Maintaining Agency During Uncertainty
So, here we are. Our lives have been turned upside down and changed in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago.
Is your sense of agency being challenged?
Agency is your sense of power and control over your own life. The energy to push through challenges. Diminished agency is showing up in many ways.
Perhaps you’ve lost your and find yourself in your home with no real work to do. For others who have jobs, you may be working at home with a house full of people in tight spaces. For yet others, they are working at home with young children who are in need entertainment and structure.
If you’re in healthcare, manufacturing, or other first-line roles, you may fear that you’re risking your life, and the health of your families. For those for whom this is not the first crisis of your lifetime (Baby Boomers and beyond), you may be having flashes from the past and worrying about how the past may repeat itself during this time.
I see you.
Our agency has been rocked. We need to be functional in the world and face challenges to reinvent our world at a time when it may feel that our hands have been cut off. We need agency to face challenges and to contribute to our families and communities.
So how do we regain agency during this challenging time?
When the world changes, we need to face and feel the uncomfortable feelings that are rising. If we do this, we might be able shift our focus away from worrying about our family and jobs.
By turning inward, we remind ourselves that agency is learned behavior.
You have learned how to be productive, how to have agency, over and over in your life.
When you went to college, you figured out how to have agency after leaving your parents home and having new authority figures and structures to adapt to.
When you got your first job, you learned the agency of working for a company with expectations for which you would be compensated in return.
When you had your first serious relations, you learned the agency of being in a committed partnership and how to make the compromises and adjustments to be part of a “we”.
When you had your children, you learned the agency of parenting, of nurturing, and adapting to the unique needs and personalities of your children.
As you age, you learn the agency of working with a body that is changing and requires different amounts of sleep, a different kind of diet, and new ways to be active.
If you have experienced illness or other crises in your lifetime, you have learned the agency of loss and recovery.
We are now being called forward to relearn agency
Notice what you need.
Do you need to feel productive? Do you need to lower your anxiety? Do you need to calm the frenetic activity between working from home and taking care of your family? Do you need mental peace and reassurance? Do you need a structure? Do you need connection? Do you need new activities to fill your time? Do you need your own space? Are you caring for someone who is sick, and you need support? Perhaps you just need a mental time-out from it all.
There are lots of resources that companies, and communities are offering to support the world today. It can be tempting to jump in and start adding more stuff to our lives.
My invitation to you is to pause, and notice what you need. Ask yourself, what is one thing I need most right now? Then, look at how you can meet that need.
Invite those around you to notice what they need in the moment, and cooperatively, find ways to bring back agency into your lives, one task at a time.