Observations of the world around us combine with our
values, beliefs, long- and short-term goals, needs, and
us direction as we travel through life. Both foreseen and unexpected events
happen that we need to accommodate as we live our life each day. These events
often trigger our emotions and create stress. We
appraise events based on what we know at the time.
experience emotions and often undergo stress based on that appraisal, and we
cope with each situation. As we cope we may reappraise
and modify our beliefs, goals, and values.
- The system that guides us through life.
A Typical Story
Joe is a teenager with typical goals of going to college and getting a good
job. He realizes these long-range goals require doing well in school, making
friends, and getting along with his parents. Unfortunately he failed an important
math test today. Instantly, as soon as he saw the failing grade he felt a
sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He then felt sadness, fear, anger,
guilt, and shame in rapid succession. These emotions continue to swirl through
him. He is also feeling stress. The failed test
represents an important loss that Joe needs to reconcile. He begins to
consciously appraise what happened. To
cope with his stress and
negative emotions, he begins by
searching for someone to blame. He is
angry at the teacher for her poor presentations,
difficult-to-understand explanations, covering too much material too fast, and
preparing such a difficult and unfair test. As he thinks through this more
carefully, however, he recognizes that other students in the same class did
better than he did, he had difficulty with the homework but did not ask
questions or request help, and he did not study for the test. Now that he takes
himself for the failure more than he blames the teacher, he is no longer angry with her,
but he begins to feel sad that his goal of doing well in school has been set
back, he is afraid he may have jeopardized his chances for getting into his
favorite college, he feels shame for not doing his best in preparing for the
test, and he feels guilty for letting his parents down. Because Joe believes the
failure is due to an uncharacteristic lapse in his studies, rather than
explaining it in terms of his permanent
and personal inability, he is optimistic and decides to cope with this
setback by applying his own resources to solve the problem. He gets busy reviewing the test with the teacher, getting extra help with the
topics he does not understand, and studying harder for the next test. He feels
more hopeful now.
Like all of us, Joe uses a complex system of values, goals, appraisals, and
emotions to guide himself through life as events unfold by him, around him, and
The Integrated Guidance System
A complex system works constantly to guide us through life. It is shown at a high level
in the following diagram and described below.
We each have our own ideas about how the world works. Taken together these
form our worldview. We rely on our worldview to interpret what we observe and to
decide what to do. We constantly explore the world and directly observe
phenomenon, every day. This
evidence provides us with an important, but incomplete, basis for choosing our
beliefs—what we accept as true. The process we
use to choose our beliefs is our
Theory of Knowledge. We often base
decisions on various rules that are convenient
simplifications of our beliefs. Because direct evidence is incomplete and often
conflicting we rely on other sources including consulting authorities, asking
friends, reading, books, and consulting our own intuition to decide what we
As we live, develop, and mature we also establish our own set of
values—our concept of what is more or less worthy.
Our values reflect what we regard as important. We combine these values with our theory of knowledge to form our own opinions,
decide what is important,
and to further prioritize and select our beliefs.
Our worldview develops, adjusts, and matures as we develop, learn, and mature. It
changes slowly and provides a stable structure for making decisions and living
our lives. It is a result of our self-spiral and
forms an important part of who we are.
Our life and health depend on meeting certain needs.
Meeting these needs influences and even constrains what we consider worthy. Our
needs constrain our values; our values reflect what we regard as important. We establish
desired outcomes—as we plan to meet our needs. Our beliefs establish
additional goals. Our motives—conditions
that stimulate us to move—cause us to act to meet those goals using appropriate
We can organize our actions into the following four distinct levels of purpose.
We are motivated to carry out various tactics according to some plan to meet our
goals to realize a value.
Level of Purpose
||Intrinsic worth. Why we act.
||Because of its intrinsic worth.
||Desired outcomes; the end state.
||To realize a value.
||A design or scheme of action steps, typically
leading toward a goal.
||To meet the goal.
||Acting to carry out our plan.
||To carry out the plan.
If the results seem disappointing, it is helpful to
our actions and trace the connections among all four tiers of this hierarchy to
assess the alignment of our actions with our
values. Improving this alignment can improve the
As we live our life events happen around us, to us, and because of us. Most
of these are never noticed or are immediately ignored. However we are constantly
observing, scanning for important events, and appraising—explaining
events in the environment, thoughts that cross our minds, and
awareness of our own physical state. We pay
particular attention to events that advance or thwart our goals; they are what
we regard as important. Our motives cause us to act
and create our own events, often to advance our goals or to cope with problems.
