Project Time Management and the Law of Attraction

No doubt, if you are like most people, every now and again you come across some inspirational sayings about living in the present. Just now, searching on Google for inspirational sayings, I came across “Forbes Top 100 Inspirational Quotes.” What I found fascinating was that 40% of them speak to aspects of the Law of Attraction.

The Law of Attraction

Before I make sense of those quotes in terms of how they might inform our thoughts about Project Time Management, let me take a minute to explain the Law of Attraction to those who are not familiar with it. At its simplest, the Law of Attraction states that our thoughts are the precursors to our reality, at least to a certain point. That is, we cannot merely think sunny sky and prevent there ever again being rain. Our thoughts cannot reverse or override the laws of nature. But, as the thinking goes, the Law of Attraction is one of the laws of nature. As such, it works in conjunction with all other immutable laws, and thus can be trusted to act consistently time and time again.

So how does the Law of Attraction work? Actually, quite simply. You focus your thoughts on that which you want. You imagine yourself in that circumstance or condition. You act and feel as if you are already in that state or condition or circumstance, and then … release the instruction to the Universe.

The Law of Attraction is sometimes described as like attracts like. This should not be an entirely foreign notion to most of us. Both behavioral science and the adages of eons seem to support the notion. “Hang around depressing people, and you get depressed.”Don’t worry; be happy.” “What goes around, comes around.” “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” And so forth.

Whether you consider what I’m putting down as just so much nonsense, or whether you happen to subscribe to it, surely we can still agree on some underlying principles incorporated into the Law of Attraction. Here are some of the more salient ones:

We Only Live in the Present

Let’s face it, it’s only in the moment that we actually live. The past is memory, and the future is opportunity. Only in the present can we act, or think. Bill Cosby said, “The past is a ghost, the future a dream. All we ever have is now.” It is not that we shouldn’t gain insights from the past, or stop planning for the future. But we must be mentally present – in the present. Albert Einstein agreed; “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The secret is not to stop questioning.” But we should not be too obsessed with planning for the future, lest we forget to live in the present. Wasn’t this John Lennon’s admonition? “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

It All Starts With Our Thoughts

All actions are preceded by thoughts. The world we ultimately experience is manifested by those thoughts that we harbor most consistently and passionately, in the present. Earl Nightingale explained that, “We become what we think about.” Buddha agreed: “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” So did Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

Oprah Winfrey is an outspoken believer in the Law of Attraction. She, too, reminds us that, “You become what you believe.” But my favorite quote about the power of what we think and believe comes from Norman Vincent Peale, who confidently taught us to merely “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”  Even Jesus proclaimed, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.”

The Great Power Within Each of Us

What they are all talking about is this Universal Law of Attraction, which is based on the premise that there is an Infinite Energy that spans the entire Universe, the same passing through every speck of dust on the farthest planet, just as it powers the subatomic particles that comprise the cells of every living thing on Earth, including you and me.  If you are among the 98% of humans who believe in a One God, then this notion should not be hard to fathom, or accept.

We may laugh at the joke about the Maharishi ordering a hot dog in Manhattan, “I’d like one with everything.” But for those who believe in One God there can be no other explanation than that there is a constant flow of Energy emanating from the same Source, which passes in, around, and through every one of us at every moment of every day.

How much of a leap is it, then, to think that this Energy operates at electrical frequencies. Dr. Masaru Emoto has dedicated his lifetime to studying the effect that human emotions have on water. By freezing water and then photographing it through a microscope, he has discovered that the water molecules arrange differently depending on the vibrations emanating from those observing the water.  Here is how he explains it, “We always observed beautiful crystals after giving good words, playing good music, and showing, playing, or offering pure prayer to water. On the other hand, we observed disfigured crystals in the opposite situation.”  I encourage you to Google on Dr. Emoto and his fascinating work.

Now, for you skeptics (as I, too, was when I first heard him speak in Denver), it is not that the water actually hears the words or music or prayers. Rather, it is we, who either produce or hear the words, music, or prayers that then emit a different vibrational energy pattern in response to our feelings about those words or sounds, which the water molecules pick up. It works just like how a tuning fork, set to C, will begin vibrating when brought near another tuning fork, already vibrating, also set to C.

