We often do not have control over the difficulties we encounter throughout our lives. Something bad will happen, or something happens that we are unhappy with, and we are left standing there in disbelief. The situation often leaves us merely complaining about what has just occurred.
Here’s the problem… complaining gets us nowhere! When things don’t go our way, or we are faced with a very tough situation, there is one thing that I have found to be very helpful before moving forward. I catch myself saying this phrase to myself, and to my children more and more, as it helps to minimize the complaining, allowing for most of my energy to get busy finding a solution. These words are… It Is What It Is.
This phrase does not fix anything, is not meant to minimize the bigness or severity of a situation, and shouldn’t cause offense. It is merely a reminder that regardless of what I think about something, how I feel about something, or how rocked I am about something, the situation is what it is.
My son was complaining about a test that he had to take last year. I let him rant about it for a bit. He talked about how stupid the material was and how useless it would be in life. He continued to complain, adding how the teacher wasn’t teaching the material well. Then added how bad the class itself was a waste of time and how he would never use what was being taught. I stood there listening for a while, nodding my head indicating I was hearing what he said. After several minutes I finally spoke. I told him that the class was not a waste of time, the teacher was probably doing a good job, and that the material was not useless, BUT, even if what he was saying and thought was true, and even if I fully agreed with him… he still had that test the next day, he had to take that test, therefore he had to start studying. I told him that regardless of what he thought, and whether he was correct or not, he had that test the next day, and he had to take it. It was what it was!
I have written and spoken in the past about the Stockdale Paradox. Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest-ranking U.S. officer in the Vietnam War to be held prisoner of war. He was held and tortured for eight years. When asked how he survived, he stated that he never gave up faith that he would get out and see his family. However, he did not minimize his current state of affairs. He said, basically, you have to see your situation for what it actually is. He said, “You must… confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” The paradox is that you must remain hopeful, but do not minimize your current circumstances. You can read more about the Stockdale Paradox by clicking here.
Can you think of things that you regularly complain about, yet still have to deal with? You could save yourself a lot of time and energy by simply repeating those words… It Is What It Is… and getting on with taking action to move forward. Many people love to say life isn’t fair. After the past few years in my own life, I could easily agree with those words. And yes, life certainly isn’t always fair. In fact, there are times it is downright ruthless. But no matter what happens, how it happened, or why it happened, it is what it is!
As you can see by this week’s blog image above, I have a wooden block sitting in my kitchen with the words “It Is What It Is.” Just a reminder for me and my kids.