One of the most common aspects of anxiety and depression, is lack of faith in our ability to shape our own life. I wanted to touch on this idea of shaping in a bit more detail.
We all have an inbuilt sense of agency. It’s why birds build nests, and why ants build anthills. We wouldn’t start anything if we did not somehow believe that we could make a difference.
What can we do to enhance our sense that we can shape our lives?
Here are three ideas for improving our sense of agency, our faith in our ability to change our lives:
IDEA #1 – CREATE A PATTERN OF INTENTION-ACTION-CELEBRATION
Many sufferers from depression view life as a very dull chain of attempted action, with nothing coming to a conclusion. To combat this, it’s a good idea to make each action much more evident:
- Advertise to yourself and others what is going to happen, and diarise
- Perform the change action, however small, at the diarised time
- Celebrate the completion of one stage of action
What we are doing is turning life into an interesting journey, just like a good leader would. If we want to be low-key and quiet with a small task, then we can simply write down the intention on a piece of paper, do it, and then celebrate by ticking the piece of paper. If we want to go bigger, then we can publish a social media post, or message friends, stating the intention – and afterwards, we can rope friends into a small celebration.
IDEA #2 – SOCIALISE THE IDEA
Another depressive habit is to lock oneself away. To counteract this, we can link our change projects to other people. This not only holds us accountable, but gives us a team or network to energise us.
Try listing six people who can help you on your way. Roles you might allocate are:
- Encourager – a person who is good at raising your spirits
- Planner – a person who has a clear head for realistic planning
- Companion – a person who is good at being there beside you
- Resource investigator – a person who is good at researching the best products and methods
- Challenger – a person who is good at keeping you on your toes
- Expert – a person who has specific expertise or experience in the change you want to make
Socialising your idea is much better than struggling alone.
IDEA #3 – USE A NOTICE BOARD AS INSPIRATION
Allocate a space on a private wall, somewhere you walk past or sit near every day. Make it a notice board. It should contain images and quotations that you find motivational and interesting, based around your change projects. Keep it live and updated.
Try to keep it truly energising and symbolic. Don’t just put on it what you think you should… put what pictures and quotes really get you going. If you don’t like them any more, take them down. Trust your own inner feelings.
In summary, to enhance your sense of agency in your own life:
- Create a pattern of intention-action-celebration
- Socialise your change projects – assemble an energising network
- Use a notice board as inspiration