Are you cause in the matter or subject to circumstance?
Agency is the ability to be responsible for your choices and circumstances. Adults have agency. Infants and puppies do not. If you hate rain, you can move to the Okanagan or Arizona. You do not need to be a victim to the Wet Coast climate. You chose it. Even though you might have forgotten that fact. I was born in central Canada. That was not my choice. At age 21 I discovered the beauty of the Westcoast and I chose to relocate here permanently. You also have the choice. Remind yourself everytime it rains: “I choose rain.”
Not everyone operates in the world as if they have agency but it is a trainable skill. And once you discover it you will suddenly have power over your universe. In his book Chasing Excellence Ben Bergeron reveals to us that Katrin Daviddottir did not always approach competition with this mindset but developed this skill under his coaching. She is now renowned for possessing one of CrossFit’s most powerful competitive mindsets as she has learned to own her world. You can learn too.
Competitors tend to demonstrate agency in how they approach workouts. In fact, that’s why they enjoy competition and aren’t intimidated by it, because they recognize that their behaviours determine their outcomes. And they control their behaviours. How does this manifest in the gym? Competitors arrive at the gym with a plan of how they intend to attack the workout. It may be the right plan, it may be the wrong plan. That is immaterial, either way they are going to learn an important lesson they can apply to future workouts. As soon as they enter the gym, competitors start ordering the universe to serve them and support their best performance. In fact, they often drive coaches to distraction with their prima donna-like requirements. They want the exact right height pull up bar, their favourite barbell, they need tape, chalk, wrist wraps, their personal skipping rope and they need to clean the rower before use. As annoying as this behavior can be it is an important clue to the mindset habits necessary for optimal performance. Competitors recognize that they have control over a myriad of factors that will impact their performance and they do not hesitate to exert this control to give themselves the best chance for success.
This is in direct contrast to athletes who arrive at the gym unclear what the workout of the day is, unfamiliar with the workout movements or format and with no defined plan on how to tackle the WOD. Instead of agency, they behave like they are subject to the programming, victims if you will. Instead of rearranging their workout station to support their performance they set themselves up in awkward or even dangerous positions so that their movements are compromised by environmental factors that are within their control. Interestingly, during the workout they make similar mistakes failing to load correctly, failing to set up carefully for lifts and failing to use appropriate pacing. They seem to approach each workout like a great big question mark as if they do not have any control over the outcome. These same people tend to get very stressed out by the prospect of competition. These are also the athletes most likely to suffer frequent minor tweaks during workouts.
Athletes without agency correctly understand that they do not control the universe. They do not control which workout The Castro will program. They do not control the weather. And they do not control how fast the other competitors are. They are so hyper aware of the circumstances outside their control that they fail to recognize a deeper truth which is that the secret to mastering the universe is mastering oneself. When you stop paying attention to the things outside your control you will discover that you have absolute control over how you respond to what the universe gives you. You control your practice, your preparation, your pacing, your loading. You control what you focus on. So focus on the things YOU CAN control!
So instead of tripping over the plyobox and rower crowding your station, for safety’s sake, move them! Load the bar appropriately to your fitness level. Set up with excellent form for each and every rep. Use appropriate pacing. Set yourself up for success. Order your universe to serve you. Practice having agency and you will discover that YOU are the master of your universe!
Equipment: wall ball or alternative, rower or alternative
20 Medball Front Squats
10 Medball Push Presses
Wall Ball alternatives
Shoulder Pull Overs