I have heard before that if there is a saying that you can’t stand to hear, it’s most likely because you associate that saying with someone who negatively affected your past. It’s an association game that your brain likes to play. Once someone speaks those words, you immediately and subconsciously relive bad memories and perhaps struggles you’ve endured during a specific time in your life. Makes sense, right? Sometimes it’s hard to shake the ill feeling of the lesser person that you once were.
Maybe I’m not making sense… but I digress. That saying for me, the one I cringe when I hear it spoken, is “It is what it is.” I once dated a guy who said this all the time and it made me feel helpless; like I couldn’t change anything, nor would I ever win. It almost made me feel like a failure, even though I’m sure his words weren’t meant to make me feel that way.
Unfortunately, I would almost bet that I now hear this expression almost every single day. And it seems like it’s becoming an even more wide-spread saying among us Americans. Now, I ask you, what do YOU think the saying “It is what it is” means?
OK. I hope that most of you agree that the expression translates to a certain situation being confined by exact particular circumstances and because of that, there is no feasible way of changing the inevitable outcome of the situation. For instance:
- You console a friend on a recent breakup. Friend responds with “Well, it is what it is, man.”
- You come to a coworker about an issue at work or a suggestion on how to improve processes. Coworker’s response: “Listen, it is what it is. I’m sorry. It’s just not going to change.”
- You’re disappointed because you didn’t get that job that you wanted so badly and confide in a friend. Friend tries to cheer you up by saying “Well, it is what it is. You tried the best you could but maybe it just wasn’t meant to be!”
You get the point. Now here’s another question for you: Why the HELL are we so insistent on over-using this expression that screams of surrender, laziness and just flat-out giving up? I’m starting to think this should be our motto as Americans these days considering our recent economic downfall and abuse of government programs intended to help those in need. I can see it now:
“AMERICA: It is what it is… so just do nothing about it. (Where’s my unemployment check??)”
Uh uh. No way. Not on my watch! I make it a point to NEVER say this and I think more of us should do the same. Listen, I am not a political person and, honestly, I don’t really get political issues like some do but this attitude of thinking that one little person can’t change something to make a difference has got to go. What happened to the American Dream?! (I once posted this on my Facebook page and received some funny comments like ‘Oh, it was outsourced to China’ or ‘I thought the American Dream was owning a home with two cars in the driveway… Check!” But seriously, what happened to being proud to be an American and working hard to achieve any goal that you desired all because the American Dream could offer you that? I don’t know about you, but I was raised to believe, no, screw that, KNOW that I can do anything if I want it badly enough. I promise you that if you walk around in life with that hopeful attitude instead of an “It is what it is” attitude, then you might actually accomplish some pretty great things.
You want that kick-ass job? Don’t give up. You might not get it now, but you will if you believe it. While I’ve been searching for my next move in my career, several smart, successful people have asked me “What is your dream job?”. I knew where these people were going with the question but it’s a great one to ask yourself if you’re in my position. If you can pin-point your dream job, as silly as it may sound, then you can figure out a way to get there… but only if you want it badly enough.
You aspire to be a Medical Examiner? Sweet. Well, first, you have to be a practicing physician for multiple years. Cool. OK, so before that you have to be in school for several years just to even become a doctor. Alright. And before attending med school you must apply to get in. Do it. Start from the beginning and work your ass off. Tell everyone you know that someday you will be a Medical Examiner and don’t stop until you are.
This way, when someone tells you “It is what it is” when you fail, you can proudly say “No, it can always BE something different. I can make a change. I will make it happen.”
- Your girlfriend breaks up with you. If you want to be with her badly enough, you’ll fix it to make it right. You’ll show her how much you love her and don’t want to be without her. (Unless she just doesn’t like you. Then you’re screwed.)
- Your coworker tells you that you can’t improve processes at work. Convince him that you’re confident in making a positive change for the company by showing you’ve done your research.
- You didn’t get the job you wanted? Work harder the next time to ace the interview or learn and master new skills so that silly employer who once turned you down will rue the day that he did.
A situation isn’t always just simply ‘what it is’. Something can always be changed or manipulated. Our futures are not written in stone. We have the power as little, individual people to achieve whatever the hell will make us happy. Now, please, get out there and do it.
It isn’t always what it is.