What is a VUCA World and How Does it Affect Our Mental Health?

VUCA world concept on screen. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. This is impacting our mental health.
The term ‘VUCA’ is gaining popularity to refer to this uncontrollable and uncertain environment

The origin of the notion of VUCA

The term ‘VUCA’ was first used in 1987, drawing on the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus. The U.S. Army War College introduced the concept of VUCA in the post-Cold War period. The purpose was to understand what was going in the world post-cold-war, and how one could deal with it.

What does a VUCA world mean?

The world is continually evolving, and we are gradually entering the VUCA world. Rapid and constant change is an essential feature of the VUCA world.


The world isn’t steady; change is the focal point of all existence. Change happens faster in this unpredictable world. Rapid climate change, globalization, financial crisis, political complexity make the world we live in a volatile one.

Line drawing of volatality icon to indicate VUCA world


VUCA indicates a world where it is hard to make a prediction. We have to navigate a world full of unknowns. The world is evolving at a very fast pace and we don’t know what the future holds for human civilization.

Young woman decides to take a difficult step into the future. Girl in fear and indecision is worth on the edge of a cliff and looks forward. Concept of a difficult choice and uncertainty in a VUCA world and how it impacts mental health


Complexity indicates the amount of information, the variety of factors that we need to take into account. The more the information and number of factors, the more complex our reality is.

A man looking up at a complex scribble of chalk line drawing


Ambiguity refers to an absence of clarity. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of the VUCA world and how we live in an uncertain world. The pandemic is a battle against the invisible enemy. We can see what is happening all around us, but don’t know its cause with certainty; nor do we completely understand its effects. The impact of this pandemic on our mental health can’t be ignored.

Man walking on hanging bridge vanishing in fog to indicate ambiguity

So, we live in a VUCA world. What next?

Now that we recognize that we live in an ever-changing, complex world, we have to acknowledge and try to predict how this impacts us individually, and as a civilization.

Image showing the domains of resilience to survive in a VICA world

To conclude..

Change is inevitable, but rapid change can be challenging and overwhelming. Rapid change brings uncertainty and complexity. As the VUCA world continues to expand, it might be difficult for us to accept and adapt to the changes but the journey can also be exciting, full of learning. In fact, being a lifelong learner is the single most important decision to make in the VUCA world.

New Skills and Training records in the notepad. Lifelong learning is needed to survive in a VUCA world

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Arnold Mascarenhas

Arnold Mascarenhas


Lokyatha is an education focused initiative to enable young adults to live better, more fruitful lives by delivering real world life skills.