I was thinking about a phrase that I first heard my Aunt Madeline say 20+ years ago…It is what it is. Within the last five years, this phrase has become fairly commonplace in both work and social settings. But is believing it potentially harmful and disabling? Let’s examine.

So What Does It Really Mean?

When I hear “It is what it is,” my mind immediately goes to the famous quote by Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  

Sometimes, I also think about the famous Will Rogers quote: “If you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.”

There’s a theme here, and I’m not sure it’s a good one… It’s one of dejection and acceptance. That type of mentality doesn’t empower you to improve yourself or your life. It makes you feel like a victim.

Real Life Examples

Let’s say you are frustrated because you just can’t lose that extra weight you’ve been carrying around. Should you just give up and say, “It is what it is (i.e. there’s really nothing I can do about it)? Or is the answer to seek professional help to create a personalized plan to lose the desired weight?

How about your perceived dead-end job? Are you locked into this profession for the rest of your life because it is what it is? Or is there a possibility that your professional skill-sets and passion may be better suited for a different employer or career choice?

Then there is the “Ground Hog Day” of your love life. You know, where you experience the same less than desirable outcomes in your relationships over and over and over again. Are you destined for a life-time of unfulfilling relationships because it just is what it is? Or could it possibly be a question of changing your parameters to achieve a different end result?

The answers to these examples (at least to me) are obvious:  If you are unhappy with your weight, develop a nutrition program and exercise. If you are unhappy with your career, find a job that better suits your strengths and passions. And if you are unhappy with your relationship prospects, then raise the bar for yourself and your “target market.”

So, Is “It Is What It Is?” Harmful?

Here’s my perspective … It doesn’t matter whether it’s a health, professional or personal matter. I truly believe that you have the power to influence — if not control — the outcome of these scenarios.

I don’t buy into the helplessness of it is what it is.

If you’re unhappy with a certain aspects of your life, then there is no better time than the present to start making the desired change.

In these cases, I venture to say … it is what you make it.

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