The art of successful mood navigation is a critical skill in today’s world. Without it we are left emotionally drifting to the whims of a world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA)[1]. Marriages fall apart; businesses become obsolete, political climates change seemingly overnight. Floods, earthquakes and war rip apart the fabric of our worldview. Try as we might, we are powerless to change the bad things that happen in the world.  Yet in spite of these things happening, there are those among us who continue to love, create beauty and find abundance no matter what the circumstances are. They are the ones who can navigate their moods effectively in the face of a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. The first step to being able to do this is to know the difference between ‘world creates mood’ and ‘mood creates world’.

From the perspective of ‘our world creates our mood’, our mood is determined by what the world puts in front of us. When we find ourselves in a loving relationship, then being happy makes sense. If our loving partner leaves us, we believe depression is our only option. If we make money in the stock market, we are excited, when we lose money in the stock market we are sad. While this makes sense to many, the main thing I want to point out is that this mentality is basis of a ‘victim’ mentality. In order for me to be happy or powerful, the world must align in a precise and set way. When the world lines up against my wishes, then I become sad, angry or upset. Angry, happy, excited or sad, the locus of control for my emotions is outside of my reach.

In the opposite view of ‘my mood creates my world’, we can begin to see that it is our mood that literally creates our reality. In the former view we say we are depressed because our partner left us. In ‘my mood creates my world’ we come to see that our partner left us because we were depressed and hard to be around. In another example we are excited because we made money in the stock market, and in ‘my mood creates my world’  it is our excitement that allowed us to see profitable opportunities in the stock market.   Perhaps I feel happy because I have a steady job. In ‘my mood creates my world’ we see that we were hired, promoted and retained because of our happy mood.  When we begin to see how our moods create the world around us we become part of an inspiring view of the world where we can create any future we want. Barring mental illness or trauma, mood navigation is in our reach even in a VUCA world.

To bring light to this idea in another way, lets assume that I have in my possession a fully functional Orwellian time machine. I am going to go back in time to noon yesterday to the main street mall in my hometown. It’s a beautiful day and I am going to walk from one end of the mall with its quaint open air shops, where pedestrians bustle along sidewalks lined with shade trees and park benches and children romp on play structures under the watchful eyes of moms sipping cinnamon caramel lattes. The first time I walk the mall I am going to be in a mood of sadness, my gait will be slow, my hands shoved into my pockets, my shoulders rounded a bit and I won’t be making eye contact with anyone, mostly I will be looking at the ground, sighing occasionally, at nothing in particular with the corners of my lips pulled down. How do you think people will treat me? Perhaps they will ask what’s wrong or offer me a seat on a bench, so I can rest my weary feet. Maybe they will avoid me because they are too busy with problems of their own.

Now lets do the walk again, same time, same place, same moms sipping on cinnamon lattes, only now I will be in the mood of anger with my jaw clenched, fists balled up, glaring directly at people, challenging them to make a big deal out of anything.  Now how will people treat me? Probably they will give me space, run away or maybe they will stand between me and their loved ones if they really saw me as a threat.

Now lets do the walk one last time, same time, same place, same people and this time my mood will be one of confidence. With my head held high, my shoulders soft and a confident stride, I walk calmly by open-air shops, nodding to the men resting on park benches. I make time to play with children and smile to the moms’ sipping lattes. Now how will I be treated? For sure it will be completely differently than any of the other trips back in time. Each time I walked the mall in a different mood, I was met with a different reality. I had people approach me, ignore me, move away from me and converse with me in profoundly different ways all because of my mood.

Once we learn to intentionally navigate our moods we can begin to become intentional about the world we are creating. This is not to say the world has no influence on us. It does have influence on our moods but more importantly, it is also true that our moods create the word around us and therein lays the key to our success in the world.

Our moods do create our reality and successful mood navigation is a needed skill in today’s VUCA world.

[1]VUCA is a concept first brought forth either in 1987, based on the leadership theories of  Bennis and Burt Nanus or by General from the Army War College Study Project discussing the leadership strategies in an environment that   volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.