Your Better Self with Akanna: Dealing With Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA)
I heard the term VUCA for the first time this past week. My boss used it while trying to describe the times we’re in now. My ears perked up of course, because he used it casually at first, like he expected everyone to understand what it meant. But then he went on to explain the full meaning of the term.
VUCA is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It describes the situation of constant, unpredictable change that is now the norm, not only in the business world, but in the whole world itself.
The volatility brought on by COVID-19 has caused some uncertainty in the last two years. As if that weren’t enough, more volatile circumstances seem to spring up in rapid succession. From wars, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, to rumours of wars, like China and Taiwan, to insane inflation rates all around the world. Rising costs of food and other essentials. Nothing seems certain anymore.
Only recently, Canada behaved like Nigeria did during the #EndSARS protests and froze the bank accounts of protesters who were tired of COVID-19 restrictions. Shocking! What’s even more shocking is that no other Western leader saw the unprecedented action fit for condemnation. The stability and sense of security that was once the hallmark of the West — the trust that the government wouldn’t turn against its citizens — is now very much in question.
Nothing is simple anymore. Not even the male-female dichotomy. Everything’s fluid. Everything’s complex. You now look with suspicion at something that seems simple. It’s too good to be true. It has to be complex and ambiguous to fit into today’s world. Once it makes too much sense, it is amply rejected.
Well, we still have to navigate this world, don’t we? After all, we still live in it. We have no choice. So what’s to do at times like this? Here are 5 essentials for navigating a VUCA world:
Find an Anchor
The world around us is like a raging sea right now, and in order to remain steady in it, we need something to hold us down. We need an anchor.
This is where faith comes in. A well exercised faith in God is like finding a very reliable anchor in a raging sea. Christians, for example, know that this world isn’t the end for us. We’re going to a much better place hereafter, where there’s no such concept as VUCA. So that knowledge and hope goes a long way in keeping us calm in a chaotic world; knowing that all these will pass away some day and everything will be made new again.
Faith in God is non-negotiable in VUCA times. It’s very depressing living without hope in a crumbling world. You could’ve coped at other times, maybe with friends or work or just something to take your mind off the harshness of reality. But nowadays, even those things are unstable and unreliable. Friends and family are turning against one another, jobs are uncertain because of the economy and restrictions. Only God is sure not to change in these rapidly changing times.
Reduce the VUCA in Your Own Life
Now isn’t the time to add extra stress to your personal life. The world is stressful enough. Be quick to forgive and make up with anyone you’ve had some strife with. Try to limit the changes in your life – no moving from place to place, job to job, or church to church. Try to find some immediate stability. The more things change, the more we must have things that rarely change. This keeps us sane.
Routines are good. Maybe have a morning and an evening one. Something you can always count on. Plan out your day before you start it so that you’re not walking into chaos. The world is chaotic enough. Declutter your home and keep it as organised as you can. You don’t want the stress of always having to look everywhere for something whenever you need to use it. There’s a sense of peace attached to knowing where everything is. That assurance that things are readily accessible when you need them is priceless.
Be with Family, Establish Deep Roots
Having deep roots, whether with family or with friends, is another form of anchoring down in an unstable world. With everything that’s going on, it’s so easy to get discouraged from settling down. “What’s the point of marrying and raising kids in this kind of world, after all? And friends? Who needs them? They just add drama to the already dramatic world, please! All I need is God, He’s the only reliable one.”
Yes, God is the only reliable one, but He’s also put you in a world with people there. I think He wants you to interact with them. And doing so will create bonds that are much better than being alone. Getting married and raising children shouldn’t be put off in times like this. Having an immediate family provides an immense depth of stability, especially in very unstable times. So cherish family and cherish friends too.
Start Becoming a Generalist
It’s true that an economy works best when specialisation is emphasised. As different people are individually responsible for different aspects of production and trade, collaboration happens and the economy thrives on this. Everyone is better off because they didn’t depend on only themselves for sustenance, they leaned on one another.
But when the economy is uncertain, because of the times we’re in, remaining a specialist might eventually become detrimental rather than helpful. The craftsman you’ve been depending on to fix broken things around your house may not be available anymore because of how uncertain things are. Or such services could become incredibly expensive because of the insane inflation regime.
It may be wise to pick up more skills in order to be more self-sufficient before that becomes the case. Maybe I should finally let my wife learn to cut my hair because of this. But, you know, it’s just a guy thing to form an unbreakable bond with his barber.
Cut Out the Noise
Finally, crazy world events like these would have you checking the news and social media all the time. But you already know that the world is crazy, so there’s really no need to keep on checking to confirm all the time.
Limit your media consumption, especially social media, and instead focus more on activities that bring you peace and calm your nerves. Conversing with your spouse, playing with your kids, visiting family and friends, volunteering at church, reading a good book. There are many such rewarding activities that we deprive ourselves of by constantly being on our phones and having our heads spin.
We must remain hopeful and grounded in everything that’s life-affirming. The way of the world is negative. It runs on negativity and it’s up to us to put a positive spin on it. Create your own world and don’t hold back on unleashing all the love, stability and care into it. Charity does indeed begin at home. We cannot look to the world to be charitable to us. It’s only through our conscious effort at leading peaceful, stable and simple lives personally, that we’re able to deal with the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world out there.