Agency... Belief You Can
First let me say, I love Brené Brown's latest book, "Atlas of the Heart," which defines and refines understanding of our emotional experience. We all experience all the emotions. And what happens when we choose to ignore the emotional experience, repress the emotional experience? We react in a way that softens or eliminates the feels. However, until we process the emotions, the experience leading to the emotion, we cannot heal it.
And all emotions need healing. Even the good ones.
In 2002, on a glorious sunny and warm August day, I grabbed the start holds on a problem called Resurrection. My son, just over twelve months, was being watched by his dad, who was also trying to watch me. I moved through the spanning first moves. Got my heel up into the heel hook and with all I could muster, I threw my left hand up for the sloping edge. SUCCESS. It was the next move I had never done - getting my right hand up and transitioning to moving up the slopers. I just kept moving from there. I had never climbed the upper section before and my mind was silent. My body running on instinct. When I was at the top, looking down, catching my breath, I realized Fynn was crying. My partner was both ecstatic and distracted with our son. I was on the top. I had done it. I had completed my project.
Within moments of this success came the question in my mind, "what's next." And that feeling of unease at having to choose another project and start the process again. A project often comes to feel like an old friend, something you look forward to. There is comfort in knowing you know the moves and what is expected of you. Just how hard you have to try and what you have to do... certainty it is possible. So when you start looking for new projects, there is that feeling of dis-ease... as you settle into know what moves you can do, and which need work.
When we feel all the feelings of joy and love, we also have the shadow of potential loss. When we send that next project we laboured over, there is joy and a sudden recognition of the end, closure and letting go. It is the uncertainty of what's next that breathes life into fear - our fear for our identity.
Hope is described as having three elements - a goal, a path and agency.
As a coach I can tell you that access to the tools has been pretty shaky for most during Covid. Even defining goals has been a little more challenging since we do not always know (especially in Canada) when the next restrictions will come in, go out and how those restrictions may impact our ability to achieve any goals.
LOADS of UNCERTAINTY
And this is where we have truly lost AGENCY.
This is why there are truckers blocking borders and demanding an end to restrictions. This is why people struggle with mid life crisis. This is the very fear that animates any loss - UNCERTAINTY of what will happen next AND our uncertainty of our ability to navigate through it.
Within the pages of this amazing book is also the statement - "we can only love someone else to the degree we love ourselves."
We can only trust someone else to the degree we trust ourselves.
Perhaps this is why we loved The Dawn Wall featuring Tommy Caldwell picking up the pieces of his broken life and putting his agency in the one thing he felt defined his happiness - climbing. Perhaps this is why we were in awe and an Oscar was awarded to Alex Honnald's, Free Solo documented adventure. Boggles the mind that one can have such an audacious goal AND the agency in oneself to even try to achieve it.
Climbing offers the climber the opportunity to develop a relationship with oneself through the process of challenge. A climber can stay on routes that are within their capacity and leave feeling a little tired and quite successful. A climber can choose routes that they can not do first try, but perhaps after a few tries, it is completed.
A climber can also choose a route that they are not really ever sure it will be possible. It could be years of effort before they can actually do the route. These projects are the projects that force the climber to understand them self better. The project forces the climber to develop not only physically, but mentally. The climber has to increase their concentration, cultivate willingness to work through physical stress, pain, and continued failure. The climber is forced to be willing to bring their best even when they know their best in that moment is not enough to achieve success. The climber is forced to develop their sense of agency - belief in their potential, regardless of outcome.
You will never achieve an audacious goal without the belief in yourself to get there or the willingness to try and fail.
Your believe in yourself is what limits you, or expands you. It is pretty important to recognize just where you stand and ask yourself if that is where you want to be standing.