“That Which is Like, Unto Itself is Drawn”

A bit of an awkward phrase to understand, I admit, but yet it captures the essence of the Law of Attraction, emphasis on the word, “law.” The Law of Attraction is just as natural as the Law of Gravity or the Law of Magnetism. It is part of how God designed and engineered the Universe to work. In a nutshell, whatever exerts an energy field will draw to it other sources that exert a similar energy frequency. Think of it as a sort of metaphysical magnetism.

[Sound too far-fetched for you?  Hang in there with me just a little longer. For if it were just Murray saying this, then you could chalk it all up to one guy’s nonsense. But then, you’d also have to dismiss Jim Carrey, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Oprah Winfrey, Suze Orman, Will Smith, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Albert Einstein, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, and even Jesus.]

Have you ever had an experience where you were deeply thinking about something or someone, and suddenly the phone rings, or an email comes in, out of the clear blue.  That’s the Law of Attraction at work.  But it’s much less random than you likely suspect. I have seen it work in my life, and it is actually compounding and exponential.  Here’s what I mean:

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about something. As I do, other thoughts come to me, as if out of the clear blue. Like an epiphany. So I mull over these additional thoughts, and still more thoughts come to me. At some point, my thoughts begin to suggest a course of action; I jot them down. As I take the first steps in the upcoming days, not only do additional thoughts come to, in come those “random” phone calls and emails. Or I bump into someone at the grocery store or at the airport and, come to find out, they are working on the same general matter that I am. We exchange ideas, and phone numbers. As we continue to work on the matter, now together, other things start to “fall in place.”

Hasn’t this ever happened to you? You see, the Law of Attraction is operating in your life, just as surely as gravity or magnetism or radio waves, whether you know it or not; and whether you believe it or not.

Draw Confidence From the Power Within You

The obvious implication from all of this is that you have immense power within you. If you learn to channel your thoughts toward the things you most want, they are certain to come to you. But you must be careful about what you think. As Oprah Winfrey explains it, “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

We must learn to make decisions based on a confidence in this hidden power within each of us. Stephen Covey once said, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Henry Ford also understood that how we see ourselves determines what we ultimate become, when he said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Here are some other quotes about having the kind of confidence that can easily be yours, once you realize that there is this Universal Energy awaiting your instructions:

  • Believe you can and you’re halfway there. –Theodore Roosevelt
  • When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. –Lao Tzu
  • We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained. –Marie Curie
  • The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself–the invisible battles inside all of us–that’s where it’s at. –Jesse Owens
  • What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined. –Henry David Thoreau

The point is that we should live each day with an attitude of confidence. Just as the Universe is endless, so is the flow of Energy in us, around us, and through us. “Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.”  This is the advice of Jamie Paolinetti. And Alice Walker notes that, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Dare to Imagine the Impossible

Tony Robbins often points out that children, not yet inhibited by “getting real,” have no problem imagining anything they might want. Asked what he would like if he could have anything in the whole wide world, the little boy answered: “I want a swimming pool in the back yard.” Then, after a short pause, “And another one in the front yard.” Tony points out that we can learn from children. “Don’t put any limitations on your dreams.”

Zig Zigler said, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”  And Gloria Steinem gave the notion of dreaming an air of adult legitimacy when she added, “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” And this should be pleasant reassurance for all of the planners and schedulers reading this blog.

Follow Constructive Thoughts with Confident Actions

But just thinking is not enough. At some point, you need to convert those thoughts in actions. It’s like Aristotle said, “First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”

Arthur Ashe, who said, “Start where you are. Use what you have.  Do what you can,” surely echoed Teddy Roosevelt who said, similarly, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” It is all about believing in yourself enough to take confident action. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Leonardo da Vinci very much appreciated the importance of taking decisive action. He reflected, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” But the quote that resonates best with me (perhaps because I am a builder at heart), comes from Farrah Gray, who said, “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

Maintain a Happy Attitude

What does a happy attitude have to do with the Law of Attraction? The obvious answer is that if you send out happy vibes, you will get back happy vibes. But the deeper answer is the one I want to share with you. You see, if our thoughts ultimately determine our future reality, then that puts tremendous pressure on always harboring only positive thoughts. And having to vigilantly monitor our every thought could prove exhausting, if not also impossible.

And that is why God equipped us with a thought sensor, to help us easily notice when our thoughts were drifting away from confidence, and towards fear and self-doubt.  That thought sensor is … our emotions. It is really quite simple, and quite powerful. If we feel afraid or worried, then we are harboring defeatist thoughts. If we are feeling gratitude, joy, and general happiness, then we are confident about the future.

