Many people I have met prefer stability, certainty, simplicity and clarity to uncertainty and continuous change. They are discovering that the things we can be certain of are:
- Continuous change and impermanence - nothing lasts forever, everything is subject to change.
- Uncertainty - with few exceptions, you can not know how things will turn out.
- Disappointments - some things will not satisfy our expectations and desires.
- Instability - What seems to be solid and permanent is really a momentary point in the ongoing process of change. Everything is fluid.
We live in a dynamic process characterized by VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
is the speed and direction of change.
is about the degree to which outcomes can be predicted and issues and events understood.
is the result of the number and nature of interacting forces and their effects on one another.
represents the fuzziness of understanding.
All of these seem to be increasing in intensity with no letup in sight. For those who rely on stability and predictability, the greater the VUCA the more stressful the situation.
VUCA's characteristics intertwine and feed on one another with uncertainty resulting from the interplay of complexity, volatility and ambiguity. This occurs in interpersonal relationships, projects, organizations and society. At home, the interplay of quickly changing economic conditions and the complexity and ambiguity regarding the nature of relationships add up to uncertainty regarding how that relationship will turn out in the future. At work, changing political agendas leading to uncertain funding commitments, ambiguous goals and objectives and complex relationships among various departments, suppliers and customers add up to great uncertainty about what will be accomplished by when and for how much.
Look at your own situation. How does VUCA effect your projects and relationships?
VUCA is neither good nor bad. It is a concept that highlights the nature of reality - it is what is. If you understand and embrace VUCA you have an opportunity to better manage your life, projects and organizations. You can anticipate and plan in a way that minimizes the negative effects of VUCA and make the best of the opportunities it affords. You may be able to moderate the pace of change, clarify the ambiguities, simplify the complexities and influence change toward a chosen direction.
Those who ignore the changing, uncertain, complex and ambiguous nature of their world are in for trouble. They are likely to fail in their attempts to stave off change and to miss opportunities. They will become reactionary and reactive.
We can see this in the response to the move away from the use of fossil fuel by those who want to hold onto the profits and jobs that come from the production and use of coal, natural gas and oil. Imagine the pain of the coal miner who sees his job going away and the motivation he has to cast his vote for someone who promises to save his industry, even though on some level, everyone knows that it is impossible to stop the flow of history towards clean energy or human-caused disasters like poisoned water, polluted air and their impact on people.
On a personal level, ignoring abuse and dysfunction or changing feelings in a relationship perpetuates the negative and misses the opportunity to move in a positive direction, with or without the other person.
Putting one's head in the ground will not make the change go away. The walls built to stop the change will be washed away by the flood of history and at great cost. The denial of changing values and feelings and the over simplification of relationships will inevitably result in unnecessary suffering.
What to Do
The bottom line is to accept the reality of your situation. Get used to being without any ground under your feet, roof above your head or walls around you. You are in free fall. Thrive in it and enjoy the ride.
Assess the probability of having things turn out the way you want them to and act accordingly. If the likelihood of your expected outcome is low no matter what you do, then consider changing your expectations.
If the rate of change is increasing, get better at "dancing", cultivate resiliency and graceful adaptability. See what you can do about slowing things down but don't count on the external world meeting your need for well moderated change. Step back and observe from the eye of the storm.
Stop expecting certainty about anything that will take place in the future. Accept not knowing to become comfortable with uncertainty and the feelings that come up when you don't know what will happen next. Let not knowing be OK, at least for the moment.
Accept that there is a limit to the degree you can simplify your situation. Complexity is a fact of life. As Einstein said, "Make things as simple as possible but no simpler."
As complexity increases, counter ambiguity by stepping back and taking a systems and process view that enables better understanding of the dynamic forces at work. Do your best to say what you mean clearly, concisely and so that others can understand it in the way you meant it to be understood.
Fundamental to these is the cultivation of mindful awareness - the ability to objectively observe whatever is happening, within and without, while being completely immersed in the activity of daily life. This leads to the emotional intelligence that allows you to be responsive rather than reactive in the face of frustration, disappointment, fear and anger and to the cognitive intelligence that helps you make the best of the situation.
2017 George Pitagorsky