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This includes the world around you, outside of your home. It involves an engagement with your community, social life, clubs, activities--whatever you do that is rewarding and that connects you with people you enjoy being with. On Level Three, we get all kinds of the positives we're looking to load up on: the pride of altruism we get from volunteering, the fun of being with friends whose company we enjoy, the zing of interest and engagement we get from joining in group activities we love. All good stuff. Isn't happiness a personal thing? Inst: You're pretty certain that happiness is more than something about which people can agree. You feel it comes from within, is that it? Miss W: Sure. My happiness comes from my doing and thinking what I believe is right. And it also depends upon what I want in life. S: So far so good. But where do you get your values and beliefs? Don't you get them from your environment? Miss W: Perhaps so, but as you get them, you get them as a person. AGENCY: THE SECRET TO MANAGING FEAR Agency refers to the sense of control you have over your circumstances. It is one of the central factors that can influence how we experience fear. When we feel in control, we can channel our response rather than being sucked into a fight-or-flight reaction. Having greater agency is one of the largest reasons why people with advantaged lives live longer and with less disease than oppressed and marginalized peoples. Understanding why can help all of us protect our health.

Let me explain why agency is so important by discussing a few issues separately, and then I'll show you how they come together. FEAR AND CONTEXT How we experience fear can run the gamut of emotions. I probably don't need to conjure up images for you to understand that fear can instill terror, but let me remind you that some people, in certain situations, find it fun. And yet, there's a deeper place we can go. Level Four brings with it a bounty of resilience. The hallmark of Level Four is having a connection to something eternal, something that was here before you were born and will be here long after you leave. That litmus test is easiest filled by spirituality, faith, and religion, but that's not the case for everyone. There are many other avenues of Level Four connection, as well. It could be a meaningful bond with nature or an enduring set of values like fighting for equality, aiding the less fortunate, or protecting the environment. Really, it's anything that taps us into the greater realm of humanity. The Four Levels of Life Connection Level One: Personal Goals. This is the arena of personal advancement. What I mean is, you have to interpret what you get from your environment in light of what you are. This is very hard to explain. Inst: It's frustrating to know what you mean and find it so difficult to express it clearly. Miss W: It sure is. D: I think I see what she means. For example, if two people see an event, they're going to see it in terms of what it means to each, because of how each views it.

And each views it differently because of what each is. Is that what you were trying to say? Miss W: Yes, that's just about what I mean. Though the subject matter under discussion is much different, the description of the process as a personalized problem-solving would still seem to hold. Think rollercoasters and scary movies. North Americans even have an entire holiday devoted to the celebration of fear, Halloween. Context determines how we experience fear. If we feel safe, we can then shift the way we experience a situation. When you are in a haunted house, for example, and a zombie drops from the ceiling, your rational mind (cortex) comes online and tells you it isn't a real threat. In contrast, if you're walking down a dodgy alley in the middle of the night and encounter a stranger with a gun, your rational mind teams with your emotional mind (limbic center) to perceive danger and activate the fight-or-flight (or freeze) response. Our fear response is not so much about the event itself, in other words. It's about our interpretation of the event. You would have a very different response if you came across a tiger in the wild than if you saw it behind a fence in a zoo. The hippocampus and the cortex process the context and, if the tiger is behind a fence, dampen the fear response. Goals are motivating and in many ways healthy, but some people focus almost exclusively on their own individual advancement. Level Two: Family. Most of us extend our circle of connection around our family, especially our spouse and children. For the people on this level, family gives their lives the most meaning. Level Three: Community. In addition to individual goals and family connections, this circle also includes community: volunteering, doing charity work, or otherwise contributing to society.

Level Four: Spirituality. Those who reach the widest circle of connection are tapped into something much bigger than themselves, their families, and even their immediate communities. These connections reflect a person's own brand of spirituality, such as religious faith, a communion with the natural environment, or a set of enduring values. For Ed, sixty-two, his Level Four connection came through his military experience. As far as we have been able to observe, the content of the course seems to have relatively little influence upon the type of learning process we have been describing. The Problem of Evaluation How shall we solve the problem of grades, of passing of courses and examinations, when this approach is used in the classroom situation? How is the student to be evaluated? There seems to be only one answer to this question which is thoroughly consistent with the approach itself. If the purposes of the individual and the group are the organizing core of the course; Instead she continues, indicating her feeling about the subject. Throughout the last few exchanges Mrs. D, and the instructor seem to be aiding Miss W in the understanding of her thinking. Self-evaluation appears to be the logical procedure for discovering those ways in which the experience has been a failure and those respects in which it has been meaningful and fruitful. Past experience affects how you react. So if you were attacked by a pit bull when you were a kid, you are more likely to tremble when you see one. By contrast, my childhood best friend had a pit bull named Sweetie, who was the cutest, cuddliest doggie imaginable. To this day I don't tense when I see a pit bull the way many others do. Even if they're not events you remember, memories lodged in your brain can unconsciously play into your reactions. Your cortex stores event memories, while your amygdala stores emotional memories--and the memories in the amygdala can last longer than those in the cortex.

My friend Marco is terrified of birds. He didn't understand why until, in his mid-forties, he reunited with a childhood friend who was with him, in his teens, when their friend was murdered. His friend told him that they were in a field swarming with birds. Apparently, the association lodged in Marco's amygdala, but the explicit memory had disappeared from his cortex. A proud member of the Marine Corps, Ed embodies the motto Semper Fidelis (always loyal). He lives and breathes the Marine Corps values of courage, honor, and commitment, and this is how he approaches his relationships with colleagues, neighbors, and strangers. He embodies the proud tradition of the Corps, and is guided and sustained by these values that were upheld by marines long before he was born and will be held high by subsequent generations long after he's gone. When Life Gets Tough, the Tough Get Connected It may seem counterintuitive to add things to your life when you're feeling stressed. But when times are toughest, resilient people instinctively know they need to broaden their connections. It makes them feel better, it makes them stronger people, it shields them against stress . The irony is that just when we need these connections the most, like when we are very stressed, is often when we pull inward. Right when we should reach out to boost our resilience, we shrink back. We contract. This is, indeed, the fitting climax of an education for rulers. Who is to say whether the student has put forth his best effort? What weaknesses and gaps there are in his learnings? What has been the quality of his thinking as he has wrestled with the problems which his own purposes have posed? The person most competent to perform this task would appear to be the responsible individual who has experienced the purposes, who has observed intimately his efforts to achieve them -- the learner who has been in the center of the process. Here again is evidence of the revolutionary character of this approach to education, since the very heart of all our educational program is the rigorous (one might almost say ruthless) evaluation of the student, whether by the instructor, or by a standardized and impersonal test.