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Manifesting Project Success – Setting Objectives

In project work the whole idea is to manifest success – satisfying stakeholder expectations by delivering timely and financially and emotionally rewarding results.

“The word ‘manifestation’ means to create something or turn something from an idea into a reality. In psychology, manifestation generally means using our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to bring something to our physical reality.”[1]


From Idea to Reality

In the general sense, manifesting, like a project, is turning an idea into a reality. In the psychological sense it is the practice of thinking positively to get what you want.

The message is to be clear about what you want, visualize it and cultivate the mindset that you will get it.

Underlying this is a principle that your positive attitude and intention will attract what you are after. It is the Law of Attraction, which believes that if you think positive thoughts positive things will come to you – “what you think is what you get.” If your magic is not strong enough to manifest what you want, positive attitude motivates the work required to get what you think.


Does it Work?

Manifesting is a popular wellness idea. In that context it is creating the conditions for a fulfilling life. In some circles, there is the belief that you can get what you want – money, a lover, …, whatever – by thinking it into existence or by chanting or praying to a god, saint, or angel.

Does it work? Well in my experience it does. I often tell the story of how my son manifested a pellet rifle that he craved. It appeared out of thin air at my feet while walking to the subway. Now it could have been a coincidence, but I am convinced that it was the power of his thinking that manifested the gun.

But let’s not get distracted by the magic. Though it is interesting to explore.

A more scientific view is that thinking positively, believing it can be done, and having a clear picture of what is wanted sets the stage for the work required to  achieve it. For example, if I set my mind to getting a promotion and believe that it is possible, I am more likely to persistently do the work required – get a certification, make a good impression on my boss, lobby for it, etc.


Manifesting Project Success – Setting Objectives

In project management we manifest project outcomes and success. We conceptualize and visualize the results we want, commit them to writing as objectives and requirements, fine tune the description to make sure everyone is aligned with it, and that it is meaningful and achievable. That sets in motion the manifesting – the work to achieve the objectives.

However, applying positive thinking and mystical or spiritual powers can only help. While we do not rely on our thoughts alone to manifest the results we want, thoughts and feelings influence team performance.


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Arguably, the most important thing we can do to manifest project success is to be clear about achievable objectives and make sure that stakeholders agree about what they want to accomplish. Knowing what we want is a must if we want to get it. Having a team that is aligned on objectives avoids unnecessary conflict, wasted efforts, and enhances the probability of success.

Project management principles recognize that objectives drive the project. What we think sets the stage for what we get. That is why it is so important to set unambiguous objectives.

The standard wisdom expressed as SMAART objectives is a foundation. SMAART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Agreed upon, Relevant, and Time bound. I have added a second A to highlight the need for agreement to ensure stakeholder alignment and the focus it brings.



Specific means that the objective is unambiguous. Vague and ambiguous objectives, for example, “Improve sales” leaves too much to the imagination. Energy will be wasted as performers try to figure out or make assumptions about what ambiguous objectives really mean. An objective like “Improve sales of product X by 15% with a profit margin of 50% by the end of this fiscal year” takes away uncertainty regarding sales of what, by how much and by when.



Measurable means that whether the objective is achieved or not is not left to the imagination. The measure of success may be quantitative or qualitative, but it must be clear enough to enable stakeholders to know what they are shooting for and whether they have hit it.


A quantitative measure is provided in the specific objective – 15%  etc. A qualitative measure can be added by including the objective of satisfying stakeholder expectations. Since being time bound is part of a SMAART objective, the target date provides another measurable objective.



An objective that is not achievable takes a project on a ride to failure, waste, and unnecessary conflict. Whether something is achievable or not is subjective – one person might think that increasing 50% profitable sales by 15% is impossible, another that it is a stretch, and yet another that it is a “piece of cake.” Feasibility studies are needed to avoid the loss of enthusiasm that occurs when the team thinks it is saddled with an impossible task. Their belief turns into a self-fulfilling prophesy – an example of what you think is what you get.


Agreed Upon

This characteristic of objectives is critical and often left out of the “one A” definition of SMART. This second A points to the need for focus and alignment. Having team members who do not agree with the definition of objectives divides the team and does not support the focus needed for success.



If the objective is not aligned with organizational goals, the attitude of performers and other stakeholders will be effected. That effect will be a loss of resources and motivations. A relevant objective will bring more attention to the project, particularly from senior stakeholders like sponsors and executives. That attention will help to motivate performers and functional managers.


Time Bound

Establishing a clear and achievable time frame or target date for a project is part of the specific objective and provides a measure for judging success.


Manifesting Success

If you want to manifest success in your projects, make sure you have clearly understood objectives that are agreed upon by all the stakeholders. That way the energy and efforts of the team will be focused on achieving them.

That focus doesn’t mean that all the team has to do is think and visualize the outcome. They must plan and apply intelligence, effort, and resources to execute the plan to achieve success.

[1] Davis, T PhD, Manifestation: Definition, Meaning, and How to Do It


George Pitagorsky

George Pitagorsky, integrates core disciplines and applies people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. He is a coach, teacher and consultant. George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict and Managing Expectations and IIL’s PM Fundamentals™. He taught meditation at NY Insight Meditation Center for twenty-plus years and created the Conscious Living/Conscious Working and Wisdom in Relationships courses. Until recently, he worked as a CIO at the NYC Department of Education.