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Jim Owens: Life After PMP

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Hi everyone: The “Lessons Learned” is a great forum to browse, because it’s all about success – and everybody wants to be successful. Of course it could be argued that some people obviously want to fail in life – but then 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.

Many people get really anxious when studying for the PMP exam and so the 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.

When aiming for a goal, it is very important to concentrate on the successful outcomes of your task, rather than on the goal itself. But even more than that, 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 you feel. Imagine your team running up to you and hugging you and congratulating you. Then you will relax and actually score the goal.

Because if you can truly make your mind believe that you can make something happen, then it will happen (part of “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 on the benefits of a successful result, as if it has already happened. Tell them to think about how good they will feel when they pass the PMP exam. And how good it will be, pinning on the little gold
badge.

Tell them to imagine how wonderful and proud they will feel the first day theystep back into their place of work as a PMP, to give the good news to their boss (or the bad news, that they have been headhunted :) )
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 a bit “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 had been training for a few months, and I now I was trying to break wooden
planks, but with no success.

My understanding of the “formula” was:

Strength + technique + tough hands = smashed to bits.

I had the strength and the tough hands; in fact I could hit the plank
repeatedly, and the technique appeared to be right too, but it just wasn’t
working for me.

And then, as a result of some research, I discovered that belief pays a big bit
part too, so I started really believing that I could break the plank.

Now my formula was:

Strength + belief + technique + tough hands = smashed to bits.

So I focused all my mental and physical energy on a single point on the plank’s
surface (and pictured it breaking). 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, and she 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 its surface.
And I was able to smash the plank on my very next attempt. So that’s why I said
before to imagine life after passing the exam, rather than on just passing it.

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

Good luck

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