5 Ways to Improve Your Sense of Agency

When you permit an outside agency to control your feelings and emotions at frequent intervals for a prolonged period, your system will soon get into the habit of submitting to the control of this outside agency, and will not respond any longer to any effort that the will may make to regain its original power of control. – Christian D. Larson

If you are like most people, you’ve probably spent a good deal of time licking your wounds after permitting an outside agency to control your feelings and emotions. This is essentially a childish state, one from which few adults ever emerge. Most grown men and women never achieve emotional maturity as they are forced to move from pillar to post by virtue of their inability to manage their feelings and emotions responsibly.

Your ability to handle the more challenging aspects of your world with dignity, sangfroid and true grit depends utterly upon a strong and healthy sense of personal agency. Personal agency is the humanistic term for the exercise of free will, which is basically the choices you make in life.

How do you make better choices? There is a common misconception that better information will always lead to better choices. While good information is important to making good decisions, I would argue that the way you handle your heart is paramount as it will condition the way your mind processes the information you receive.

You can improve your personal agency, specifically as it relates to how you handle your heart, in a number of ways. Here are 5 simple starting points:

1. Emphasize, highlight and draw forth the strengths in those around you. Most people point out the weaknesses in others in order to hide their own weaknesses. Don’t let a fear of your own weaknesses stop you from acknowledging and appreciating the talents of those around you.

2. Relax more deeply in the give-and-take which is a natural part of the flow of life. Stop fearing loss. The fear of loss causes the heart to constrict and lose its tenderness ad suppleness. Inflexible hearts become brittle; brittle hearts are eventually broken.

3. Nourish the personal agency of those within your sphere of influence. Children are rightly dependent upon you for a season, but the adults in your world should be encouraged to assume personal responsibility for making choices and for the consequences of the choices they make. You are not strengthened by making or keeping others in a state of dependency and weakness relative to you. You are strengthened and made whole by the strength and successes of those around you.

4. Wholeheartedly embrace the choices which are yours to make. Feigning weakness or disability to gain the pity, support or attention of others is a double-disservice. So doing erodes your own personal agency, while taxing the agency of others who are forced to deal with your broken-wing act, rather than address the true need, which is your refusal to take responsibility for the contents of your own heart.  

5. Realize that you are not your feelings. You have feelings and they are valuable to you as you navigate the world around you, but the moment you assume that you are your feelings (e.g. I am sad, angry, weak, elated, etc.) is the moment you start looking for people, places and things around you to which you can pin responsibility for causing those feelings (i.e. because of you, him, her, that, etc.). Live radiantly rather than reactively; let feelings indicate, but not guide.

5 thoughts on “5 Ways to Improve Your Sense of Agency

  1. Joy

    What a wonderful consideration Gregg. I particularly appreciated point # 4 “Wholeheartedly embrace the choices which are yours to make”. This takes away any tendency to blame, which to me is always a good starting point in taking ownership of one’s world. Thank You.


  2. David R

    Each of us is presented with a set of responsibilities that are ours alone, although ironically there is no such thing as an isolated responsibility! The points you outline here are such an excellent guide to the acceptance of personal responsibility, and we find that in that acceptance there is natural coordination with others in a natural sharing of authority and capacity.


  3. Chuck Reddick

    Such great reminders Gregg of the privilege that we as human beings have, and that is choice. And when one follows your very clear outline they then will make the choice to take personal responsibility for their lives and how they feel about things and others. That choice of taking personal responsibility is what allows us to make a difference in the world instead of always thinking of just ourselves.


  4. Coco

    Fabulous post! Growing up is possible at any age. There is nothing more attractive than an adult that can be counted on for maturity and a balanced approach to meeting the ever changing landscape of daily life. Love this one, thanks Gregg!


  5. Steve V

    Thank you for your well thought out process of personal agency. I especially take note of the importance of choices and consequences. Many times choices are made without proper care of what the consequences those choices will bring. Your post today brings home the essential awareness of personal agency that fosters onward and upward living.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s