7 Keys to Courageous Self-Expression | Agency (Part 1 of 2)

We have reached the final key of courageous self-expression, and it’s a doozy. In Part 1 of a two-part series on agency, we're going to explore what keeps us moving in life and why it is we get stuck. Candice reviews the first six keys. Then she walks you through the five facets of human agency and explains how a deficit in any one of these areas can erode agency over time. We explore why choice is so damn complicated and how motivation is rarely as simple as finding the energy to do the thing. As usual, honest stories bring the content to life. Candice shares how insecurity led to a perpetual loss of agency in her life & how she eventually found the will to move as an independent entity. This episode is a great place to start if you're feeling stuck or unsure of your next move. And, it lays the foundation for the next & final episode in our long-running series on self-expression where Candice will reveal the illuminating results of her post-graduate research on human agency. You won't wanna miss it!

0:48 - Six key review
4:58 - Exit Plan (story)
8:50 - What is agency?
11:31 - Choice
21:06 - Motivation
27:26 - Capacity
33:28 - Support
36:38 - Surrender

#16 | Make Your Move

Welcome back to The Deeper Pulse. This is Candice Schutter. Thank you, thank you so much for showing up, dear listener. We are coming to the end of our journey through the seven keys of courageous self-expression. And today we'll begin to wrap things up with our 7th and final key - agency. Which by the way has been our destination all the while. Everything that I've been sharing with you up to this point has been paving the way so that we can get wheels to the ground ready to actualize a life that aligns with our heart's deepest desires.

In this episode, we're going to explore what keeps us moving in life and why it is we get stuck.

So let's get to it. Before we begin, I want to take a couple minutes to review our journey up to this point. We began with the first key authority, which is all about growing beyond reactivity and revising the narrative arc of your life. I invited you to redefine power as a benevolent force of change. I spoke about what it means to restore connection to the deeper self and to say yes to authentic suffering, which essentially requires us to upset the status quo in favor of something more honest within.

Then we moved on to the second key, humility, where I spoke about the anxiety and chronic uncertainty that lives at the center of our lives, unconsciously shaping our choices. I offered a paradigm shift around fear, inviting you to forge a more constructive relationship with life's dark directives. We spent three or four episodes on humility because it requires that we go deeper than ever... that we get honest and still enough within to finally pay attention to what is moving at our core. I invited you to access a free mini course, The Growth Spiral, which offered you a hands-on journey through the six cycles of change.

Then we moved into key number three, vulnerability, where I shared stories about my own personal journey through trauma and triggers. Emotional intelligence was defined and explored, as well as power, privilege, and the realities of generational trauma. I invited you to consider all the ways you might be sidestepping or subjugating difficult emotions for the sake of positivity, and I offered a few other, more helpful alternatives. I spoke about the nervous system, self-regulation, and helpful repatterning of emotional triggers.

Key number four, empathy, was next... the lubricant of connection, an embodiment of grace that requires shared vulnerability. I spoke about the three types of empathy and how our attitudes shape personal accountability or a lack thereof. I shared how two decades of waiting tables and a smattering of unreciprocated love affairs taught me how to make a critical distinction in life between supporting others and trying to save them.

Key number five was next... which began with an exploration of boundaried expression and an invitation to come to know sovereignty, which is an embodiment of personal power. With practice, sovereignty can take us beyond boundaries. We can access a deep and abiding soulular confidence that we can cultivate through four domains, helping us to outgrow patterns of codependency and enmeshment.

And we just finished up key number six, integrity. Wholeness. The integration of all. Personal stories, our fears and anxieties, our discomforts and upsets, and the sometimes hefty costs of deep connection. We can bring all of these pieces together, expressing the whole of us and reconciling our differences in order to live in a world that more accurately reflects shared values.

Each and every one of these keys has been a stepping stone that has brought us to this point where we, quite literally, actualize courageous self-expression... where we begin to take action.

Agency is the final key because it's a bit of a doozy.

Week after week, I've been saying to you... move toward what moves you. But it's not always that simple is it? Sometimes feelings of stuckness can send us reeling into confusion and uncertainty. Sometimes a whole lot of nothing goes according to plan.

