Take Control of Your Life: The Concept of Agency and Its Four Helpers

Prevailing Winds

Ever feel that you were aimlessly drifting off at sea solely at the mercy of the winds prevailing in your life? If a strong wind blew from the East, off you would be towards the West. It’s not necessarily the direction you wanted to take, but that is what life is serving you today.

What if you could take control of your life and move it in a direction that you want to go?

Welcome the concept of agency in. Agency is your sense of what you can do and what you think you can do. It is your power to affect your future. Agency takes your desires, make plans, and carries out the actions necessary to obtain them.

If you want to drift aimlessly through life, read no further. However, if you would like to direct your life where you would like it to go, even if it is an entirely different destination than the one you are currently drifting towards, then get to be good friends with agency and it’s four helpers.

What Agency Means For Your Life

Agency is the sense of control that you feel in your life, your capacity to influence your own thoughts and behavior, and have faith in your ability to handle a wide range of tasks and situations. Your sense of agency helps you to be psychologically stable, yet flexible in the face of conflict or change.

Agency is your very own power, your ability, to affect the future.

Many people, however, believe they have very little agency in their life. They take the attitude that life has handed them their own certain circumstances, things are what they are, and they are stuck forever.

Noted Stanford University professor of psychology Albert Bandura, a leader on agency and self-efficacy research, stated in his talk “The Psychology of Human Agency” that people act as agents who intentionally regulate their behavior and life circumstances. They are self-organizing, proactive, self-regulating, and self-reflecting. “They are producers of their life circumstances and not just the products of them.”

He goes on to say that while people have the ability to influence themselves, they are also very capable in influencing others to affect change. Today’s society is undergoing drastic social, informational, and technological changes, and these “revolutionary advances in technology and globalization are transforming the nature, reach, speed, and the loci of human influence. These new realities present vastly greater opportunities for people to exercise control over how they live their lives,”

Bandura’s research leads us to this truth: we have far more power than we think. Just take a moment to reflect on how much you do everyday to keep your life on track. There is a tremendous amount of power there. Being aware of it and then using it is the way to affect radical change in your life.

Agency and It’s Four Helpers

Agency is the power we have to pilot our lives in the direction we want to go. To use our agency, we have to become familiar with it’s four helpers, or aspects.

According to professor Albert Bandura, here are the four helpers that will assist you in achieving your goals:

  1. Intentionality. You must make a proactive commitment to take action to change your life or your environment. You are not letting others around you force your actions – you are choosing to act and take control.
  2. Forethought. Forethought helps you to visualize the future and set goals for yourself. It allows you to motivate yourself and to guide your actions in anticipation of future events.
  3. Self-reactiveness. You have the ability to act on your plans and monitor your progress, plus make a course correction if you stray. Self-reactiveness means that once you have intention and a plan, you cannot sit back and wait for the results to appear but you must be deliberate in acting towards reaching your goals.
  4. Self-reflection. Allows you to think about and evaluate your motives, your values and your life goals. Self-reflection lets you address any conflicts in your motivations and choose to act in favor of one over the other.

Together with it’s four helpers, agency allows you to choose the direction that your life will take, help you to influence others to affect changes in your life, and work with others to change lives locally and globally.

Where are you headed? Set a course for your own life and use your agency to help get you there.