So, when Bob Marley sings, “Don’t worry. Be happy,” he isn’t giving two instructions, just one action and one consequence. The way I hear it, he is saying that if you “don’t worry,” you will “be happy.” If you block out worry, because you are confident because of the immense Power at your disposal, then your future will be a joyous one, and you will “be happy.”

Now, take it all one step further. You have heard the Beatles tell you that “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” This isn’t merely another way of explaining the Law of Attraction. It is also a way of saying that you can never be happy, if you are busy making other people miserable. I suspect that is what Jesus had in mind when he encouraged us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” What I hear is, for just as you love your neighbor, that shall be the level of love you will yourself experience.

Put all of this together and you have a perfect loop. You want to maintain a happy attitude, in order to attract a happy future. But when you begin to experience that happy existence, you must share it with your neighbor, for if you selfishly hoard the good stuff for yourself, then you are reaffirming an belief of limitedness, instead of one of abundance. You do not hoard the air, because you know there is enough for everyone. When you give freely, you attest to your belief that be giving to others you will not be diminished. Said differently, when you show kindness to those around you, it comes back to you, tenfold. Cool system, huh?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou was emphasizing the importance of how we treat one another.  It is impossible for our personal life experience to be detached, or much different, from the life experiences of others all around us. “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else,” Booker T. Washington told us.

I know that John Lennon understood the importance of maintaining a happy attitude.  You may have read this about him before: “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

And just how do you bring about happiness in your life? Surprise, surprise — it starts with your thoughts. “Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions,” the Dalai Lama tells us. And, according to Heller Keller, it also comes from our prevailing outlook on life: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”

Beware of Fear

Of all of the emotions to engulf Man, fear must surely be among the most lethal. Once we allow self-doubt to seep into our spirit, we begin to think that we are powerless to overcome whatever obstacles or threats we may face. When we are in the grips of fear, we are in denial of our Unlimited Internal Power. Les Brown pointed out the debilitating effect of fear when he noted that, “too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” Likewise, Bill Cosby sought to stoke our fires of determination when we said, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” And Franklin Roosevelt warned us that, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

It’s all about attitude. Just take a deep breath and, as my wife tells me each time I succumb to self-doubt, “just fake it with confidence.” Rosa Parks said as much: “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear.”

We Are On Earth to Be Creative

I will close my epistle on the Law of Attraction by noting that, according to every major world religion and philosophy, we are on Earth to be creative. Indeed, creativity is innate within each of us. That is how we start out, anyway. Then, gradually, we let our self-doubts make their way into our minds and hearts, and before long we have subjugated ourselves to “the way it is,” or “what is expected (of us).”

But once, long before we grew up, we were children who knew how to dream. We could paint our happiness with our imagination. “Every child is an artist,” Pablo Picasso once said. “The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

The good news is that creativity is a bottomless pot of gold. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have,” Maya Angelou assures us. And it is available to us … any time, any place. All we need to do is slow down, go quiet, and listen. The epiphany will hit; I promise. Just, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

What the Law of Attraction Teaches about Project Time Management

By now you are likely wondering: What does all of this have to do with Project Time Management?  Project Time Management is all about finding ways for the Project Team to more effectively use the time that is available. We accept that Project Time Management is essential to successful Project Management. And that makes sense since Project Management, according to Cognitive Project Management, boils down to four primary centers of managerial focus: Collaboration, Coordination, Cooperation, and Communication. We note that it is most difficult to accomplish any of these without effective Project Time Management tools and processes that are designed to facilitate the Project Team working harmoniously together.

What the Law of Attraction has to do with Project Time Management is that it suggests a Project Ecology that is most conducive to effective Project Time Management. You may recall that Project Ecology, according to Cognitive Project Management, is the “operational context in which the Project operates,” and it reflects the Project Ideology.

Predominant within that Ecology is the very spiritual culture of the Project Team. A less awkward term than spiritual would be esprit de corps; literally, from the French “spirit of the body.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes esprit de corps as, “the common spirit existing in the members of a group and inspiring enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group.”

So, let us imagine a project where the participants all behave in accordance with the principles of the Law of Attraction (even if they have never heard the term before).

