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3 Tips to Surviving Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous Times

When I was much younger, I loved mountain climbing and rough terrain hiking or excursions. I was not the strongest or most athletic person but that did not stop my determination. I realized that two qualities were essential to this kind of adventure —resilience and willpower.  I recall one instance when we went on a rough camping trip to the Amboseli National Park (Kenya) with a group of boy scouts.

Due to poor planning by the tour company we contracted as guides for the trip, our school bus driver almost drove us into Lake Amboseli since he lacked clear directions. Needless to say, we did not have GPS back then. As a result, we got lost in the park, and had to spend the night in a bus full of forty young boys since the bus got stuck in muddy clay waters at about 10:00 PM! Nature calls so we all needed to use the bathroom at some point and that meant stepping out of the bus into stinking mud because it had been used as a bathroom by elephants that frequented that section of the park, and other wild animals. To make matters worse we had to get back inside the bus with foul-smelling muddy shoes.

We resorted not to opening the windows because the mosquitoes in that part of the world felt like getting a huge jab when they bit us. Our food was stuck in the trunk that was located at the rear end of the bus so we had to sleep hungry. The team leader, who I accompanied on the trip, was a physically strong athletic man but he was so frustrated by the turn of events that he broke down crying and asked me how I was able to cope yet I was the only female on the trip…ha!

I recently learned a new acronym called “VUCA” which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It describes the situation of constant, unpredictable change that is now the norm in certain industries and areas of the business world.

Image Source: Talent Quest

An article by explains that the United States Army War College was one of the first organizations to use the VUCA acronym, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Military planners were worried about the radically different and unfamiliar international security environment that had emerged, so they used VUCA to describe it. VUCA stands for:

  • Volatile – change is rapid and unpredictable in its nature and extent.
  • Uncertain – the present is unclear, and the future is uncertain.
  • Complex – many different, interconnected factors come into play, with the potential to cause chaos and confusion.
  • Ambiguous – there is a lack of clarity or awareness about situations.

While VUCA is a term mainly used and applied in the marketplace, I think that it can be used for self-reflection. You may find that your present circumstances are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

What you can do to deal with VUCA in your life

The Niagara Institute lists three ways to survive in a VUCA world: Develop Resilience; Reframe Thinking; and Hone Learning Agility.

We can apply the above these three tips in our daily lives as follows:

1. Resilience is your key to survival. Build it using the hardships, losses, and trouble you have faced.

If you give up [show yourself weak] when trouble comes [on the day of distress/trouble], it shows that you are weak [your strength is small]. Proverbs 24:10 EXB

If you faint when under pressure, you have need of courage. Proverbs 24:10 The Passion Translation

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”― Angela Duckworth

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”― Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”Elizabeth Edwards

“‎Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.”― Henry Ward Beecher

“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo- far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.”― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

“If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.”― Shane Koyczan

“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.”
― Greg Kincaid

2. Reframe your Thinking. Watch what goes into your mind.

“As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.” James Allen

“A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.” James Allen, 

“A person is limited only by the thoughts that he chooses.” James Allen

3. Hone your ability to learn and remain a lifelong learner.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7 King James Version

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” ― Michel Legrand

“All I have learned, I learned from books.”― Abraham Lincoln

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”― Albert Einstein

Your inspirational friend,


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