It is what it is – but is it?

I am privileged to have a great relationship with my in-laws.  They are just all round great people! But one of the things I treasure most is the pearls of wisdom that come from late night conversations around the fire, over a glass of wine or simply on the couch in the lounge.  One of those came recently when we spoke about the phrase “It is what it is” – a phrase I use fairly often.  My mom-in-law, Bev, had a revelation that morning that there are times where that statement is absolutely true and appropriate, and times where it is nothing more than a cop out and excuse to take no responsibility. Her question, and following revelation, was: “When is it okay to use ‘it is what it is’ as a statement? The answer: When something is completely out of ones control.


So, for those of you who don’t know me personally – let me give you a glimpse in the person that is ‘Mark’:

  • I’m impatient – it is what it is
  • I’m goal orientated and will often fly into a conversation about the task at hand before remembering to greet you – it is what it is
  • When I’m tired and/or stressed, I take a lot of work home with me and end up neglecting my family – it is what it is
  • I have moments where I ‘go into my head’ and become very introspective, to the frustration of those around me – it is what it is
  • I am naturally critical – it is what it is

But that’s often a cop out.  All of those things go to my character – they are things that I have the ability to work out, to grow through and to develop in.  To accept that they are simply part of who I am would be a terrible cop-out that won’t only leave others around me frustrated, but will do me a disservice in the process.  These are things I need to be intentional about growing through.

Which begs the question – what areas in your life may need some intentionality in order to move beyond what it is to what it could be? And, how will you go about starting that journey? Maybe a book, or a TED talk, or a course, or counsellor would be a great first step for you!

What can you do to move from what is to what could be?

But there’s the other side to that coin!  What about the things that are keeping you awake at night – be it from worry, stress or even depression – because of what they are, while you actually have no control over those things? Maybe for you the next step is simply to come to terms with the fact that, sometimes, it really is what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it.

The tricky part is knowing the difference – and I suspect that’s a lifelong journey of discerning what is, and what can be different.


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