I always thought ‘personal agency’ was a lofty textbook term reserved for self-development books. After reading the old tale of the Elephant & the Rope (shown above), I was inspired to cultivate a mindset of personal agency. With some practice, I found it to be extremely helpful in motivating me to be more intentional, empowered, and creative.
To me, having personal agency means seeing the best in yourself & your journey while staying aware of areas for growth. Like being your own coach, you start to see things from a fresh set of eyes, removing some of the fear-based conditioning we all have. Once we reframe or better understand those fears & conditioned ideas, we open up to a new creative mindset & a fresh perspective. When we begin showing up for ourselves with personal agency, we allow our individuality to shine, while learning to stay open to learning and growth.
In our modern world, it feels as though we have a constant stream of information coming into our minds. This outside noise oftentimes clouds our vision and distracts our focus away from personal agency. If you've ever spent too much time watching the news or on social media, you may know the negative feelings that usually come with that - i.e. comparison, negativity, fear, etc. It's not always clear what is holding us back and what is helping us grow, which is why I think it's important to be intentional about how we frame our thoughts.
Here are three ways I've started cultivating personal agency in my life:
- Filter - Ask yourself 'Is this helping me grow?'... Try focusing on information that improves your understanding and helps you think critically. When necessary, filter out any unnecessary streams of information that are holding you back.
- Process & Reflect - Whether you had a good or bad experience with something, let yourself process it. Pick up a pen and write about how you feel, without judgement. Writing things down and processing how you feel can build confidence and resilience. Stay in the mindset of being an agent for yourself by finding ways to grow through the situation.
- Discipline - Whether it's an exercise practice or a commitment to read more, start small and keep showing up. When committing yourself to a new skill, make sure it's something that calls for discipline but is also enjoyable and of interest to you. Self discipline empowers you to believe more in yourself.
Personal agency has the power to change the way you see yourself for the better. It can help you to reframe your thoughts, feelings, and in turn, your actions & results. If you feel stuck on a problem or unsure of what your next steps should be, try thinking from a place of personal agency. What would you tell a good friend to do in a similar scenario?
Like everything else, it's a practice that will take time to hone and build into a habit, but you'll be surprised by your potential for growth once you start applying it in your own life.
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“Personal Agency is your ability, and more importantly, your belief in your ability to affect change in your world. I find that for most people, it is their lack of belief in their ability rather than the ability itself to change their lives, which is actually holding them captive. You must have the skill, ability or opportunity to enact the change that you want to see. The reality is we usually have it or a means of attaining the ability to achieve it... We often hold onto limitations that are mostly a figment of our imagination.” - Buddy Rathmell