So I'm not here to assure you that it's going to be easy. But neither will I insist that it will be hard. Because if I've learned anything about agency it's that no two journeys are the same. And evaluations of this subjective sort are rarely helpful. Agency isn't about gravitating toward what's easy, nor is it about pushing through what's hard. It's about moving in a way that feels right to you... despite wrong and right, highs and lows, and near perpetual uncertainty.

In my home growing up as a kid, the television was on pretty much day and night. My stepdad, Gary, was a union pipe fitter. He left for work right about the time my mom would rise to take in the first morning talk show before getting me up for school and heading off to work herself.

Sometime around junior high school, my mom had stopped waking Gary up before bed at night. So he would stay there on the couch where he passed out shortly after dinner. He'd sleep there all night, insisting that the television stay on. It played syndicated slapstick and infomercials while he slept, the light and sound helping him to keep the night terrors at bay.

As for mom and I, well, we sidestepped his triggers during his waking hours. We coauthored stories, perpetually lying about this or that, the price of everything from letterman jackets to laundry detergent. This had been my reality for as long as I could remember, so by the time I reached high school, I'd settled into dutiful acceptance.

Which I guess is why it caught me by surprise when, on an otherwise typical Sunday, my mom sat at the edge of my bed and said, "I've had it, Can. We're leaving."

Our exit plan became the new best kept secret between us. I'd sneak in used produce boxes after school and pack my room without him knowing.

Knowing that we were leaving was making me more cagey than usual. Like the Bengal tigers I had hanging all over my bedroom walls, I was pacing back and forth, ready for the door to finally open.

Up until the night before moving day, it was business as usual. We all had dinner together and then mom slipped Gary a note she'd scribbled on a yellow legal pad. It was short and to the point, something to the effect of: "I'm done. We'll be all moved out by the time you return from work tomorrow." Apparently everything else had already been said.

It was 3:00 PM on moving day and even though we'd started early, we still had one more load to go. Even with the help of my boyfriend and his buddies, the move was taking longer than we'd anticipated. I wander through our new apartment and find mom in her new room sitting on a bare mattress, fighting back tears.

"Mom, just stay here. We've got the last load."

She protests at first, but eventually agrees to let me go alone.

I exhale when we pull the U haul into the driveway and find the house still empty. I do my best to keep everyone on task, to hurry things along as we gather last minute items. But it's like herding cats at this point. My friends have already put in their time, and their enthusiasm is waning.

Soon enough, Gary walks through the door. I'm embarrassed as my friends scramble in a cloud of misguided laughter.

He walks past me. He looks like death. I feel like the grim reaper. He grabs the beer from the fridge and heads out the back door.

I toss a few more items into the back of the truck, take a deep breath, and walk out back to find him.

He's in his work shed, sitting on a stool cast in shadow staring at nothing in particular.

"Okay, dad, I think that's everything."

My voice hangs like a question between us.

I can barely make out his face, but I can see that his eyes are glowing wet, and that lines seemed to have appeared on his face overnight. He looks older. Somehow more frail now that he's alone. I want to soothe his pain, tell him how sad I am to go, but that's the one lie I can't tell. So instead I take a deep breath and I say the only thing that I know for sure.

"I love you, Dad."

He winces and says: "Yeah? Sure the hell looks like it."

His words knock the wind out of me. I turn my back to him and head out the door.

Malebo Sephodi writes, "We should at all times insist that we belong to ourselves and have the agency to make decisions about our own lives." This is the ideal that we've been inching our way toward; and yet, it's so much easier said than done.

Agency is our capacity for self-determination; our ability to engage in purposeful action.

I've walked alongside people facing massive life transitions of every type - unemployment, new business startups, separation, divorce, cancer diagnoses, emotional breakdowns, loss of pets, parents, friends, and children. We don't get a pass on agency. Either we continue to move or life moves us.

Plans be damned. Some of life's biggest transitions are born of crisis. Be it circumstantial or soulular, and crisis doesn't usually wait around for readiness. In other words, we must often tap into personal agency before we feel ready. We must sort through confusion, tangled, heartstrings, and limited resources in order to move ourselves toward new horizons and away from people in places we'd rather not let go of.

