Ep #21: Developing Agency

By: Dr. Sherry Price

Developing Agency

Where are you taking ownership in your life?

When it comes to the goal to drink less, so many of us wait for better conditions or for when the time is right, or to feel more motivated. But your goals are your responsibility, and by delaying taking action, you’re hindering your chance of developing a sense of agency in your life.

Agency is taking full responsibility for your life, being your best advocate, and knowing that you are in control of yourself. It’s how you think, how you feel, and what you do, so it’s critical to learn how to develop agency to lead a better life.

In this episode, I’m showing you why waiting for your circumstances to change isn’t serving you and how to start taking responsibility for your overdrinking. I’m sharing three steps to help you increase and develop agency in your own life, and showing you how to retrain your brain so you can create a life you truly want to live.

Do you want to change your relationship with alcohol and get a handle on your drinking? My Drink Less Lifestyle program can help you become a woman who can take it or leave it around alcohol! Come check it out, I look forward to working with you!

And, if you’re ready to change your relationship with drinking, check out the free guide How to Effectively Break the Overdrinking Habit now!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why you are happier and healthier when you develop agency.
  • How to establish why you’re overdrinking.
  • The benefits of developing agency.
  • Some reasons why you should develop agency in your life.
  • The number one thing that makes my clients successful in their journey towards a drink less lifestyle.
  • Why you might not be developing agency in your life.

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:


You are listening to the Drink Less Lifestyle Podcast with Dr. Sherry Price, episode number 21.

Welcome to Drink Less Lifestyle, a podcast for successful women who want to change their relationship with alcohol. If you want to drink less, feel healthier and start loving life again you’re in the right place. Please remember that the information in this podcast does not constitute medical advice. Now, here’s your host, Dr. Sherry Price.

Well hello my friends, how are you today? I am doing awesome and I have to say I am super excited about today’s topic. It’s one that I feel that has given me an enormous amount of push and motivation in my life. And I hope it’ll do the same for you. And it’s done that in many areas, not just drinking but of course I’m going to apply it to overcoming an overdrinking habit. So the topic is developing your sense of agency. And first off let’s talk about what agency is and what it is not.

So, agency is taking full ownership and responsibility of your life. It’s being your own best advocate; it’s knowing that you are in control of you and all of you. So it’s knowing that you are in control of how you think, how you feel, what you do and the results you are getting in your life. And this is why I think it’s so critical for us humans to learn how to develop this agency in our life so that we can lead better lives.

Many times when I’m working with my clients I’ll hear them talk about how their boss is asking more of them or providing less pay during these Covid times. Or that their coworkers shouldn’t have said something because it hurt their feelings or someone else in their life shouldn’t be mad or upset with them about their drinking. And I just want to point out that talking about the problem in this way will totally work against developing agency in your life. And why that is, is because you’re pointing to things outside of you that you cannot control.

So let’s talk about what agency isn’t. Agency is not about controlling others. Agency is not about trying to control the people and the things around you because honestly, you have no control over that. Now, I wish we did but the truth of the matter is we really do not. Agency is not about leaving things to chance, or to fate, or to the universe to decide. It’s not about praying harder, praying more, or expecting someone or something to help you out or rescue you. Now, it’s not to say maybe you don’t do those things, it’s just that we don’t rely on that as the only source of help for ourselves.

Now, you know I’m a woman of faith. And I know that I have God’s power on my side. But that doesn’t mean I don’t go to work and do the things on my side that need to be done. I still have to do the work on my end. I still have to do the heavy lifting on my side which means I just need to show up and take action. I need to do my part. So, having agency in your life means that you are someone who has a high internal locus of control and you know that you believe in yourself and you know that how you show up and that taking action truly does matter.

Now, if you’re someone who has a low internal locus of control or what I would say low agency or no agency you’ll wait for your circumstances to change. And how that looks is like you may wait till Covid is over to clean up your drinking, or you may wait till Covid is over till you find a new job or find a companion or a mate. It’s waiting for the circumstances around us to change in order for us to take action.

Or maybe you’ll wait to lose the 20 pounds before you really start the journey of loving yourself because you can start that journey before you lose the weight. Or some people wait until there’s warmer weather to focus on their weight loss goals, or wait till we get out of this, or wait through this season, a period in our life in order to really focus on stop overdrinking. Or it’s like when you wait for your drinking to get worse until you really decide that it needs to get some attention, and worked on, and get under control. It’s like when people wait to hit bottom before they actually take action.

