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Tending to Our Inner Landscape in an Uncertain World

Updated: May 30

Written by Chloe Howe

Chloe is a mother if two and qualified as a Life Coach after a ten-year career in Corporate HR. She is currently a Learning Coach supporting adult learners to achieve their study and career goals.

“There is nothing permanent except change.”


-       Heraclitus (540–480 BCE)

The rate of change in our world is increasing. Artificial intelligence alone is driving an unseen speed of change that is beyond even experts' comprehension of the very near future. Not to mention climate change, resource scarcity, political turbulence, and the aftermath of COVID-19 felt in our economy and health. The world is becoming less predictable, more complex, increasingly volatile, and ambiguous; otherwise known as VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity)—a term adopted by the business world after the 2008 global financial crisis.


In contrast, we know that our brains seek familiarity and safety in routine for the purpose of survival and energy preservation. We also know that our bodies function optimally when we sync according to our circadian and hormonal rhythms. Rhythms that reflect that of the natural and social world, so a level of certainty is the foundation on which we exist and thrive.


How then do we reconcile these seemingly opposing concepts?


There is a body of research exploring uncertainty intolerance (UI). Someone with high levels of UI will perceive uncertainty as threatening and will seek to avoid it (Yang et al. 2021). Interestingly they found that future goal planning had a significant impact on participants' ability to decrease UI as we subconsciously indicate to our brain that we possess a greater sense of control, which in turn enables us to be more tolerant of the short-term discomfort that uncertainty brings.


As a standalone solution, however, it may not be sufficient in addressing our limiting beliefs or our conditioned negative responses to mistake-making, both of which are essential components for navigating change. Additionally, newness requires from us a shift in perspective; quoted from Albert Einstein ‘You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it’ so a greater sense of self-awareness or metacognition is needed to enable us to use existing frameworks in new and flexible ways. No small feat!


Lombardo and Eichinger (2000) first proposed the concept of ‘Learning Agility’ as a result of an earlier study that found newly promoted failing executives demonstrated an overreliance on existing skills. Learning Agility offers the answer to many of the personal challenges we face when confronted with uncertainty. Underpinned by practices such as experimentation, feedback seeking, self-reflection, thinking pattern awareness and shifting of limiting beliefs. The latter of which is also addressed by Carol Dweck’s more widely known ‘Growth Mindset’. You can find more about the components of Learning Agility in this research paper by Talent Index. It is important to note that for those of us whose brains are in fact wired differently, these practices and tools might look differently too.


Interestingly these emerging skills are reflected in the World Economic Forum’s most recent ‘Future of Work’ report. Featuring Resilience, Flexibility, Self-Awareness, Curiosity and Empathy in the top 10. A stark difference from 2018 where Analytical & Critical Thinking, Attention to Detail, Reasoning and Time Management were at the top of the list.


From a bird’s eye view, we can get a sense that these skills and practices might be rooted in our relationship with ourselves. They seek to build self-trust and compassion by separating performance from identity. We are also coming to learn that the state of our inner world creates the conditions for our perceived and resulting outer world. The extent to which we like, and have compassion for, ourselves is a predicting factor for our wellbeing, relationships, and work success. The answers lie within, if we can learn to love ourselves enough to listen.


This is why Yes Futures is so critical in supporting our young people to navigate and thrive in our VUCA world.


Not only does it offer the practice of goal setting, which helps to shift focus from short-term pain to long-term gain, but the four talent areas of Resilience, Self-Awareness, Communication & Confidence speak directly to these critical skills whilst offering a safe and attentive space for self-enquiry, experimentation and dreaming. Building inner certainty in an outer world that is increasingly less certain is a gift we all could benefit from.


Every child deserves this chance. Being a Yes Futures Coach is a privilege and one I couldn't recommend more highly.


Qing Yang, Kees van den Bos, Yaqin Li. (2021) Intolerance of uncertainty, future time perspective, and self-control,

Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 177.


McCall, M.W. Jr. and Lombardo, M.M. (1983). Off the track: Why and how successful executives get derailed. Greenboro, NC: Centre for Creative Leadership

Lombardo, M. M., & Eichinger, R. W. (2000). High potentials as high learners. Human Resource Management, 39(4), 321-329.

For more information on our programmes and to find out how we could support your students, please visit our Programmes page.

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