Agency isn't easy. And anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

In the next two episodes, we're going to explore the complexities of human agency and what it is that empowers and inhibits our ability to create change in our own lives and the world around us.

We hear it all the time. Follow your bliss. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. If you can envision it, you can do it. Anything is possible.

But choice isn't always guaranteed, and conditions are rarely within the realm of our control. So I want to get as real as we possibly can about agency, about what inspires it and what derails it.

And to be clear, movement doesn't always equal agency. And stuck doesn't always stand still. Agency requires traction. And sometimes when we go after it, we end up just spinning our wheels, which can dig us deeper than ever into the drama.

So in this first episode, we're going to zoom out a bit and talk about some of the ways that we can rock and roll our way out of the mud.

I want to share with you what I've come to call the five facets of human agency. Consider agency like a five-pointed star. Vibrancy is impacted by the whole, and a deficit in any one of these areas can erode agency over time.

Let's take a closer look.

The first facet of agency is choice. When it comes to personal agency, we must ask ourselves: What choice is available to me? And what will making this choice cost me?

Choice requires that we have more than one option, as well as the discretion to express our own free will. Whether or not we have access to choice, well, in large part, this is quite subjective. Choice lies in the eyes of the beholder, if you will.

Case in point, I always do new client consults because I can usually tell within 10 minutes time, if my services as a coach are a good fit for someone. And it has little to do with chemistry or even the specificity of their needs. None of that matters. When I sit with someone for the first time, I'm listening intently for one thing and one thing only. Does this person have access to choice? How committed are they to staying stuck? What I want to know is... do they have access to agency? Or are they too busy making a case against it?

Now this is not to say that resistance of this sort is insurmountable. Of course, even the stuckiest of stuckness can get unstuck, but access to agency is imperative to the work that I do. When choice feels out of reach, I am of the opinion that therapy is a much more suitable starting point. A therapist is more qualified to help someone to liberate choice. And it is my job to support agency, once choice has been liberated.

But let's say that a person is available to the knowledge that the choice is theirs to make. Then it's a matter of looking at what are the choices that are available?

Now I wish it were true what they say... that anything is possible. Hey, I'm an optimist. I've made those noises before. But we have to be careful because sometimes, despite our good intentions, the impact of blanket statements such as this, well, they can be the opposite of affirming, depending on who we lay them on. I was living paycheck to paycheck well into my thirties and on a great many occasions in my adult life, my honest financial struggles were invalidated by well-intentioned friends with more financial security than I. They would offer their advice and invitations from a place of excess or psychological stability. Neither of which I possessed at the time.

"No, sorry," I'd do my best to explain. "I can't join you for that out of town workshop, because even if I could afford it, missing a week of work would absolutely cripple my budget for the next six months."

Whether we like it or not, whether we notice it or not, choice is always relative to circumstance.

That was a very simple illustration. And oftentimes it's much more complicated.

What is the cost of making this choice? And can I afford to pay the price?

Let's forget about the money and consider another example.

Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too Movement, recently released a new memoir, entitled Unbound. It's beautifully written and a poignant peek into her personal journey, how she survived sexual abuse and gave birth to a global movement. In the first few chapters, Tarana writes candidly about the sexual abuse she suffered as a young child and the choice she made to remain silent about it for so many years. Tarana was raised by a loving mother who taught her to value both body and boundary. Tarana knew that what had happened to her was wrong.

And she was sure that her mom and stepdad would believe her and defend her honor. It wasn't that she kept her secret because she was afraid she wouldn't be believed. In the end, Tarana didn't speak up because of what telling the truth might've cost her. Her stepdad, Mr. Wes, was fiercely protective, and she knew that if she told that he would seek his own brand of vigilante justice against the young man who had violated her. Violence would ensue and she knew what that would mean for her and her family. Mr. Wes would go to jail. A family and a community would be shattered.

Agency had been granted to her as a permission, but losing Mr. Wes was a price Tarana was unwilling to pay. So she did what so many marginalized women do. She made a choice, the choice to protect her family and her community over herself.

