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I feel that what I do contributes to something larger than myself: my organization, my industry, my community, my nation, or humanity. What's Your Contribution? Only about 30 percent of people naturally make it to a Level Three connection. Why do you think so few engage with their jobs in that way? The same methods have been used in a variety of other courses including statistics and mathematics, but the verbatim accounts of classroom behavior are few. Perhaps the question may be answered to some extent by taking a verbatim portion from a Great articles course, also conducted by Shedlin. In this group the articles were prescribed, the reading to be done for each session was prescribed -- even the leader is described as a questioner. Hence this is one situation in which, if the leader is to conduct the course in a student-centered fashion, he must create an acceptant climate within a rather rigid imposed framework. A stenographic record of the sixth session was made, and the following portion is from the first of the hour. The assignment had been Aristotle's Ethics, article I. The group consisted of nineteen adults. Mr C, who opens the hour, is a printer. The instructor's comments are given as footnotes. Mr C: There are many things about this reading that I know I don't understand, but as is my usual procedure, I'd like to attack something right at the start. We don't consciously trigger it or even know what's going on until it has run its course. Your ears send nerve impulses to the thalamus. The thalamus then quickly forwards the message to the amygdala. The amygdala receives the message and takes protective action. It signals the hypothalamus to initiate the fight-or-flight response that could save your life in case that noise was in fact an intruder. This process happens quickly, well before your brain has been able to determine if in fact there is an intruder.

The second pathway has a longer, slower course. This process considers the options. Your ears send nerve impulses to the thalamus. The thalamus then sends this information to the sensory cortex, where it is determined that the information needs to be interpreted. The truth is that you can't feel connected to your job if you can't see your contribution. Your contribution is exactly what it sounds like: what your work brings to the good of your organization, your colleagues, your nation, or the world at large. Your work might include such mundane tasks as posting sales data, answering customers' questions, explaining how your technology works, cataloging paperwork, or even just answering the telephone. But within all these tasks is a larger purpose--a Level Three reason for being at your job. It's just a matter of finding it, focusing on that contribution as you do your work, and celebrating it. Take Olivia, for instance. Olivia is twenty-three and just starting out in the fashion industry. Her job as an entry-level intern involves sorting piles of fabric and supplies, and collating tear sheets. It's not the most exciting work, to say the least. But Olivia has a great attitude about it. Well, it seems to me that Aristotle is tentative at one point -- where he says, is thought to aim at some good, and quite dogmatic when he says, has rightly been declared, etc He doesn't seem to be consistent. Inst: You resent the fact that you have to accept reasoning which seems to be built on clay, is that it? Mr C: Sure, this man is supposed to be an authority, yet he seems to be mixed up right at the beginning. I don't like to swallow stuff like that. He talks as if everything he says is true, yet he is quite uncertain at times. During the first five sessions Mr C was an energetic participant, and to characterize his part in the group best might be to say that he is the man who sticks his neck out.

The group members accept him in a half-facetious light, but seem inclined to have a healthy respect for his contributions. His remark is addressed to the group. In this instance the instructor responded after allowing time for one of the group members to pick up the remark. The response was an attempt to understand Mr C's feeling about his interpretation of Aristotle at this point. The cortex sends the information to the hippocampus to establish context. The hippocampus considers questions like Have I heard this before? What did it mean in previous instances? What else might help me know if it's the wind or a burglar? It might pick up on other data, like visual clues that it's windy outside. It then puts all this together and makes a determination. It could, for example, conclude that the noise is most likely the wind and thus that there is no danger. It then alerts the hypothalamus to shut off the fight-or-flight response. In sum, you probably had a moment or two of terror spurred by the first path, and then, through the second path, your thinking brain helped you calm down. If you can't bring your thinking brain online, you get stuck in fear. Even at her young age, she tapped into the importance of knowing her contribution. Look, I know that ordering safety pins and sorting the blue silk from the periwinkle isn't glamorous, but what I do enables the designers to have easy access to the materials they need to create beautiful garments. When I watch the fashion shows or see our stuff in magazines, I get a little boost of pride because I know that I played even a tiny role in making that happen. Take Action To boost your connection level at work, today we're going to help you find all the Level Three reasons you do your job. Spend some time today asking yourself why you do the work you do.

What is your unique contribution? What greater good do you serve by doing your work? In the box below are what some past meQuilibrium members have come up with. Now it's your turn. It seems that any attempt to challenge his thinking here would be premature, might arouse hostility and would probably deter him from further self-examination. He continues his attack, expressing resentment more specifically. Inst: You feel that if a man gives you the impression that he knows everything, then he should know everything, Mr C: Well, no man can know everything, but ---- Mr R (interrupts): Of course no one knows everything. And after all, how can you write if you don't believe you are right. I don't think he's so dogmatic; H: I agree with you on that, Mr R, and I think I know where he says that. Mr R: Yeah. Inst: Then you two feel that he is rather clear in his limitations and quite humble in his presentation. Fear is the emotion--and biological response--that arises in response to a perceived immediate threat. Anxiety is the emotion--and biological response--that arises in response to an anticipated threat that things might go wrong. One of our most valuable evolutionary gifts is to be able to anticipate what's ahead, and anxiety keeps us attentive to possible danger lurking there. If you feared a predator, you would take steps to avoid one, perhaps traveling by daylight and with others, and this might keep you safe. So you can see how even anxiety has biologic roots and is part of a healthy protection system. That's a good thing.

But not when our anxiety rules us. Most of us have never experienced a plane crash, but that doesn't stop us from sitting on a plane and imagining it happening. Anticipating a fearful stimulus can provoke the same response as actually experiencing it. However, anticipated threat means it hasn't happened. Write down as many Level Three reasons as you can for your job. Make sure they are concrete and specific, and that you really believe them. Consider how your job contributes to the greater good, the next generation of your organization, or your company's mission. You might need to look beyond the obvious. One woman who worked as a cashier at a fast-food company whose products she didn't feel particularly good about did, however, embrace the company's well-known philanthropy efforts. So for her, every meal she sold meant more resources for sick children and other worthy charities. When you have your complete list, put it in your phone, in your written notes, on your computer--anywhere handy and visible. Every Monday morning and every Friday before you leave work, read through this list--and do so any other time that work starts feeling like a grind rather than a gift you are offering to the world. Over time, your list may change and grow, and you'll start to feel more deeply connected to your work. Don't just scan the list. Mr J: I'd like to say something to Mr C on that, too. Sometimes he [Aristotle] sounds as if he was being dogmatic, but if you follow him you find out that he is following out a scheme of argument. Inst: You think he's reasoning rather than just stating, is that what you mean? But you've got to watch the introductory words he uses. S: That sure is true. I've marked some of them in places.