What It Is...and Isn't

by Sherry Heuser

"It is what it is."

It took hearing my own words repeated back to me to wake me up. This morning, realizing the wait to check in for an oil change at the service station would exceed 30 minutes, I said it and sighed. Later, in line behind a shopper with an overloaded cartful of groceries while a meticulous cashier scanned each item, the person behind me said it to me and smiled. The first time, I scowled a bit. The second time, it hit me.

"It is what it is."

Such a simple statement—it could signal a defeatist attitude or Zen perspective. I believed I had no control of either situation, but in fact, I was very much in control. I could choose which one I was—defeated or Zen. By using the statement to reinforce my inability to affect the delay with my car, it magnified my frustration. But, when someone else showed me how she used it to rise above the situation, it freed me.

“It is what it is.”

Clearly, I’m not good at waiting. Patience is a virtue that sometimes exasperates me, especially when I think I could make things move faster. I have learned to distract myself, to busy my brain with other thoughts rather than dwell on the delay, but the stalled momentum still nags at me.

Sometimes, however, I can’t make things move faster. Or move at all, for that matter. When that happens, am I really stuck, or is it just my attitude that won’t budge?

Changing the focus doesn't mean I don't care or am no longer responsible for the consequences, or even that I should not work to remedy the problem, if possible. It means that I recognize my role in the issue and it encourages me to look for ways to accept it or modify it.

"It is what it is." That may be true for the moment...but I am in charge of what it will become.

Bottom Line: The same words can take on opposite meanings if we change our perspective..

Sherry Heusers president of Capability Company Consulting, a Raleigh, N.C.-based firm supporting nonprofit organizations' searches for key hires.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]