Sometimes we deny ourselves the liberty of choice because we know the chain reaction it might catalyze. Of course it is not our responsibility to protect the people around us from the ways our choices might impact them, but when support networks and resources are not in place to absorb the expected fallout, it should really come as no surprise that we often swallow our pain in order to save others from themselves. As children, sometimes we simply have no other choice.

However, there comes a time and everyone's life when the desire to be free becomes stronger than the reflexive need to protect the people around us. We reach a point in our lives where we begin to understand that our responsibility to ourselves, to the choices that feel right and true to us... although it might not appear so in the moment... are in great and higher service to the whole. Sometimes we must destabilize existing systems in order to change them, in order to grow.

In September of 2018, I sat with most of America and watched with bated breath as Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I marveled at her courage and ability to remain upright and self-assured as she was bombarded with intimate questions about her sex life, integrity and moral character.

The atmosphere of discomfort that she was steeped in, it felt timeless. A familiar sensation to so many women all across the world. Righteous suited men with stern expressions, casting light and shadow upon her choices. Framing it this way and that. It tapped me into a depth of rage that felt personal.

Her presence, her fire, it was unwavering. And just like that, her voice became a crucible for a countless number of other unspoken stories.

As she fought to recollect details of unspeakable trauma, a trauma that her body had so mercifully saved her from a remembering... I felt like I was on trial alongside her. Because I understood the confusion and frustration of being unable to report on the details of a memory that lives so clearly and viscerally, but only in the flesh.

Dissociation is an escape hatch, by design. Sometimes forgetfulness is our salvation. It's what enables us to continue making memories into the future.

After the trial, I spent a couple of days feeling out of sorts. So I sat down with my laptop and opened a page in my journal. The words that ended up pouring out of me, turned into a Facebook post in which I revealed my own struggle with sexual trauma publicly for the very first time.

It wasn't a story so much as an admission, and it felt true and necessary. Right on time. So I posted it without a second thought. A couple of days later, it was picked up by an online publication and it got a fair amount of traction on social media.

About a week later, I get a call from my dad. He and my mother have been divorced since my infancy and, at the time they rarely spoke to one another. But my choice to share about my private life had inspired them to reach out to one another, and they'd become united around a question.

On behalf of both of them, my dad asked me, "Did you think at all about how you sharing this publicly might feel to us?"

As soon as the words left his mouth, " something inside of me broke. Through trembling lips, I explained to my father that protecting them was all I had ever done. That this was the first time ever in my life that telling the truth felt more important than protecting them. I stood in solidarity with the child who desperately needed permission to purge the pain, to wear what was inside on the outside for the very first time.

Now to be clear, the abuse that I suffered, it hadn't been their fault.

For an hour and a half, my dad and I burned through the fire of my pain. And I'm more fortunate than most, because he was able to hear me and honor my choice. Soon after I had a similar conversation with my mother and she was able to do the same. My parents are loving and supportive when it comes to my self-expression. Even so, my commitment to transparency makes them a little squirrely from time.

And I do my best to respect them in the telling of my stories. But it is not my job to protect them from the truth. When it comes to self-expression, the choice is mine to make.

Agency means breaking free of the roles we've been assigned so that we can shape our personal character based on something other than what we've been taught to be.

Choices, often, something we have to reclaim. And in the end, it is the one thing that cannot be taken from us.

So, what do we do with that awareness? This turns us heart facing forward toward the second facet of agency. Motivation, which is so much more than how we've come to define it as a culture.

Motivation is the driving force behind our actions. It can not be bottled or sold. It is deeply personal because it asks the question, WHY do I want this? And is that reason enough to get me moving?

In my work as a coach, I help people to get clear on their goals and set up actionable objectives.

And quite often they circle back and say, "So, I set a clearer than clear intention. Why can't I just do the thing?"

Then they usually follow it up by calling themselves lazy or undisciplined or fill-in-the-blank broken somehow. Nah, it's none of that. When motivation fails to kick us into gear most of the time, it's not because we're unwilling to put forth effort around our desires. Hell, we seem to always make time to shop for wine at Costco. Nine times out of ten, it's not an issue of finding the energy, of making the effort. It's about alignment with the deeper pulse and what it is that is actually driving what it is you say you want. It's about what you really want and why you want it.