And I think so many of us do this, myself included, it’s like we wait for better conditions, or when the time is right, or when I can afford it, or when I feel more motivated. But that’s just really delaying taking action and not really improving our sense of agency. And when you have this low internal locus of control it feels like you’re in this holding pattern and you’re just waiting on things outside of you to change. And it’s funny because whatever the brain focuses on it will find. So you’ll find reasons to support waiting and not take control, and not develop your sense of agency.

Now, you may think that there’s no real harm to doing this. But what I want to offer you to think about is why you would delay living the life that you want to be living now, why wait? I mean we can even say that the money is a big whopping excuse as well. There are so many free resources on the internet or on YouTube that you can learn to basically do anything. I have a YouTube channel that has a tremendous amount of free resources and masterclasses in order to teach you how to get a drink less lifestyle and so does my website.

So if you listen in to what I’m really saying here it is no longer knowledge that’s a barrier to accomplishing your goal, at least not for most goals, and certainly not the goal of drinking less or not at all, there’s plenty of free resources out there. And what I find with clients is that the number one thing that will make them successful in achieving their goals of drinking less and changing their relationship with alcohol is that they have a high internal locus of control and that they are developing their sense of agency.

I remember I had one client one time who had come to our coaching calls and tell me all the reasons her drinking would just happen, “I just wanted it. I am so stressed from work because we’re rolling out a new program and I had to be on these calls for eight hour training sessions. Or my date just cancelled on me this weekend and that stresses me out. Or I can’t walk today because of the air quality from the fires. Or I can’t find a hobby because everything has closed down during Covid.”

And listen my friends, the world isn’t shut down. The economy is still going. There are opportunities out there they just look a little bit different these days. We still have electricity, running water, banks and stores are still open. It’s not doomsday but yet so many of us have retreated inward and stopped pursuing our hobbies, our interests, our likes and our passions in life. I mean the world still exists and there are plenty of ways businesses have adapted because of Covid. I mean things look differently but you can still do many of the same things.

I mean I had a personal trainer who was over $800 a month at my gym but now she’s going personal fitness training sessions over the internet and her cost is $200 a month, that’s a huge savings for me. And I’m getting to save on the gym membership that I’m no longer using. And see, so I was willing to pivot, and change, and adapt to the environment. It’s not like I’m waiting around for things to change in order to take the actions in my life and be the woman that I want to be today, and especially not giving up on your health, certainly not during these times.

Anything that’s going to improve your immunity, anything that’s going to keep you healthy I think is so worth it now to invest in. Now, I’m also on the side an ambassador for Plexus which is a health and supplement wellness company. And I doubled down on my supplements and I made sure I was taking care of my health during this time. This is super important to staying healthy for me.

And I want to better support my microbiome more and more as this information comes out that it’s critical to our health because our enteric nervous system is our second brain and is responsible for over 90% of our serotonin that’s produced in our body and greater than 70% of our immune system. And health is a priority for me, it always has been and now even to a greater degree.

So those of us with a high internal locus of control like myself we won’t just absorb the information. We will understand the information and then take action. We will implement it. We will do something about it. We will ask questions. We’ll do some research. We’ll ask others for help. We’ll learn if there’s something that we’re learning about could be beneficial and improve our anxiety, or our stress levels in our life, or help with energy. And if we decide that maybe yes it can then we’re willing to try it. And if not then we make the decision, no, it’s not for me.

And here’s the thing, if I try thing and it doesn’t work out I’m not angry, or bitter, or resentful, because I had no idea going in if it was going to work for me. But I wanted to invest, and learn, and know what does work for my body, what doesn’t work for my body. And I want to keep trying new things and figure out what works best for me. And that’s quite honestly how we learn, grow, evolve and truly get and feel better. And you’ll hear me come back to that concept here in a minute.

So here’s what I find so interesting and it’s that many of us know what to do but we just aren’t doing it. Why is that? And I think one of the main reasons is your sense of agency, and of course your sense of urgency. So we’re focusing on agency in this podcast. And where are you taking ownership of your life very seriously? I mean some of us really take ownership in our finances, some of us do not. And if you’re not taking ownership in that part of your life or in an area that you think is important to you, why not?

I think spending time on this question alone can help us learn so much more about ourselves. If I do value it why am I not spending time understanding it and getting better at it if that’s what I desire?

When I did this work in my own life this question allowed me to see and understand myself so much better. And from there it gave me immense progress because if we’re wanting to numb out by overdrinking, and we realize that this is really not helping us, isn’t that a warning sign that we are not aligned with our values somewhere? And it may come down to just your belief. Do you think you can change? Do you think you have the knowledge and skills? And if not then where can you go and get them?

