‘Agency is your power to become. Each choice takes you closer to or further from what you are meant to become.’
Randall L. Ridd
Here in Project Lift we talk a lot about agency and yet it’s not necessarily something that is understood, far less owned and lived by many in our health and care landscape. The quote above offers a very personal and emotive definition of agency – one that may or may not sit well with you.
We believe that when you combine agency with power and purpose it can be a game-changer on both a personal and collective level. For anyone. For everyone.
If we accept that agency is your ability to choose – how to respond, how to act, what to believe – then we accept that our individual agency is a key driver in everything we do anywhere. We can see this in what we prioritise in our own lives. For example, some may prioritise:
- a daily run, gym visit, swim or fitness class
- quiet time for self with music, podcasts, art or journaling
- time with family members doing what they want to do
- planning to manage financial, health or time pressures
- volunteering or supporting a community group or organisation
- creating time to train and support new or more junior members of staff
We all have a sense of what is important to us and act and respond aligned to this. This shows the link between agency and purpose – our personal agency is often based in, and triggered by, our sense of what is important to us and our sense of purpose is linked to our values. It’s easy to assume that everyone in health and social care has the same purpose however as people we are more complex, and everyone will have their own unique mix of purpose and values within their personal context.
Agency is not static. If you feel that your sense of purpose is being threatened, then this can trigger your personal agency in a positive or a negative way. It can lead us to own our agency more and take a stand, maybe speaking up and taking action, or it can trigger us to disown our agency, to stand back and withdraw, possibly physically, mentally and emotionally. Both scenarios impact our behaviour and our wellbeing.
Where does power come into the equation? Agency is linked to power. If we own our agency this creates power within in – to respond in a way we want to, to stand up for what we believe is right, to exert energy where we have control and to influence in areas where we may not. We can shine a light, our light.
And we can share this. The relationship between individual and collective agency is like candles. When a candle is lit, it provides light that can be seen and a warmth that can be felt. It can then be held to light another candle, and together they create more light and more warmth. The first does not dim or lose any light or heat by sharing. It is the same with agency and, in turn, power. By sharing our own agency and enabling others, we can share the power we have created and enable others to create this for themselves. The potential impact on personal wellbeing and fulfilment, team engagement and innovation and the changes in our system is significant.
So we must ask ourselves:
‘How can I own my agency and create my own power?’
‘How can I share my agency to enable others to own and share theirs?’
We will be asking these and other questions in our (free) November Community Event ‘Agency, Power and Purpose – in the context of COVID19 and Beyond’. Come and join us and share in the conversation.
Looking for some more on this topic? Some further reading and inspirations here;