Why Uncertain Times Need Certainty of Purpose

What are we to do to survive and thrive in this volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environment? (VUCA) The mere fact that we have to ask that question is unsettling.  Many of us did not anticipate that we’d be living in that question, daily, at this point in our lives.

We prepared hard for a future we expected.  And, yet, when it comes to our work lives today, we find that it’s the end of work as we know it.  Laid off?  Under-employed?  Feeling stuck in your current position?  Working worried?  This is not how we envisioned that it was going to be.

Growing up, I envisioned that the future was predictable enough.  If I studied hard I could obtain the work I wanted in an environment I understood.  I would live a successful “good life.”

Our careers today rarely are that certain.

Why the disconnect between what we hoped would happen, and what is actually happening?  The answer is simple – a VUCA world requiring new life skills to navigate it.

The way I was taught to think and act works well when the future is predictable.  But, not so much in the VUCA world as it is now.

In transition times, we tend to knock any abstract thinking about our work lives as a luxury we cannot afford.  The emphasis is to stay employed no matter the personal toll it’s taking on us.  It’s pretty scary when you cannot plan and control your destiny, let alone the work you want.

In a world where we can no longer be secure or certain, how can we find some sense of certainty?  If we want to play in the new work game, as it is now, we have to change our mindset.

Freedom “to” not “from”
This simple phrase has changed the way I relate to uncertainty.

Freedom is born of awareness.  Freedom “to” means awakening to the reality that we can choose for ourselves how we want to interact with the new work world (and the daily VUCA news!)

Freedom “to” means awakening to the truth of what’s happening in both our inner and outer worlds and then acting on what is happening with our own deeper wisdom or our guide.

While everything outside seems to be shifting, what remains unchanging is what we know inside – our core purpose, values, and beliefs.

Freedom “to” means staying fiercely aware and protective of that which is most important to lead a life of substance.

Freedom “to” is about taking back the steering wheel of our lives and refusing to become VUCA’s passenger limping along aimlessly as we hear the daily sirens signaling bad news.

So, how do we wake up from being asleep at the wheel?

Creating Certainty Amid the Uncertainty
Purpose provides the bones for the body of life – the human story.  What I observe in my coaching practice is that many people, today, feel increasingly disconnected from a sense of context, meaning, and the greatest human narrative.  They speak of being too busy, hurrying too much, and not knowing what their lives are supposed to be about.  They are desperate to feel connected to some purposeful certainty, something more lasting than their momentary dramas and distractions.  The ceaseless activity creates a feeling of shallowness.  Instant and trivial is how it is – the opposite of grounded purposefulness.  They hope their real lives will one day have the certainty that real life is supposed to carry, yet, is slipping away.

It’s critical to take hold of the steering wheel.  To reflect on life.  To consider where we fit into the larger human story and what purpose our individual and shared journeys holds.

The VUCA world can change radically in a short span of time.  But what is 100% certain is what’s valuable and important to you.  Who are you?  What matters to you?  What is “calling” you to be your best self?

So, how do you grab the steering wheel and get started on concrete actions that are consistent with your desires?  How do you find core certainty in uncertain times?

The process for planning your future when you can’t really plan looks like this:

Does This Overwhelm You?

How do I know this approach will work?  Because it already has.  The process works “if” you work the process.  After reading this, you probably feel a bit overwhelmed because it seems like a lot of work.

Want to know why you feel this way?  Because it is a lot of work.

Creating your life the way you want so that you feel a sense of certainty from it requires a commitment to yourself to take actions every day.  There are no magic buttons or pills that will get you there.

So my question to you is this…

“Are you willing to do what it takes to create a certain life you love?”

You have two choices…

Choice #1:  You can continue on the path you are on right now.  There is nothing wrong with going this route.  However, this path is very uncertain.


Choice #2:  You can grab the steering wheel and begin the What Works practices which will help you speed up the process so you can get where you want to go much faster.

Which do you prefer?

Whatever choices you make today will affect where you will be in your life one year from now because it takes that long for you to see the results of your practices!

*    *    *    *    *    *

Richard, known to his 1 million readers as “The Purpose Coach”, has written ten books, including three bestsellers – THE POWER OF PURPOSE, REPACKING YOUR BAGS, and LIFE REIMAGINED.  He writes about unlocking the power of purpose at

Print this article >