And if you keep putting it off, why? How is this serving you in your life? Because there certainly must be a benefit if you keep putting it off. You must be getting some gain in the short term to lose the gain in the long term. So what comes up for you when I ask that?

So having agency means that you do believe you can change. And that the problem or whatever you’re struggling with is solvable by you. And that’s not to say you won’t need help to get there. But with that help you know that you can do it. And that’s what I did, that’s what I learned through this process that was invaluable. It changed how I viewed and saw myself and it increased my agency in life. Now I understand how and why alcohol was a problem for me and why I used it as a crutch.

I also understand how and why I found parenting my daughter difficult. These were things that were always in my control but I didn’t see it. I didn’t understand it was in my control and I couldn’t grasp it until I asked for help in these specific areas. And so my coach taught me a new way of thinking and a new way of evaluating my life.

And these principles I can apply to so many other parts of my life because for so long I thought it was just because I loved the taste of wine or that my daughter was just difficult, or defiant. And yes, I was convinced that these were the reasons, again, giving away my agency.

And listen, when you really start and increase your agency more and more you get out of victim mode. You stop talking like life is happening to you all the time. You stop living in default mode. You stop thinking well, this is as good as it gets. I’m just trying to get through the day. You stop blaming weekends, and holidays, and your job, and your lack of a job on how you feel and your drinking behavior.

You stop seeing things as failure and you start understanding that any setback is just more learning, and more pivoting, and more course correcting that you need to do. It doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your goal. And when you take more agency over your life you stop thinking that you won’t change and that the best days are behind you.

And what I love about developing my agency more and more is realizing how much I can control in my life and focusing on that and then living my life on my terms, realizing I get to set the rules, I get to set the definitions, I get to say what works for me and what doesn’t. Now, I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t like it when I put myself in victim mode because I feel stuck, I feel that there’s no way out. I feel like I don’t have the solutions.

And I don’t want to wait for the right time because I really know that is an illusion, that’s a mental illusion. Just like there’s never a right time to have kids or get pregnant, for most of us it didn’t happen on our timeline anyway. And guess what? We did it, we adapted. We pivoted. We made it work all because we developed our agency in this area of life.

Now, here’s why I think it’s so critical to develop your agency, because you grow, because you have a higher likelihood of succeeding, because you learn and you develop grit, because you find new talents and develop new skills than when you don’t try. Because you learn what works and what doesn’t, because you learn about you and connect with yourself more, and bonus, because research shows you’re happier and healthier when you develop agency. Because I’ll tell you what, the alternative doesn’t feel good.

Who wants to set goals and not achieve them and then blame everyone around them, or things around them, or circumstances around them because we weren’t able to achieve them? That’s on us my friends. And I think that’s wonderful to know because only we can control us. So developing agency is about living a life that we truly want to live, and to me that’s freedom.

And here’s what I find a lot of women get wrong about freedom. They think that it’s free and meaning that there’s a lack of responsibility and that’s why they get to drink and unwind, because they don’t feel responsible, when quite the opposite is true. We are still responsible if we’re inebriated or not, and we want that responsibility because that means we are in power of making choices and controlling the destiny of our life and that feels like freedom. That feels like you have a choice. That feels like your decisions and your choices matter.

You know what doesn’t feel like freedom? When you feel like you’re running on autopilot and you’re not even conscious or aware of why you keep drinking, that feels like slavery and self-oppression. Think about that, self-oppression, some say self-sabotage, but I think it feels more like oppression because you’re not living the better life that you want to live. You’re staying small, you’re playing small, and you’re using alcohol as a scapegoat. And we know playing small doesn’t feel good.

So let’s look at ways we can increase or develop our own agency in our life. And I want to give you three steps that have really helped me in my life. And they’re going to sound a little like tough love. So the first step is stop choosing to be confused. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard women say these sentences over and over to me. I don’t know why I want it so much. I don’t know why I keep overdrinking. Or I don’t know what I want my relationship to look like with alcohol. Or I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself.

I don’t know why this keeps happening to me and why I struggle with wine so much. Stop choosing to be confused is step one. Why are you choosing to be confused? Find out why, you do know why, it is inside of you. Be honest with yourself. And I think that’s what a lot of us don’t want to do is be honest with ourselves. But if you’re not honest with yourself you stay stuck. You can’t get traction because you’re choosing to be confused. I’ll tell you what, you want the answer to why you’re drinking, the easiest way, stop drinking.

