional) or CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) and so their anxiety works against them. The reason that they are anxious is largely because of their fear of failure. We could say that their belief in the likelihood of their failure is stronger that their belief in their success. In order to find a way out of this mess, it helps to know a little of how the mind works.

Everybody wants to be successful. Of course it could be argued that some people obviously want to fail in life - but that means that they want to be successful in failing. And so when they eventually DO fail, they succeeded in achieving their life's main goal. And that's a level of success that few of us achieve.

When aiming for a goal, it is very important to concentrate on the successful outcomes of your task, rather than on the goal itself. For example, if you are studying for the PMP exam, you should focus on what you intend to do once you have your certification, rather than just on having letters after your name. You should concentrate on the benefits after the goal is achieved, because your energy ends where you have your focus (I'll come back to this later).

For example, suppose you are playing soccer and you have to take a penalty kick.
If you concentrate really hard on taking the kick, you will become anxious and may kick the ball badly.

The trick is to imagine that you have just scored the winning goal. Imagine the crowd cheering -- actually hear them in your mind -- and hear them calling your name. Imagine how good the success feels, and how proud of yourself you feel. Imagine the other soccer players running up to you and hugging you and congratulating you.

If you do this, then you will relax and actually score the goal.

Because if you can truly make your mind believe that you can truly make something happen, then your mind will do all that it can to make it happen (this is explained by "expectancy theory").

So if you say to someone "study hard, and try hard to pass the exam," that is a waste of time because they are already doing that, and concentrating more on the problems will make them anxious and doubt their abilities.

It is much better to get them to focus beyond the end result. Tell them to think about how good they will feel when they pass the PMP exam. And how good it will feel, pinning on the little gold badge.

Tell them to imagine how wonderful and proud they will feel the first day they step back into their place of work as a PMP, to give the good news to their boss.

Tell them to imagine that they're being interviewed in the future by a reporter from a big magazine, because the magazine wants to print a feature article on their successes.
Tell them to imagine how good it feels to be so successful in life.
Once they believe that, it will start to happen.

Your energy ends where you have your focus

Now, coming back to this statement. It sounds "New age", but it's not. A long time ago I practiced karate for a while. This is a very relaxing sport, which seems to be largely concerned with smashing things. I was trying to break wooden planks, but with no success.

My understanding of the "formula" was:

Strength + technique + tough hands = (whatever you like/don't like) smashed to bits.

I had the strength and the tough hands; in fact I could hit the plank repeatedly without hurting myself too much, and the technique appeared to be right too.

But then, as a result of some research, I started really believing that I could break the plank.

So now my formula became:

Strength + belief + technique + tough hands = (whatever you like/don't like) smashed to bits.

So I focused and my mental and physical energy on a single point on the plank (and pictured it breaking) then hit it really hard. But I still couldn't break it.

Then some time later I met a really sweet girl, who had an incredible knack for smashing things, let me into her secret.
She said, "Your problem is that you are focusing on the plank, but that's were your energy ENDS, because your energy ends where you have your focus. If you want to break the plank, you have to focus on a spot 6 inches BEHIND the plank."

So once my focus (or goal) was to reach a spot behind the plank, my energy ended 6 inches behind the plank, rather than on it's surface. I would like to say that I was able to smash the plank on my very next attempt. That was not the case, because I was still training my mind to accept the new focus. But only a few days later I was able to smash it.

And I would like to say that the girl and I developed a smashing relationship, but it was not to be, because her focus lay beyond me.

Jim Owens PMP is a career Project Manager, Presenter and PMP Instructor. Director of Certification with PMI W Australia, Columnist with and Information Age Magazine. Visit Jim at The Home of Project Management. Jim's Domains & Web Hosting:

Related Tags: success, project management, focus, formula, karate, pmp, physical, institute, beyond, pmi, plank, jim owens pmp, promote pm, smash, sweet girl, capm

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