  • They place most of their mental focus on the present. They appreciate the past for what it can teach them, and they certainly wish to insure the future by planning for it. But mostly, they maximize the opportunities in the present.
  • They maintain a positive, can-do attitude. They understand that whatever they spend their time thinking about today will come back to them tomorrow. If they spend too much time putting out fires, and fail to do the necessary planning for the future, they leave its outcome to chance. If they spend too much time bemoaning past disappointments, or current negative standing, they invite more of the same on themselves.
  • They maintain a confidence in one another. The Project Schedule is interpreted as a set of Promises or Commitments that the players have made to one another. They can feel a very real and tangible sense of power that pulses from the synergy created by their collaboration and partnership. Many consider one another as friends.
  • They value the plans they have made, but they value their follow-on actions much more! Talk alone won’t get the building built. They view the plans as a guide, not an objective. What really matters is what is done; they care much less about what should have been done.
  • A good feeling fuels the project. People look forward to coming to work. It’s “one for all and all for one.” If any one party has a problem, then the entire project has a problem. Conflicts are resolved with a conviction that only a win-win solution will be acceptable. Compassion characterizes the interactions of the workers, and of their leaders. Believing that what goes around, comes around, they willingly treat others the way they want to be treated, themselves.
  • Because of all of the above, there is no cause for fear. Worry and fear do not exist, because the power of the collective whole is so great that they know that nothing is insurmountable.
  • Finally, the members of the Project Team enjoy what they do; it provides the perfect outlet for their innate creativity.

Now let’s quit dreaming, and take a sober look at how most of today’s construction projects actually operate under the Dominant Project Management model.

  • Most of the mental focus is on either the past or the future; disproportionately little on the present. The essence of Project Control is (a) to create a baseline schedule to act as a benchmark, (b) to constantly update the schedule to reflect progress past performance, (c) to perform numerous variance analyses that compare past planned with past actual performance, and (d) to predict how the project will turn out in the future. The only consideration of the present comes in the form of requiring the contractor to either “take corrective actions” to get back on schedule, or to simply revise the schedule.
  • They maintain an essentially negative attitude. Using a Management-by-Exception approach, most management reports are aimed at isolated and dwelling on all that went wrong, or is about to. Total Float reports draw attention to critical or near critical activities, based on how close Total Float is to zero, or negative values. Earned Value reports do likewise, keeping an eye out for “troubling indicators.” Risk Management is all about anticipating the worst case scenarios and then inserting contingency times into the schedule to absorb the anticipated negative impacts. Change orders are evaluated for their affect on contractual barometers. Monthly status reports monitor for schedule slippages or budget overruns.
  • There is next to no trust or confidence in one another. Even before the project begins, contracts are drawn up that are designed to protect the parties from one another. Carefully-worded exculpatory language fills the pages of the contracts, with clause after clause setting penalties and consequences for unwanted behavior. The operating atmosphere on the job site is mainly defensive or confrontational.  Zero Sum Game characterizes the relationships of the participating companies, each trying to get as much as possible for itself, before anyone else does. Finger-pointing is a standard response to accusations and criticism.
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship are discouraged. Working out of sequence, or not in accordance with the Sacred Schedule is basis for criticism. The free flow of work is stymied by regulatory, contractual, and fiscal concerns. Work flow is also interrupted by frequent demands for meetings, reporting, and other “hot seat” accountability appearances. Actions without prior authorization are discouraged, if not outright prohibited.
  • At its best, the mood on the project is guarded. At its worst, it is openly hostile and tense. Conflict is so commonplace that a cottage industry has grown up around the promise of resolution. The unspoken rule is every man for himself.
  • Fear and worry are ever-present. Project Managers dread reporting to their Home Office bosses, as much as to the Owner. Sometimes the anxiety is muffled, but just below the skim. Sometimes tension is palpable; you can feel it in the air.

You may not entirely agree with my depiction of the typical project. That’s okay. You may be one of the fortunate few who has had mostly positive experiences on construction projects. But I will stand by my description because I think it highlights many realities that exist on every project, even the ones you thought were good. The contracts, the baseline schedules, the updates, the reporting obsession, the focus on past and future over present … those are all commonplace on today’s projects.

Was It Worth the Read?

I hope this gentle-flowing saunter into the world of the Law of Attraction, and what it might teach us about how to better manage the use of time on our projects, was worth the read. For those of you who are already familiar with the Law of Attraction, maybe this blog article will encourage you to intensify its practice on your projects. And for those new to the Law of Attraction, maybe this article was an eye-opener. I hope so, as that was the intent.

But make no mistake about it: The importance of knowing about the Law of Attraction goes way beyond project management, or your world of work. Much more, it teaches how to get the most out of your very life. Let me close with a quote from Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

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