What happens when you stop drinking? Well, your brain will tell you exactly why you want the drink, because if you’re withholding it your brain’s going to scream like a toddler saying, “I want my drink.” And if you say, “Why do you want your drink?” Boom. Now’s the start of your journey of finding out why you want alcohol so much, so be aware, stay present. Get out of this habit trance. Stop the autopilot. That’s when we are just subconsciously going through our lives not staying aware, not staying present with why we’re choosing and making these decisions along the way.

So it’s like you have to wake-up your feelings, and your emotions, and your brain and say, “Hey, what’s going on inside here? I want to know. I really want to know. I want to end the confusion.” Get honest. Remember, don’t run from it, running from it means you want to numb it or escape it. And that will just perpetuate the habit even more. So choose what you want and go after it. Stop choosing to be confused.

Alright, step number two, are you ready?  Some more tough love, we’ve got to drop the drama and the stories of the past. We have all been through a version of a tough life. And we may not understand other people’s version of a tough life. We just know our own and quite honestly that’s enough. It doesn’t matter how bad it was. And we don’t need to compare our tough life with somebody else’s tough life because it really doesn’t matter. So I’m sympathetic and empathetic by saying we all go through difficult times. We’re not here to rate our level of difficulty.

We need to learn how to evolve, move on and move past it so it doesn’t stay with us and we harbor resentment and bitterness, and anger over it, because that doesn’t serve our present nor our future. Every single one of us have been let down by ourselves, by others. We’ve all had circumstances we wish we didn’t have to deal with but we did. And we survived. And we made it to the other side quite swimmingly well for a lot of us. So don’t think your past drama makes you a special unicorn.

And I’m not trying to minimize it. I’m just trying to mention that we all go through difficult times. And when we choose to let that define us that means we’re bringing our past into our present. And we’re not healing from it. We’re not slowly forgiving ourselves, or forgiving the circumstance, or what had happened in the past. And that means you keep carrying forward the pain, the fear, the sorrow, the anger, the resentment, the bitterness. And you bring it with you to your present. And then you wonder why you want to escape.

So many of us who had an overdrinking issue, we know it’s because our brain had assigned importance to having a drink. It’s no longer neutral for your brain if it’s feeling like it’s controlling you. And I work with clients all the time to make alcohol this neutral thing so it has little or no pull over you, so you can just take it or leave it.

And if you can’t take it or leave it it’s because you developed over-desire for it and that’s what I talked about in episode two of my podcast. That’s it. It’s not because you’re a bad person. It’s not because of your genetic makeup, it’s not because of your parents and what they thought about alcohol and how they influenced you, and what you did when you were 12, or 21, or 24. No, it’s just that your brain has been trained to want it. That’s it. And to break this we have to be willing to feel the feelings and process them and not numb them. And guess what? Drop all the drama.

You don’t drink because of the taste, I promise you that. That’s not what’s keeping you overdrinking because by the third, or the fourth, or the sixth drink you don’t even notice the taste. You may notice the sensation that it’s cold but you really don’t notice the taste, let’s be honest. Or you know what you notice? The buzz, that sensation is what you become accustomed to. That’s what you want.

Sometimes that’s why you drink, for that euphoria, that little bit of high, that little bit of good feeling. But it’s certainly not for the taste. There are plenty of other liquids out there that we can like and we like the taste. So when we talk about step two it is really about dropping all the drama. And for a lot of people that means the drama of the past.

You associated wine, or alcohol, or beer with good times, connecting with others. But you can retrain your brain that it doesn’t have to mean that and it doesn’t have to signify that at this stage in your life. And guess what? You can still bond, connect with people. And I guarantee you, you will connect on a whole new level that’s more meaningful, more delightful, more fun and you’ll experience more joy with no consequences. So that is step two my friends.

Now let’s move on to step three. To increase and develop agency in your life you need to be willing to learn new things, especially to be curious with yourself and learn new things about yourself. Or maybe you knew they were there but you’re now just rediscovering them. Allow your mind to stretch and see things in a new way.

And I love this quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. that says, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Because when your mind can see that with less alcohol or no alcohol you can still have fun, you still have meaningful conversations, and even more so and probably more fun, that is going to stretch your brain. And then you’re going to have different thoughts around alcohol. When you have different thoughts around alcohol you get different feelings therefore your desire will go down.

Remember, this is back to the think, feel, act cycle. And then our action will be we won’t want to drink as much because now we have a different relationship with alcohol in our mind. But here’s where a lot of people get hung up, because they don’t believe they can achieve this. But be willing to believe in yourself, a 100%, so many of us are afraid to do this. We just assume that we’re going to fail and so it doesn’t even allow us to begin or to try something new.