Oftentimes when we fail to meet a goal or an objective, it is because it is ill fitting in some way. When we fail to move on the action that we've defined for ourselves, it is an issue of motivation. But the answer might not necessarily be lighting a fire under your ass. Either the goal itself needs to change, be tweaked to become more unique, specific, or personally relatable. Or you just need to get clear on the why that is inspiring you to show up.

Let's take an example. Let's look to a goal that most of my clients share - the desire to exercise more. When it comes to exercise, lack of motivation is the most cited reason for lack of follow-through. And on the surface of things, I get it. Personally, I am not at all a fan of exercise plans, boot camps, weight machines, treadmills... ugh. All of that feels too much like work. And the whole idea of going for a run feels absurd to me, unless of course someone happens to be chasing me.

So how is it that someone like me, who really isn't at all into exercising, spent 20 years teaching fitness for a living? Well, after I invested countless dollars in unused gym memberships, after I failed to get in shape using a thigh master, after I burned a few paychecks on at home workout videos, and none of it worked, it became crystal clear to me that I was never, ever going to exercise if my driving motivation was to lose weight, get a washboard stomach, or fit into the jeans I wore back in college. Because deep down, I really don't give two shits about any of that. I didn't start exercising with regularity until I found movement that moved me. I decided to check out a dance based fitness class because it made sense to me. While I typically relied on vodka to get things going, I'd always loved dancing, because it aligned with my values. I'm a lover of music, community engagement, and expression for the sake of itself. All of that is in my soul-centric wheelhouse. And once I got into dance fitness circles, I began to learn complex choreography and mindfulness exercises and other things that engaged other parts of me, brought so much more than my body online for the experience.

Mind-body fitness and dance, it worked for me. But it's not for everyone. For my aunt, it's 18 holes of golf. For my neighbor, Karen, it's walking her rescue dog. I've seen former clients tune into their deeper desires and turn toward all sorts of activities. Rock climbing, belly dancing, roller derby, aerial arts, Tai-Chi, yoga, jujitsu, volunteering to chase children through a park.

The list goes on and on and on... because there are endless ways to move a body. And it's much easier to get moving, if you turn your motivation and your attention toward what works for you.

In the last couple of years, I've stopped leading movement classes and walking outside is become my new go-to activity. At first, it took some practice. I had to actively turn my attention away from my step counter and calories burned toward what I love most about it. Solo time, where I merged my appreciation for audio books and podcasts with my love of nature.

And now that I have that triad, where my body, my mind, and my spirit get to commune on the daily, so-called exercise has become an essential part of my day, and I can't wait to get out the door each morning.

This is what I mean when I say move toward what moves you. If it doesn't move you, stop forcing it. Sometimes a lack of motivation or follow through isn't really a failure. It's information. A reminder that you need to get more curious, dig deeper, find the core values your action plan is driving you toward. If you stay tenaciously tuned into your why, I can promise you this... agency will come easier. This is not to say that the outcome will always be as you imagine it, but that's okay because intimacy with the deeper self, this is its own reward.

So let's keep things moving. Agency is first and foremost a choice. A choice that relies on our ability to know and understand what motivates us on the deepest level possible. So what else is there?

The third facet of agency requires us to consider the question, What am I capable of given my conditioning and these exact conditions?

In episode six, I spoke about the pivotal shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. A fixed mindset argues for the status quo and our limitations, while a growth mindset reinforces belief in our own potential and makes room for constructive redirection. This ability to conceive of an alternative to what is, this is just one example of how capacity can shape agency expression.

And there's much, much more to it.

Let's say that you have access to choice and you're crystal clear on your why, but you're still feeling stuck. Well, my dear, it might be time to take a look at your conditioned responses to life.

I can not possibly lay to all the many ways that I get in my own way from day to day. I'm not sure there's enough podcast bandwidth in the ethers for that. Instead of giving you a bunch of arbitrary examples, I'm going to offer a simple illustration of agency extremes as it relates to capacity.

