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  • Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

When do you step up your personal agency game to bring yourself to the table?

Personal agency is a complex concept and in light of current events, it has become even more interesting. Agency refers to the healthy feeling of being in the driver's seat of our own actions, being in charge. And conversely, it also means not being unduly or mindlessly influenced by others. Stepping into increased personal agency is a powerful tool in reducing toxic stress.

Where do you exercise personal agency because it is good for your personal interests? Personal agency can feel easy when it requires little risk, when it serves personal interests, and when there is choice. Deciding which media to read is a good example. If one lives in a society that values freedom of the press, there is choice and little risk in choosing a media source, like Letters from an American that serves a person's personal interests in understanding the historical context of current events.

It gets more challenging when you step up your personal agency game for the good of the whole (family or organization or community), especially when it feels risky. The seven senators who stepped up this past week to use personal agency to vote to convict that the former president did so with courage, not because it was easy and not because it was without risk, but because it was the right thing to do for the whole.

You don't have to be a senator to be in the game, however. What happens when you are working in the yoga industry and you start to notice subtle conspiracy theory or anti-vax messaging on media platforms, or your fellow yoga teacher's shifting rhetoric has subtle undertones and you feel the prickly recognition of "something is not right here." Can you step up your personal agency game now? Your personal interests may be to keep your head down and stay in your own lane. But the organization/industry interests are for you to stand up and call out what you are hearing so that your studio can continue to be a safe place for employees and clients. Exercising personal agency muscles in this case requires shifting perspective from me to us, from risk avoidance to risk acceptance, and a spacious vision of choice.

Who has the power to exert personal agency with regularity?

And who keeps themselves from showing up at the table?

Consider these four prompts when you are in conversation about personal agency within your family or your organization.

  • Recall a time when you stepped into personal agency, when it served your personal interests, required limited or no risk and you had choice. How did that serve you?

  • Recall a time when you stepped into personal agency because it served your personal interests, but required risk and you had limited choices. What supported your willingness to take that risk?

  • Recall the times in your life when you let significant opportunities for personal agency pass you by. Why did you let them go?

  • If you were more willing to step out of your personal agency comfort zone, which opportunities might arise for your family or your organization or your community?


Personal agency muscles can be exercised on the daily. Start with being aware, then noticing, followed by action aligned with your values.

Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.


Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 



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