So when we try a few times, maybe once, twice, three, four, five, ten times and then we don’t get the result we stop trying. We stop trying new modalities, new strategies, new tactics to get what we want. We just assume we’re stuck. This is the way it’s going to be and I’m going to have an overdrinking habit forever. But the truth is that we can do it. It just takes maybe some more time or a tweaking of the plan, or the tactic, or the strategy that you’re trying.

And you have to be willing to learn from yourself, you have to be willing to know what works for your brain and what doesn’t. And that means learning about yourself, getting in touch with that side of you that some of us may not want to see, or look at, admit or accept. But when you refuse to look within then you’re always going to feel out of alignment because you’re going to be doing things that aren’t in alignment with what you want to be doing.

So you really want to investigate those thoughts, and those feelings, and those ideas so that you can know yourself better. And ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, exploring them does.

I was coaching a client the other day and I helped her see that she has a certain pattern in her life. And it happens with alcohol but it doesn’t just happen with alcohol. There’s a pattern, it’s a habit, it’s the way her brain has adopted this belief system and has totally wired it in. And I described it as when she stumbles she crumbles. So for her one small misstep in her drinking, or her eating, allows her to completely derail herself for days, for weeks. She just says, “I fall off into the slippery slope, into this abyss and I just can’t get back up.”

And once she saw that this was a pattern in a few areas of her life, and she linked it back to this is the pattern her brain was operating in, she was floored. She hadn’t seen this before. And she says she feels like she’s wasted so much time because she didn’t understand that she would take one stumble and that was the reason that she caved and just crumbled.

So I said to her, “What if this stumble was just a stumble? What if it’s like a small speed bump we have to go over in our car on the road? What if it’s just a necessary part of getting from point A to point B? What if it’s actually part of the journey? What if you use that stumble as something to learn from rather than a reason to throw in the towel?” Now, we all have patterns or ways that we’ve adopted to do things. Our brains do this because it makes it efficient. If we had to think all the time it would be quite tiring.

So when there’s a pattern it requires less energy and less mental power. And that energy can be used for solving other problems or doing other things. So we have to be willing to learn new things and be curious about our behaviors and our patterns.

And I was using this example as I was coaching a different woman another day. I was talking about how I got a 60 on my first biology exam in pharmacy school. And I’ve never received that low of a grade in my life. This was a stumble. And if you asked me back then it felt like a big stumble. I wasn’t used to getting low grades. But I didn’t make it mean that I was doomed and I will fail freshman year of biology. I didn’t make it mean I wouldn’t become a pharmacist some day and I wouldn’t graduate. I just had to learn to change my study strategies and tactics.

I was learning that how I studied, and the time I studied for high school wasn’t translating to what I needed to do in college. I noticed I was focusing on the big picture but I needed to pay attention to a lot more details for these exams in college. I remained curious and why it happened so. And I understood my level of effort and what I needed to try differently next time. So don’t make a stumble into a crumble where you just stay there. It’s just something to learn from, to be curious about, to understand what you can do better next time.

So these are the three steps that I think about to increase my agency when I want to really increase my ability to gain a goal, or to get a goal, or achieve a goal. And I find them incredibly helpful, because if we just get really curious about why we’re doing what we’re doing we can find out so much more. Why are you giving alcohol so much power in your life? What are you using it for? A lot of people use it as a stress reliever. Or what emotional need is not being met? And you’re using alcohol to numb the pain of that not being met.

Or maybe you’re using it for stress and anxiety. And those feelings should be cared for in a different fashion because we know alcohol contributes to more stress and anxiety. How are you not attending to your own needs and using wine as a scapegoat?

And remember when you’re doing these three steps. Developing agency is an ongoing process. And it’s counter to what many of us are taught in life. Now, I wanted my agency back where I got to choose whether or not I was going to drink and how much. I wanted that decision to be on my terms and not an automatic decision, not something that I felt was happening outside of my control. I wanted to learn how to get my control back. So use these three steps my friends to increase your sense of agency.

Alright my friends, that’s what I have for you today. Thank you so much for showing up and listening to my podcast each week, I really appreciate you and I can’t wait to see you next week. Have an amazing week.

Thanks for listening to Drink Less Lifestyle. If you’re ready to change your relationship with drinking now check out the free guide, How to Effectively Break the Overdrinking Habit at sherryprice.com/startnow. See you next week.

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