I must be in a retrospective mood these past few weeks as many old friends are coming to visit. Last week I was musing on a favourite song that had family meaning and this week a favourite expression that I amongst many others use regularly. I find it comforting, permission to move on, a mantra … it is what it is.
it is what it is. … so what does that really mean to us? A nice expression and if used only as described above at least something that allows us to quit fussing. We use it to
convince ourselves that whatever is worrying us is not of our making and out of our control. We might use it to internalize that if only we had more control, things would have turned out differently but “somebody else” created this mess and alas … it is what it is.
But have we considered the possibility that this simple little expression is actually true? That things are actually as they appear … no more and no less? That there is no “somebody else”, and that sometimes circumstances aren’t aligned with how we would have envisioned things turning out. What if we just accepted this newly revealed state as true? What if we just said “where to from here? What possibilities are now before us?” And when we catch ourselves giving it energy to wish it was otherwise we perhaps ask ourselves another simple question … “what is happening here?”.
What we will probably find when we ask this question is that we have a pre-conceived notion of how we would have preferred this situation to unfold, and are trying to put it into context with what we previously wanted to have happen.
So what if this simple expression was actually true word for word? What if it actually is what it is? No more. No less. What if we dropped all biases and expectations and just stared at what is before us as the simple truth that has no vested interest in making our lives less than ideal? What would we do then?
Would we give up and say “oh well … this wasn’t meant to be my day. I’ll just wait until circumstances are more in my favour before I decide to move forward”? Or can we look at this with a clean slate, a new lens? Can we essentially say “I see a new choice in front of me. A fork in the road. I will re-examine what this means to me and I will then find the best possible path forward for myself.
I think we sometimes need to arrive at these forks in the road of life. Sometimes its like the long drive across the country where we can be hypnotised by the road and just “exepct to arrive sometime”. These moments where we sit up and notice that the road is forcing us to make a choice we weren’t expecting is an opportunity to examine where we were going in the first place.
As leaders, what if we took every one of these moments as an opportunity to gather our team, describe the dillemna and say “it is what it is“. Now what is possible, and use it as a means to collaborate on a new direction forward? What opportunities to brainstorm, create, express, contribute, empower, gain experience, etc.! So let’s, as leaders, look for these moments. Let’s rejoice in this old adage and use it as a moment of power for our teams!
Anyone have any stories along these lines? Any interesting tales of turning roadblocks into opportunities?
2 thoughts on “What Is It?”
I love this post and you describe situations so well, especially your reference to the feelings of loss of control, and a tendency to ‘blame’ someone or something else for where you are today. And waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting for things to improve rather than thinking “I will re-examine what this means to me and I will then find the best possible path forward for myself” So true……
Almost 4 years ago, our business premises burned down and we had to relocate. As the staff leader (and full of personal angst about the future), i had to stand before my team the morning after the fire and declare ‘nothing of value was lost this day, it is what it is, an opportunity to begin again and move forward to a better tomorrow’. I meant every word, and even though the going was tough, I never once looked back to the rubble left behind. To have another (personal) crisis that came without warning and beyond my control within 30 months was much harder to ‘accept’ because of the ‘values’ and a sense of ‘purpose’ that were also swept away. Nevertheless, “it is what it is“ and the sooner one is able to accept that, the earlier one can “create, express, contribute, empower, gain experience” and live life to the full.
Thanks again for such a heart-moving and motivational post.
Thank you for sharing some of your personal story. It is the “reality” of these ideas that really helps us understand them. And the hardships in your “it is what it is” story really do show your strength in being able to always move forward. Thanks Elizabeth!