Thought experiment: What is your personal philosophy of success?
Success is measured by what we do in the present, not what we plan to do in the future. The impetus for future behaviors is reinforced in the present. As we prepare for our preferred future, remember the outcome we desire rests on our personal agency.
Agency is "the state of being active, usually in the service of a goal, or of having the power and capability to produce an effect or exert influence."
Success does not necessarily follow a straight line. We are buoyed by successes but sometimes struggle to adjust when things are not going as well as anticipated. Our unsuccessful efforts are unscripted even with the best-scripted plans. Our agency provides the momentum to persist and not become overly critical of mistakes. More broadly, it is our unrealistic appraisals of our so-called "failure" that we must guard against.
Therefore, we should endeavor to mentally adapt to changes by taking actionable steps to reduce self-doubt associated with perceived failures. For example, we can manage self-doubt by taming our inner critic to make it less powerful. The time spent dwelling on setbacks can result in motivational deficits.
Consequently, we work to make things happen through our actions by tapping into our growth motivation. According to Maslow, growth motivation is possible when our deficit motivations are satisfied. We can pursue our full potential, and our actions are guided by intrinsic values. Upon reflection, we may find that our way of thinking hindered our progress and not necessarily environmental conditions. Also, we probably lived other people's fears. Hence, relying upon our personal agency makes us active participants in the things we desire to accomplish.
Psychologist Albert Bandura whom I have referenced in previous posts, specifies that personal agency is grounded in intentionality, forethought, self-reactiveness, and self-reflectiveness. These "core features," as he referred to them, are crucial to our "self-development, adaptation, and self-renewal in changing times."
Intentionality – includes our plans and the actions we intend to take to meet our goals. For instance, the intention is to take the state licensure exam in 6 months to become a certified behavior analyst. Our plan, while well thought-out, may not account for every potential misstep. Still, as we plan, we can adapt, revise, and reconsider our plans as we acquire new information.
Forethought – the future is anticipated but not yet here, so present behaviors support the achievement of our future goals. In other words, our current behaviors are intentional, purposeful, motivated, and forward-directed in anticipation of future outcomes. From the example above, if the goal is to take and pass the licensure exam to become a certified behavior analyst in 6 months. Then preparation begins well before the exam date to increase the likelihood of passing the first attempt.
Self-reactiveness – once an action plan is developed, the achievement of the stated goal is not realized because we have the intention and forethought to meet our goal. Instead, the goal is achieved through deliberate behaviors that strengthen the desire to be successful. The more satisfied we are with our behaviors towards reaching our stated goal, the more time and energy we are likely to invest in our pursuit. Consequently, we adapt our behaviors where and when it is necessary to reach our preferred future.
Self-reflectiveness – by being reflective about our actions, we can evaluate our motivation, purpose, and if our behaviors are getting closer to our goal. If, upon reflection, we recognize the steps we have taken so far need revision. Then we can make the necessary changes to sustain our efforts to meet our goal.
Although personal agency's "core features" are discussed individually, they work together to help us exercise control over our actions. Sometimes behaviors are no longer helpful; yes, behaviors can run their course, and we need to adapt new behaviors to promote growth opportunities. It is through intentional actions that we make things happen. As a result, we will make decisions knowing we may have to adjust as we go along.
Stay Naturally Curious