Mindfulness, Attachment, and Uncertainty

tl;dr: Future vision states are one thing. Attachment to future vision states is another. Dealing with high VUCA.

I went to my niece’s wedding the other day.

Not on Zoom. I actually went.

It was an incredibly beautiful affair, which occurred in the cul-de-sac in front of their house, with the entire neighborhood watching.

We were situated on a neighbor’s front lawn, watching from a socially distant appropriate location.

Needless to say that it wasn’t quite the wedding the bride had originally imagined when she got engaged a few months ago.

But it was the wedding she got.

Understandably, going into the wedding preparation as coronavirus unfolded, she was quite disappointed.

As my daughter said to me on the drive home, “almost every girl thinks about her wedding day for most of her life.”

Attachment to a Future Vision

Earlier that same day, I spoke with a friend who was reflecting on the past few weeks and speculating about the future.

He wondered if he would ever be able to take his children to some of his favorite destinations and, if he did, if they would be “the same?”

For him, the travel experience is not just about “going” to a place or a country, it’s about experiencing it.

I love that.

His consternation, at least as how I perceived it, arose from what made up the components of the experience (e.g. going on certain rides at an amusement park on the boardwalk).

If those rides weren’t there, “how will my daughter get the full experience?”


In First, Fast, Fearless: How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL  (and subsequently expounded upon in What Crypto Marketers can learn from Navy SEALs, we are introduced to the acronym, VUCA

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. VUCA.

From a Navy SEAL perspective, VUCA is a given.

The question then, is how to “survive and thrive” in a VUCA environment?

I don’t have all the answers, by any means, but if “change is the only constant” is a maxim, the bet I am making is that a post-corona world (whatever that means and whenever that happens) is a “high VUCA” environment.

As a result, the approach that is making more and more sense to me is one of non-attachment to future vision states.


Having no attachment doesn’t mean “having no vision.”

It’s important to have visions of the future that inspire you towards achievement and greatness. That’s one of the beautiful things about being human.

Attachment to these visions, such as a specific type of wedding or travel experience can cause us a lot of pain, however.

The sooner we all realize that a situation has changed irredeemably, making our initial vision impossible, the sooner we can avoid the disappointment.

This is living with VUCA.

I read a passage in How to Sit by Thich Nhat Hanh which seemed to reiterate this idea.

“If you sit regularly, it will become a habit. You will let go of trying to arrive anywhere. Even the Buddha still practiced sitting every day after his enlightenment.

There is nowhere to arrive except the present moment.”

How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh

“There is nowhere to arrive except the present moment.”

Mindfulness of Certainty

We all have emotional connections to a future state of being. There are things we want to happen or we would like to happen. I get it.

What I’ve started to do, perhaps it’s a form of self-training or possibly self-delusion, is to be more mindful of the statements of certainty that I make.

To be honest, it’s easier when I hear other people make them than when I make them. My hope is that by raising my own awareness to them, I can arrest them in my behavior, saving me a bit of pain down the road potentially.

So, for example, “we’re not going to feel comfortable going a plane for the next 9-12 months.”

Or, “we’re not going back to restaurants for the next 3 months.”

I understand these statements and I understand the meta-meaning, which is “Right NOW, we’re not comfortable going on a plane” and “Right NOW we’re not comfortable going to restaurants.”

It may seem like an unnecessary splitting of hairs and maybe for some people, it is.

For me, however, I think the value of being mindful about these phrases comes in the form of protecting ourselves from ourselves.

By saying, “oh, by September we expect to go back to restaurants,” (which is the same as ‘in 3 months,’) we’re setting ourselves up for an emotional attachment challenge.

Better to just leave out the timeframe.

It acknowledges how you feel now and it cheaply buys you emotional insurance in the future.

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