I’ve only recently become familiar with the term personal agency.
Defined as the sense that we are the ones causing or generating an action and responsible for our life circumstances.
Personal agency is essential to peak performance.
…because bad shit is going to happen.
From train wreck events you can’t avoid to the unseen catastrophes that come out of nowhere, the Universe will try to break you as often as possible.
This is unavoidable.
We are not allowed to finish our life’s journey unbroken.
It doesn’t matter how Nerfy we make our lives.
What could go wrong with a kitchen full of junk food in our air-conditioned homes nestled squarely in some suburban cul-de-sac paid for by our safe but boring jobs?
We keep our heads down. We stay in our lane. We don’t offend.
We’re careful to never extend past our comfort zone.
We have “Too much to lose…” because “What about the kids?”
“Safe” becomes paramount in every decision we make.
We prioritize “Safe,” and in doing so, we outsource anything perceived as dangerous to others…
… in doing so, we give away our agency.
Instead, We’re Sold Victimhood
Why are we so willing to give away our agency?
Because this is what we teach in schools, it’s what the media shoves down our throats and our politicians sell us every day.
Instead of agency, we’re sold victimhood.
In Jordan Peterson’s series on Exodus, Dennis Prager shares a pointed insight:
“Want to know the difference between the religious education that I received and the secular education being taught in schools today?
When I was in school, I was taught that the biggest problem in Dennis Prager’s life, was Dennis Prager.
Today, schools are teaching you the biggest problem in your life is everyone else…America, racism, sexism, your parents, capitalism, etc.
This destroys your agency and it destroys society.”
We’re fed shame and sold victimhood.
Oh, you’re 50 pounds overweight?
It’s not your fault. Actually, you’re completely healthy and beautiful. It is society (and everyone fit and actually healthy) that’s wrong. You go ahead and keep eating garbage, drinking too much, and taking pills.
Oh, you don’t like how much money you’re making?
It’s not your fault. You shouldn’t have to work hard, extend yourself and take risks. It’s all the capitalists and their greed that’s keeping you from having all the things you want in life. You vote for me, and I’ll make sure the “Billionaires” pay their fair share and give some to you.
Oh, someone said something you disagree with?
It’s not your fault. You are allowed to be offended by, hate message, and protest every little thing you disagree with (and here’s a pill to calm your nerves). It’s because you live in a racist, capitalist, patriarchal society built on power and inequality. You go ahead and let us tell you how to feel, and everything will be alright.
So keep eating all that garbage food, living your sedentary lifestyle while taking no risks and no responsibility in a secular, consumer-driven, anxiety-riddled haze.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
What an easy message to sell people…
In truth, this is why I started writing Finding Peak.
Because it is your fault.
Everything is your fault.
You have agency.
I have agency…we all have personal agency.
We all have a choice in our actions. This is why I talk about life as a “Practice.”
We all have a choice over our emotions. This is why I talk about Discipline.
We all have the choice to back our agency. This is why I talk about Freedom.
These are not easy sales.
I’m selling you the pursuit of personal excellence.
Mostly because my own journey into peak performance torments me, and if you, too, desire to find out how good you can be, I want you to know you’re not alone.
You Are Not a Victim
This isn’t to say that there aren’t horrible things happening in the world: the Ukraine war, worldwide starvation, and gun violence in our inner cities, to name a few.
Racism, sexism, elitism, etc… are terrible, and we all believe each should be eradicated from our society.
But here’s the hard part…you are not a victim of these things.
Even if you are a victim, you only become one if you choose to be.
Victor Frankl’s experiences in Nazi concentration camps define victimhood and have shaped his understanding of human suffering.
In Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he could have spent 192 pages commiserating his lot in life, blaming the Nazis and shaking his fist at God.
Yet, instead, he wrote a seminal work on the potential for individuals to transcend their circumstances.
Frankl believed that even in the face of extreme adversity, individuals can find meaning and purpose.
Rather than focusing on victimhood, he emphasized taking responsibility for one’s choices and attitudes.
If you’re reading this, your situation (and related excuses) do not compare to a Nazi concentration camp.
You are not a victim. I am not a victim. No one is a victim.
We have personal agency given to us by God.
What excuse are you going to use now?
You are in complete control of your personal agency.
The Universe will throw everything it has at you; terrible people, tragedies, and its most insidious and recent trick, “Microaggressions…”
…small, seemingly innocuous moments of fear, anxiety, and/or anger that build upon each other until you find yourself in a place you’d never imagine.
You might find yourself saying things such as:
- “Why me?”
- “It’s not fair.”
- “I can’t help it.”
- “Everyone is against me.”
- “Nothing ever goes my way.”
Take a deep breath.
You’d be surprised how much power there is in putting time between these moments and thoughts.
You are NOT a victim.
Remind yourself of this fact.
Maybe choose or develop a mantra that helps remind you of your agency.
I like to use the Serenity Prayer:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Sometimes I need to say it a few things. Whatever it takes for the words and, more importantly, their meaning to sink in.
Peak performance is impossible if we live as a victim.
Regardless of your current situation, choose personal agency and get to work.
Things will get better.
I’ll leave you with this…
This is the way.
Now get to work.
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