July 4, 2022

A Practice: The Five A’s for Agility in the Face of Change

Finding joy requires practice. Learn how you can be agile and experience more joy in your daily life through our 5-step process.

Photo by: Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash

While we are inclined to structure and rhythm as humans, it is important to be agile through disruption and changing circumstances. Our research at the Thrive Center points to five steps to finding agility. These steps are meant to enable you to stay connected to joy and your deepest purposes. Thriving doesn’t happen in a straight line, and the 5 A’s of Agility practice – if done regularly – provides a healthy rhythm to support emotion regulation, insight, and intentional living.

1. Attune

Listen to your emotions, and find practices that will regulate your emotions and bodily sensations.

  • Scan your body for places of tension. Are you feeling joy? Anger? Stress? If so, why? Where do those feelings show up in your body (e.g., stiff neck, back pain, etc.)?
  • Take a 5-minute walk to limit distractions and tune into your emotions.
  • Practice mindful breathing techniques. Take a deep inhale for five seconds, and slowly exhale for another 5 seconds. Repeat this exercise, extending your exhale for a few more seconds than your inhale. This is very calming for the emotions and takes you out of fight or flight mode.

2. Aware

Reflect on what your emotions are telling you. How do they help you understand what matters most to you?

  • Practice journaling daily. There’s no wrong way to journal. Get started by dumping all your thoughts and feelings onto a page.
  • Name and release your emotions in a safe and trusted space. When feeling overwhelmed, find a close, dependable friend, a licensed professional therapist[1] or a leader in your community who will support and listen to you without judgment.
  • Practice emotional agility.[2] Learn to face your emotions with curiosity, compassion, and courage.
  • Accept your emotions without judgment. Avoid sweeping them under the rug.

3. Align

Take active steps to align your actions and behaviors with your beliefs, values, and what matters most to you.

  • Practice introspection. Ask yourself on a daily basis whether your actions and decisions are aligned to your values and beliefs. Note any misalignments.
  • Name what is important to you when you meditate or pray. Where is your life heading?
  • Create space between your reactions and actions. Be aware of any weaknesses in order to increase your emotional intelligence and make conscious decisions.

4. Activate

Utilize the resources and stay connected with the people around you as you activate your purpose.

  • Explore your gifts, skills, and talents through meaning-making exercises, Strengths Finder, or other similar tools. 
  • Consider your long-term, future goals. Are they aligned to your purpose and what you value most in life?
  • Find ways to contribute to your community. How can you use your gifts, skills, and talents to serve those around you?
  • Tap into gratitude and joy. How might these give you insight into where you feel most purposeful?

5. Assess

Evaluate how it is going. What have you learned about yourself?

  • Return to your journal and re-examine your goals. Where have you been? Where do you want to go?
  • Be open to feedback. Ask a trusted and supportive friend for advice.
  • Seek to understand yourself and avoid blame for mistakes made. Be honest with yourself. Where do you feel shame? Joy? Confusion?

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[1] Fuller Psychological and Family Services (FPFS) is an on-site counseling and community clinic at Fuller Seminary. For more information or to book an appointment with a therapist, visit their website or contact them at 626-584-5555.

[2] Learn more about emotional agility in this interview with psychologist, Susan David:

Pamela Ebstyne King Executive Director, Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science


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