Are you scared of writing your PMP exam?

Are you scared of writing your PMP exam even though you have been studying for months? Do you feel nervous, anxious, or even afraid about writing this 4 hour exam? Have you ever asked yourself, “am I ready for this?” or “how do I know I’m ready?” or “What if I fail?” If you said yes to any of these questions, this post is for you.

Let me start off by saying: Your fears are not real.

I’m going to repeat that again: Your fears are not real.

I think we all have a love-hate relationship with fear. On one hand, fear keeps us alive. Without fear, we would all be jumping off of buildings and running onto busy highways. On the other hand, fear also stops us from pursuing our goals and stepping out of our comfort zones.

So, what is fear?

I think once you understand what fear is, you can overcome it. Once you understand anything, that thing becomes less terrifying.

Fear is an imagined scenario inside your head that feels real. In fact, it can feel so real that it feels as if it is apart of you.

But, you need to know that: you are not your fears.

A good friend of mine once told me that FEAR stands for Fictional Events Appearing Real, and it is so true.

Fear is simply bad management of our own mental faculties. It is not an impulsive physical reaction generated in our brain, even though, at times, it may seem like it.

The secret to mastering your mind is to separate yourself from your fears.

You need to recognize when it is your fears are speaking to you, and then say “thanks for sharing.” Then, watch your fears drift off into the distance like clouds in the sky.

The more you try to resist your fears, the harder they come back knocking with their messages. Before you know it, your worst fears manifested themselves through the amount of power you’ve given to them.

Throughout evolution, our brains have gotten really good at avoiding pain, even if that pain will help us grow. Our fears feed off of our brains’ desire to avoid pain by associating painful events to the goal we want to accomplish. It does this in two ways:

Process pain

Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Yet, as much as we want growth, we are scared of doing something new because we fear the process to be painful.

For example, the person who wants to quit smoking is not thinking about breathing easier and living healthier; s/he is thinking about the process of quitting the addiction, the painful withdraws, and the uncontrollable shakes.

So, even though change would be beneficial, it doesn’t happen because the person is intimidated by the process.

Changes in anything is going to be hard. The process of change is hard. Doing something new is hard.

Studying for the PMP involves changing your routine and it can be hard to make the sacrifices. I’ll be the first to admit that studying for the PMP is probably not the most enjoyable process in the world.

During the process, you may say some variations of the following:

  • “There’s too many things I have to learn.”
  • “The process looks too hard.”
  • “I don’t have time.”
  • “This will take too long.”

When you focus on all the things that we need to do that is hard, you do not end up doing anything.

How to deal with Process Pain

Part of the mastery over your mind is seeing changes and challenges as things we can joyously enter.

You need to take control of the narrative in your mind and tell yourself that challenge is good. Challenge will help you grow and reach your potential. The process of reaching your goals can be engaging and fun.

Focus on what you will gain by going through the process instead of what you will sacrifice. When we change our narrative, we start to change our lives.

Outcome pain

The second type of fear is called outcome pain. Outcome pain is when someone says, “what if I do all this work to change, but I end up exactly where I was at the beginning? What if the grass isn’t greener on the other side?”

In this kind of mindset, you may say some variation of the following to yourself:

  • “What if I spend all this time studying and not pass?”
  • “What if I’m wasting my time?”
  • “What if I fail?”
  • “What if I didn’t prepare enough?”
  • “What if I get certified and it doesn’t help me get a job or a promotion?”

How to deal with Outcome Pain

Instead of focussing on the negative outcomes, focus on the positives instead. Give your energy to the things that would be good, satisfying, and fulfilling.

Focus on how getting PMP certified will further your career. Focus on getting a project manager job. Focus on getting that promotion. Focus on hanging up your certificate in your office. Focus on how good it would feel to put the PMP credentials on all of your resumes, business cards, and email signatures.


Fear is the result of your focus on process pain or outcome pain. When your brain thinks pain, it says, “no I don’t want that.” Then, it tries to stay as far away as possible from the changes you want to make to avoid the potential pain it may bring.

The reason you haven’t taken action to get PMP certified yet is probably because you have associated a lot of pain with getting certified.

Now that you understand what fear is, you can develop awareness and competencies around it. The more competencies you have, the more confidence you will have. Overcoming your fear is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will get.

The next time you feel that you are not capable enough or smart enough or good enough to pass the PMP, you understand that that thought is not really your authentic self talking. Your authentic self will not hold you back from striving for great career success. Your authentic self will not build up walls and limitations.

That voice that brings you down is your fear. Bring your fears into your conscious awareness, write them down if you need to, then release then back into the universe.

Focus on the gains and the joys that the PMP certification can have on your career. Give your energy to the things that will improve your life instead.

I want you to know that: the only thing standing between you and your PMP certificate is you. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a free class today.