I want to introduce you to two archetypes, the lone wolf and the care bear.

The lone wolf is all about agency, particularly as an expression of autonomy. The lone wolf is fiercely committed to freedom, to choice, to willful independence. She's protective of her time and energy. Rather ironically, she lives behind the walls of a fortress in order to protect herself from boundaried expression. She can sometimes be emotionally avoidant when it comes to relational connection. The lone wolf is consumed by a commitment to agency and direction.

The care bear, on the other hand, is all about connection. She is merciful and compassionate by nature. Relationship is her center of gravity and she's unconditionally present with her affection. For her, other people's needs create a sense of urgency, so much so that when you ask her what she wants apart from her role as savior, she struggles to give you a clear answer. The care bear has traded agency for compliance.

As you can see both the lone wolf and the care bear have developed certain capacities to be admired, but each of them are stuck in a one-sided dance of overcorrection.

A healthy expression of agency is multilingual in its capacities.

Capacity literally means, "the maximum amount that something can contain."

So it makes sense that we quite literally have to grow in our consciousness in order to hold it all.

As someone who walked in the world with chronic anxiety and issues of childhood abandonment, early on in my relationship with Chris, my capacity to tolerate novelty in my relationship was minimal. If our shared routine was altered unexpectedly, if events didn't go precisely according to plan or our pattern of communication shifted in an unpredictable way, I would become consumed by insecurity. What I couldn't see was all I could focus on. Hypervigilance would derail agency in every area of my life until we were able to reestablish connection. It was like a light switch. Once it was on, no amount of reasoning could relax me until the bond was restored.

Now, I had been to therapy. I understood what was happening and that it wasn't about what it was about. I knew better, but I didn't yet possess the capacity to do it any differently. It wasn't until I gained access to resources, that I was able to break free from this pattern. Chris and I eventually went to couples therapy where I learned all about attachment styles. I came to terms with some long buried trauma, and I built enough mindful awareness to rewire my responses over time.

And nowadays, I'm in full possession of my energies, no matter what Chris happens to be doing or not doing at the time. But it took time, patience, a willingness to get vulnerable, and an active investment in new understanding.

These are just a few examples of how capacity can influence agency expression. And it's a reminder of why it is so essential that we practice radical empathy in our interactions with others. That we have deep compassion around an individual's emotional capabilities in any given moment. When we're dealing with a crisis of agency, diminishing situational or emotional landscapes, telling someone to power through in favor of a git 'er done done mentality... none of this has actually in service to agency. Conditioning can become pretty hardwired and it can be stubbornly difficult to override.

So before you say to someone, as I often catch myself doing... "no worries, you've got this." Keep in mind, those words might feel disempowering to someone who's struggling emotionally, who feels like 'no, actually I don't got this.' If we want to foster a sense of agency, we must make an effort to meet people where they are. Support means being willing to accept and sit with what is before helping someone to reach for the next rung on the ladder.

Hope, optimism, gratitude. These can feel like a stretch in certain circumstances. It's a much shorter walk, say, from despair to frustration, from jealousy to self doubt. When we're moving out of a space of powerlessness, agency requires patience. We recover our capacity to move forward inch by inch. It will take as long as it takes. The good news is capacity is fluid and reconditioning is possible. If we want the best results, we won't go at it alone.

The fourth facet of agency inspires the question: Where do I go when I need support?

Courage comes so much easier when we have space to be vulnerable. When you think about your support network, imagine tossing a pebble into a pond. Each ripple, a band of connection moving further and further away from center. I recommend you begin close in. Start by identifying your existing support network and practice asking for help before you need it.

I often give new clients the assignment to reach out to three to five people they trust with a request for honest and loving feedback. I give them a short list of questions to choose from. Things like, what do you think are my three greatest strengths and weaknesses? Or, what is one thing you think I might be doing to get in my own way?

The questions are purposefully intimate and revealing and the exercise serves two purposes. First of all, asking for help is a practice. And it's easier to lay the foundation of support when our head is above water. And secondly, it forces the client to get clarity around who is ready and willing to show up for them. Can I trust this person with my heart? Will they show up for me when I'm brave enough to be vulnerable?

