How can we ensure that our decisions are right for the situation, for those impacted by them, and especially for ourselves? There is a powerful method I use to help me make the best decisions. The method is called TENOR, and is an acronym for 5 steps to effective decision-making. Developed by Charles Jones, researcher with the Institute for Adaptive Mastery, this method helps to bring the important role of emotions into play when considering decisions we make.
Let’s use an example to make it come alive. Jenna was feeling anxiety about her decision to present her work at a conference. The date conflicted with a planned family vacation and her family was looking forward to it. The vacation gave her quality time with her parents, husband and kids. The conference would give her exposure for her work, was good for her career and would please her boss.
T stands for note Tension. Tension arises when you resist feeling an emotion. Focusing your conscious awareness at the site of tension is the first step to availing yourself of the information carried by this emotion.
Jenna felt tension in her body. When she thought about the choices, she noticed she furrowed her brow and was biting her lip—two symptoms of a painful emotion, which she then identified.
E stands for feel Emotion. Emotions are messages from your subconscious. Pleasurable emotions arise when your subconscious has the assessment that you ARE on track to fulfill a need. Painful emotions arise when your subconscious has the assessment that you are NOT on track to fulfill a need. To understand the information your subconscious is sending to your conscious mind, you must FEEL the emotion.
Jenna noticed she felt anxiety. She knew that she preferred to go on vacation, but since her boss asked her to make this presentation as a developmental opportunity, she felt conflicted. Her anxiety was connected to saying no to a chance to share her work with a large number of people who could help her career.
N stands for articulate Need. Needs are instinctual motivations that drive your decisions. Each emotion, painful and pleasurable, maps to a distinct need. For example, your need to achieve causes the feeling of frustration. The need to assert rights feeds the feeling of anger. The need to mitigate a risk is underneath anxiety. If your subconscious mind determines you are not on track to meet the need, it sends painful emotions to your conscious mind. You must articulate the underlying need to get to the important message of your emotions.
Jenna felt as deeply as she could into her anxiety, and realized there were risks associated with each choice. This meant that to make an effective decision, she would have to identify the risks at play for her in this situation. If she said no to her boss, she would risk the possibility he wouldn’t ask her again, and he may not see her as committed to developing herself. If she chose the presentation, her family may feel she was not interested in quality time with them or for her own well being.
O stands for create Options. Now that Jenna has articulated both her need and the risks that underlay her anxiousness, she can create options for herself.
There are three ways to resolve a painful emotion. You can fulfill a need by modifying: (1) your strategy for fulfilling this need, (2) your beliefs for assessing the fulfillment of this need, or (3) your beliefs that drive how the need is assessed—that it is no longer an issue in this situation. Creating at least one option for resolving a painful emotion enables you to move forward.
Jenna was clear that her priority was her family. She believed that if she said no to her boss, he would assume she wasn’t committed to her development and wasn’t appreciative of the opportunity he was giving her. There was no evidence that this was so. It was an assumption she was making. If she decided to discuss her situation, share her mixed feelings and her decision with her boss, she would verify or dispel this belief.
R stands for gut-check Resolutions. Your subconscious mind can process implications of decisions much faster than your conscious mind does. If you sit with a proposed decision to allow your subconscious to work on it, this is a best practice for making sound decisions. Sleeping on it will assist you in both your confidence and resolve in moving forward with your decision and solution.
Jenna sat with her decision to speak with her boss transparently. She felt less anxious and her resolve increased to make the appointment with him.
Try using TENOR the next time you face a difficult decision and let me know how it works for you and any questions you have.