Jacky Leonard's blog

Thriving in a VUCA world

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

The term VUCA comes from US Military vocabulary and describes the world we inhabit today…Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.  Politically, economically, socially and environmentally we are having to deal with relentless change, which can be difficult to predict, challenging to manage and sometimes lead to physical, mental and emotional overwhelm.

There’s no doubt life can be demanding, so how can you survive, or better still, learn to thrive in a VUCA world?  Let’s turn VUCA into Bob Johanson’s prime model.  What if you had Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility instead?  How might that change your perspective and influence your approach to handling life’s numerous challenges?

Here’s my take on how a more positive version of VUCA can help you capitalise on your strengths and regain some life balance.

Vision – Time marches on.  People who have a vision of their future have something to aim for and can plan a route map towards those goals.  That doesn’t mean having your head in the clouds, a forward thinker will look back and learn from mistakes of the past, consider how that might influence their goals and strategy and make the necessary adjustments in the actions they take in the present.  Bringing the focus back to now, in order to take decisive daily action.  Success is a habit, resulting from consistent daily action towards what you want, whilst being mindful of what you don’t.


Understanding – I like to see this an understanding of yourself and others.  This requires taking a good long look in the metaphorical mirror and being honest about your strengths and shortcomings.  It means being willing and able to interact and build relationships with a diverse range of people, even those who may not share your opinions.  It means stepping outside your comfort zone, asking yourself challenging questions and accepting the feedback, even when it may be unpalatable.

Who are you, what’s your purpose, what strengths and limitations do you have?

Are you willing to stretch yourself, fail and learn from your mistakes?  Can you accept feedback from others and use it for continual improvement? 

Do you have positive relationships with other people and appreciate their contribution and worth?  How do you challenge, support and motivate people?  When did you last tell someone how much you valued them?

How can, or do you adopt the right attitude to continually improve?


Clarity – Once you have a vision of your future and a better understanding of how you and your significant others contribute, the picture becomes clearer.  This clarity of roles, responsibilities and resources provides you with a better understanding about what you can be held accountable for, and what is outside your control. 

Are you one of those people who give yourself a hard time by worrying about things you can’t control?  Having clarity helps you avoid burn out, take appropriate daily action and influence others successfully.

You can’t control your environment, other people, or circumstances.  Thinking you can, leads to unhealthy relationships, frustration and fatigue.  Here are the 3 things you can completely control, if you choose to…

What you THINK

What you FEEL

What you DO

That’s it!  On the surface, it looks easy doesn’t it, but as you know it’s not quite as simple as it might first appear.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you have control over these things because you’ve developed disempowering habits.  Often the gap between think, feel, do becomes smaller and your responses become triggered easily, making you quick to judge, anger and react.  

Habitual behaviour is necessary but can be detrimental without some mechanism to review and reflect whether what you do still works for you.  The truth is, the more you focus on the things you can control, the better you’ll be able to cope with demands around you and positively influence others.  


Agility – In the words of Alvin Toffler, this is about being able to ‘…learn, unlearn and relearn.’  To be, in flow and able to adapt and respond appropriately to the constant changes and demands placed upon you every day.

To be agile you have to adopt what Carol Dweck calls, a Growth Mindset.  To be willing to fail, learn from those failings and start again with renewed energy, enthusiasm and approach. 

How do you ensure you have the energy, enthusiasm and resilience required to begin again, more intelligently?  I think one of the main ingredients is kindness, particularly to yourself.  Take time out, rest, do something you enjoy, meet with friends, practice mindfulness and learn to be present. You’ll often return with renewed energy and a different perspective.


Life will always be challenging.  Balance requires perspective.  Sometimes you can be so busy comparing yourself with others and worrying about things you can’t control, you forget to work on the things you can.  How will you use this more positive version of VUCA to influence your behaviour?

What one thing will you commit to do today to capitalise on your strengths?