When we make requesting support a habit, we learn that relationships, while not transactional, are meant to be reciprocal. Perhaps not at all times, but especially during moments of crisis. This circles us back to something I touched upon in episode 11, when I spoke about the shift away from saviorship toward expressions of empathy that empower.

Whether you are the supporter or the one being supported, remember this. Agency is the restoration of choice. It is actualization through self defined action. So when we sweep in as a savior, when we reflectively fill in all the gaps, it might be helpful in the moment, but it doesn't always serve agency. Don't get me wrong, we all need a bail out from time to time. And accepting help often means no longer doing it all. But if when we mean to help, our knee-jerk reaction is to continually remove all the obstacles that might be getting in the way we might be doing more damage than we are helping.

We see this all the time in charitable endeavors. The attitude being, we have to save them because they can't save themselves! This may or may not be true, depending on the situation. But even when it is true, often our vantage point is short-sighted or it lacks nuance and creativity. Our desire to put an end to their suffering, and or to validate ourselves as the savior, can inadvertently rob people of agency.

Sometimes the best way to help is to ask questions rather than sweep in with all the answers. Sometimes the best way to inspire and reinforce personal agency is to let go of the need to enforce a particular agenda.

Which brings us to the fifth and final facet of full spectrum agency expression. Surrender.

The question at the heart of it all is: What will I have to let go of?

As you probably know, letting go is way more difficult than it sounds, because we humans, we just love to cling tight to things. People. Places. Relationships. Identities.

Agency is about progression and sometimes in order to move forward, we must leave something behind. A relationship, a way of being, a vision we can no longer fit ourselves inside.

In episode six, Braving Change, I speak quite a bit about letting go... about the river of life and the humility and trust required if we want to let go and live to our fullest potential. So I won't belabor the point here. Circle back to that episode, if you'd like to take another peek down that rabbit hole.

I will say only this. Letting go, it gets easier the more you do it.

You may have heard this parable before. It's the story of the two traveling monks.

Two traveling monks reach a town where there's a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles in the ground, and she couldn't step across without spoiling her silken robes.

She stood there, impatiently, scolding her attendants They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn't help her across the puddle.

The younger monk noticed the woman and said nothing. He walked right by.

The older monk quickly picked her up, put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side.

She didn't thank the older monk. She just shoved him out of the way and departed.

As the two monks continued to walk, the young monk was preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke.

"That woman back there was very selfish and rude. But you picked her up on your back and carried her. Then she didn't even thank you."

The old monk replied, "I set the woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?"

This is one of my favorite parables. And while I'd never really considered it before I realized just today that the story beautifully illustrates an embodiment of each of the five facets of agency. Sometimes the simpler the example, the clearer the illustration.

The older monk... he made the choice to help the woman. And clearly, appreciation was not as motive. He was motivated by his own personal values. He surrendered attachment to anything outside of his own choice, his own expression of personal agency. And in this way, as he carried her across the water, he gave the woman agency in return, offered her the same freedom to respond as she saw fit in the moment.

Now, the younger monk, he did not have the same capacity as his mentor. The capacity to shake off expectation and conditioning. And the story of how it all went down was holding him captive.

Free-flowing agency is just like that. Complex in its conception, yet simple in application.

In the next episode, which is the final in our long running series on courageous self-expression, we're going to pick up where we left off. We're going to get super pragmatic and even a little nerdy when it comes to learning more about human agency and how it functions in real life.

I'm completing my final week of a master's degree program in Social Impact. And as a part of my final dissertation, I did some deep dive research into this topic, which included a look at loads of internal and external factors that contribute to, and or diminish, personal agency. Things like emotional wellbeing, access to resources, race, class, psychosocial belonging, belief, and faith... just to name a few.

I've got data to share with you and lots more stories. So I hope you'll join me next time as we wrap things up. As always, I offer you my deepest gratitude for tuning. In I'm sending you big, big love, and a reminder to keep on moving toward what moves you.

Until next time.

Ciao, my friend.

© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter