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  • Writer's pictureDenise Powell

How Agency Helps You Take Control of Your Life

Many of us are overwhelmed by life because of constant stimuli coming at us from all directions on a continual basis. We are managing work, families, relationships, homes, technology, and social demands, and endless information. When our brains are operating at capacity, it’s often difficult to make a decision. When we can't make a decision, we often feel powerless or as though we are living in a fog.

In sociological terms, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. Agency allows us to feel in control of our lives. It’s the belief in our capacity to handle a range of circumstances, and the ability to through and make decisions on our own accord. Having a strong sense of agency is good for many reasons. It can allow us to feel confident in influencing our own direction in life and set ourselves up to accomplish our goals.

According to an article in The Greater Good Magazine, Anthony Rao, Ph.D. and Paul Napper, Psy.D., there are a few ways we can increase agency:

1. Decrease stimuli. Keep your phone in a different corner of the room when you’re trying to accomplish a task.

2. Choose your associates wisely. Eliminating people from your lives who affect your emotions negatively can affect the way you think about yourself.

3. Build your skills. Take a class or learn a new skill. Practicing a growth mindset (believing you are capable of learning new things) will help you deal with feelings that you may fail or be judged.

4. Follow your gut. Intuition can be very powerful in decision making if you know how to tap into it. Be sure to give yourself some time each day (or at least each week) to get quiet in a calming and reflective environment.

It’s easy to judge ourselves or give into imposter syndrome (an internal belief that we fooling people and are not actually good at a certain task or job). Increasing our agency involves shifting this belief system to knowing that we can learn a new skill or improve an existing skill, even if it’s difficult.

What might you accomplish if you believed whole-heartedly that you could? How might your life be different?

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