We have all experienced a time in life where we have felt "backed into a corner" and that we have nowhere to turn. This feeling of helplessness can arise from situations like being diagnosed with a major illness, the death of a loved one, or being terminated from our job. Relationship breakups are another example where we often feel that we have no control of what is happening. These are just a few examples of situations where we can feel like we have been stripped of all power. This can leave us feeling paralyzed and vulnerable.
The less power we have over out outer world, the more important it becomes to exercise control over our inner world. Agency is the opposite of helplessness. Agency refers to the "sense of control and sometimes to self-efficacy, which is a learnt belief of an individual about his or her own ability to succeed in specific situations." (psychologydictionary.org/agency/) Another way of saying this is that agency is the sense of being a cause rather than an effect.
Perhaps one of the most powerful examples of someone who exerted inner control when all outer control had been stripped away is Viktor Frankl. Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. Here is a quote from his well-known book Man's Search For Meaning: "We who lived in concentration camps can remember men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread...offers proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's own way."
When you find yourself in a situation where your agency is limited, remember Frankl's inspiring words. We have little control over much of our outer circumstances, however nobody has the power to take away our ability to choose how we respond. Although you cannot choose what life throws at you, you always have the choice in how you respond.