Some events such as eating lunch are often emotionally neutral, but are
needed to provide our bodies with air, water, and food. These resources in the
form of nutrients sustain
our physiology. When they are readily available they are consumed with little
thought, but struggles to obtain them during times of shortages are highly emotionally charged events.
The Emotional System
Whenever we appraise an event and determine it
is important to us, several systems within our
body are activated. We appraise the event within the context of our
values, and beliefs to
determine the personal meaning and importance the event has for us. This immediately stimulates one or more
specific emotions. The importance we attribute to the
event determines the strength of the resulting emotion. At the same time, an appraisal of the impact of the event on
us induces stress—our resistance to loss. The first appraisal
is instantaneous and emotional. Other appraisals are
slower and cognitive. We begin to cope—responding to
the loss—both emotionally and cognitively to solve problems and relieve the
stress by applying a variety of
resources available to us. The coping attempts to provide a solution to the problem that triggered this
response. The coping also focuses on our emotions and helps to restore us to a
calm, neutral, non-emotional state. Both stress and our emotions stimulate hormone
secretion and activate our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). This directly
activates our physiology—the state of our body. Our physiology, of course, provides many of our coping
resources. Our appraisal also depends on somatic markers—physiological feedback
directly into our decision making process.
This emotional system can be defined somewhat more crisply using design
engineering terms. An event occurs that presents us a problem to be solved or an
opportunity to be seized. The appraisal stage begins
to define the problem. During the appraisal we study the triggering event to understand
better, we evaluate its impact on our goals, we scan the environment looking for constraints and solutions, and
we create a problem statement and solution
requirements. This begins the coping stage
where we design a particular solution and specify needed actions. Implementing
and carrying out the designed solution—executing the coping plan—requires
dedicating resources. We refer to consuming these resources as
applies available resources according to the coping plan, design, and
specification to solve the defined problem. The resources come from our
physiology, the funding source. Results are then examined and the solution is
reappraised to determine if the actions being taken adequately address the
original problem or opportunity. We make adjustments to reduce the resource
requirements (stress) and better address the actual problem. The process can
continue to refine, improve, and adjust.
Emotions add their own colorful dimension through this design, development,
and problem solving project. They urgently cheer, jeer, scold, admonish,
cajole, plead, alert, warn, threaten, advise, inspire, and prod us along as we work to
An important outcome of the coping process is a reappraisal of the original
event and our reaction to it. This may result in our rethinking and modifying
our values, beliefs, goals, and even the evidence we consider important.
We are a part of hundreds or perhaps even thousands of
relationships that have
very different characteristics. Some relationships are very casual, for example
with the cashier at the store or a neighbor we hardly know. Some are very
substantial, for example with our best friends, family members, or intimate partner. Conversations center in different regions of the above chart based on the
characteristics of the relationship.
We easily talk about events with anyone. Opening questions like: What did you do today?
or What about
the weather, sports, news story, etc. are the basis of small talk. Talking about events is safe because we
don't expose our emotions, goals, beliefs or values. The bond is superficial.
Common goals form the primary bond at work or on various teams such as committees,
sports teams, projects, or task forces. In these groups we tend to talk about
the team goal, the immediate task, and how we are going to approach solving
particular problems. The bond is task oriented.
We share our emotions with our more intimate friends.
resonance—is based on seeing our emotions reflected in our intimate partners.
The bond is relationship oriented.
Common beliefs form the basis for faith-based groups. People can confidently
talk about their beliefs with people of the same religion because they know they are among people who
also share the same beliefs.
Political parties often affiliate people who share particular similar
Ideologically based groups as varied as the KKK and Mothers against Drunk
Driving are based on some common values
or beliefs strongly shared by the members.
The phrase “strange bedfellows” often refers to people who come together
temporarily to advance a particular goal, despite having very different values
or beliefs. The bond is instrumental.
Scientist often share a common Theory of Knowledge, usually based heavily on
the scientific method.
The most complex relationships, those that often have the strongest and
longest lasting bonds, are based on shared events, goals, emotions, beliefs, and
- “If you don't know where you're going, any path will take you there.”
Stress and Emotion: A New Synthesis,
by Richard S. Lazarus
The PDMA Handbook of New Product Development,
by Milton D. Rosenau, Abbie Griffin, George A. Castellion, Ned F.