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The journey towards self-improvement and personal growth is a winding road laden with opportunities for self-discovery and self-awareness.
In each stride, you make choices and decisions that shape your path and influence your future. The concept of personal agency is a fundamental aspect that propels this emotional journey.
Personal agency is the control you exert over your life, your ability to influence your thoughts and behavior, and your confidence in handling diverse tasks and situations.
This article is a comprehensive guide on understanding and fostering personal agency, thus helping you feel more in control of your life and work.
Personal agency, also called self-agency, is the feeling of control you experience over your life and your capacity to influence your thoughts and behaviors.
It’s the belief in your ability to impact your future. People with high agency have profound control over their lives and can make decisions to meet their needs and wants.
They harbor an inner power that allows them to act upon their desires, make plans, and execute actions necessary to realize them.
Conversely, individuals with a low agency often feel that external factors such as luck or fate manipulate their life trajectories.
They may feel powerless to alter the course of their lives, fostering a sense of helplessness and complacency. Understanding ourselves as agents of change can help us set goals, take steps to improve our personal and professional lives, and discard feelings of powerlessness.
Albert Bandura, a prominent Stanford University professor of psychology and a pioneer in agency research, proposed that we start developing our sense of agency from birth.
Infants learn to interact with their surroundings and discover ways to alter their environments through their caregivers. Children learn to regulate their behaviors by observing their parents and caregivers.
As adults, our sense of agency continues to evolve, influenced by several factors, including access to resources and the environment.
Intentionality is the proactive commitment to change your life or environment. It means you consciously decide to act and take control instead of letting external factors dictate your actions.
Forethought allows you to envision the future, set goals, and motivate yourself. It guides your actions in anticipation of future events and outcomes.
Self-reactiveness is your capability to act on your plans, monitor your progress, and make necessary course corrections if you stray. It means you need to be deliberate in performing towards reaching your goals and not simply waiting for results to appear.
This attribute lets you contemplate and evaluate your motives, values, and life goals. Self-reflection allows you to address any conflicts in your motivations and choose to act in favor of one over the other.
Self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to succeed. It’s as crucial as your actions in developing a sense of agency. How people perceive themselves and their environment influences their ideas about what is possible and determines their level of personal agency.
Transitioning from low to high agency involves fostering a shift in mindset and embracing strategies that inspire personal empowerment.
Begin by introspecting your beliefs about your sense of agency. Do you perceive yourself as someone with high agency or low agency?
Do you feel a high sense of agency in some regions of your life, like your career, but a low sense of agency in others, like your personal relationships?
Reflecting on where you want more control can help you set future goals.
Start by setting small, achievable goals for yourself. It could be reading a specific number of pages of a book each week, organizing your workspace, or incorporating a new habit into your daily routine.
High agency requires resources like time, money, knowledge, and skills. Evaluate the resources you have that can help you create and act on your goals. Identify the resources you need and the avenues to acquire them.
Consider seeking support from coaches, mentors, supportive family members, or friends. They can provide invaluable guidance and encouragement on your journey towards self-agency.
If you believe traumatic experiences or mental health struggles are impacting your agency, seek support from a licensed mental health professional.
Remember, feeling in control of your life is not about controlling every aspect of it. Instead, it’s about exercising more control over your aspirations, understanding your sense of agency, and letting go of feelings of powerlessness.
Embracing personal agency is about believing in yourself and your capabilities. It’s about recognizing that you are the pilot of your life, steering it in the direction you desire.
So, take the reins of your life, set your course, and embark on the journey to personal empowerment.
After all, as Albert Bandura rightly stated, “People are producers of their life circumstances, not just products of them.” It’s time to be the producer of your life and embrace the power of agency.
Written by Sarah Edwards, Project Associate of TPCT. Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany
Disclaimer: Sarah Edwards is not a certified or licensed mental health professional—instead, someone sharing real-life experiences and findings for others to find commonality and seek actionable steps.
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