Controlling What You Can Not Control: Creating Agency

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Do some days feel like you are riding your bike down a hill and realize there are no brakes? Or that you need to get to that meeting and you keep getting traffic and red lights along the way and might be late? We have all had those moments and what do we do as a result? I always find it interesting that 50% of what we fear, does not happen and 50% we have no control over…100% we fear what we can not control. It is about building ‘agency’. Agency as we can understand it is the control you build into your life where you don’t allow the environment to dictate how you will react.


I would sit and wonder about how I lost my parents in 2023 and my brother, who is at the advanced stages of Alzheimer, and did not let my life unravel. Looking back, I had every right to let the world crumble and collapse around me. As my world shook like an uncontrollable earthquake, I had my feet firmly planted on the ground and looking up and say to the universe, “Is that all you got! I am still here! I am not going anywhere! You can move on!!!!” My biggest anchor to keep me grounded was the thought I kept telling myself: “I can not control what happens around me but I can control how I chose to react…and I am not going to be sucked into a vortex of negativity.”  Is this attitude easy, absolutely not but the mind set I have held is that I am not going to let these situations own me. Are there moments where I go into memory aspects and maybe tear up, of course, because I do miss them. For my brother, the unfairness of the hand that has been dealt to him. I allow these near me but it is on my terms.


I have been able to build agency, How? And can you build agency? Here are some thoughts and things I can share that helped me that I hope can help you.

  • The environment around you – An acceptance that the environment is going to knock you down, slap you up and spit you out. When you can understand and accept that there are things beyond your control you can move forward from step 1…the acknowledgement.
  • Own it!You, and only you, control how you will react to the situation. You can choose to let the environment consume you or you can make a stand and say, this is how I chose to deal with this. Find your supporters that will back you up, so you are not facing it alone. The moment you say, “NO! I am in control here! things will be more in your circle of control.
  • Surround yourself with positivityThe positivity piece are people, projects, occurrences and time spent doing what you love. This will build the resistance to the negative channels that emerge. If you were to put your negative and positive feelings on a scale, which way does it tip? For me, I have loaded tons of positivity so that when the challenges arrive, it may move the needle a bit, but it is always on the positive side.
  • Bring it and bag itWhat I mean is that you can bring the challenges to you but rather than allowing them to penetrate you, realize the emotions, the feelings you encounter but do not allow them to get inside you. You are not a robot that can artificially hold the emotions. I allow the emotions and feelings to come to me, I acknowledge them but then I bag them and put them aside.
  • What is your outlet?What are doing that allows you to free your mind from the shackles of the challenges you encounter? It could be yoga, going for walks, time spent with a pet, cooking and the list goes on and on…but what is your outlet? An outlet is a buffer to the challenges you face. It is an escape that allows you to recharge. You need this!
  • Avoid negative self-talkAll too often we can slip into what we lose rather than what we gain. For me, losing both my parents was difficult but what I gain is their ever-lasting memory of the time we spent together. I dwell in the place that brings me a smile with a tear.
  • Be aware of your emotionsSometimes our emotions can be like that bike going downhill without brakes. Take a moment to think about how my emotions are affecting me. Step outside of yourself for a moment and see how you are doing and feeling.
  • Be proactive to the reactiveWhen something happens, it is automatically a reactive situation. Instead, try to be proactive if you can. You can anticipate what might be happening around you. If you can not be proactive, then be proactive in your reactive. What I mean by this is build your resilience so that you know what you have to do when something happens.
  • What is the worst case scenario?What has helped me through a lot of the navigating around the environment is to realize, “What is the worst case scenario here?” I try to anticipate the worst but never try to get there. I just need to know where my feet will land if everything goes sideways.


These points I have shared are what has helped me get through the most difficult of times. Am I super human? Of course not! Am I better than everyone else? Absolutely not! I am just someone who has decided to control what is not controllable and own it. It is time to create your own agency of control so when the bottom falls out, you have your parachute handy.

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