Have you ever said – or heard someone say – “It is what it is”?
I’ve been hearing it a lot, too.
Every time I do, I cringe.
Something about the statement just doesn’t feel right.
I couldn’t put my finger on it at first.
Then it hit me.
“It is what it is” is a statement of victim-hood.
It comes from a mind prepared to roll over and accept the circumstances they are in as final.
It’s a statement of powerlessness.
I was still considering the implications of the wimpy “It is what it is” line when I stumbled across a Facebook video by John Spencer Ellis.
I know John from years ago, when he put me in his movie, The Compass.
John articulated what I hadn’t yet realized: the line “It is what it is” is a declaration of surrender.
John urged you and I to stop saying it.
Now that I have more clarity around the line, I totally agree.
It is one of the wimpiest statements of all time.
Instead of saying “It is what it is,” say “It is what it is for the moment and I am doing something about it!” and then speak what you want, not what you are giving in to, and act to make your new intention a new reality.
Surrendering is a high spiritual act when you are surrendering to your highest ideals; it’s a poor act of victim mentality when you surrender to circumstances you honestly don’t like.
I’ll repeat that:
Surrendering is a high spiritual act when you are surrendering to your highest ideals; it’s a poor act of victim mentality when you surrender to circumstances you honestly don’t like.
So many of us deceive ourselves with statements that at first glance look innocent — like “It is what it is” — instead of looking deeper to find what hides behind the statement.
I’m not suggesting that you deny reality or the facts you may be facing, but I am suggesting that accepting facts as the final verdict is a poor move.
Think of the movie The Untouchables.
When actor Sean Connery turns to Kevin Costner and says, “And what are you prepared to do now?”
In that movie, Connery’s character is suggesting they bend the rules in order to get the bad guy.
I’m not suggesting you do anything illegal or unethical, but I am urging you to “bend the rules” or find a way around the rules so you can achieve the outcome you want.
You have this choice in every moment.
The moment could be one where you accept the consequences already in play as final, and you shrug and say “It is what it is” or it could be one where you are aware of the moment but declare, “I am doing something about this to change it!”
You can choose to give up to the flow in place.
Or you can choose to redirect the flow.
It’s important to understand the difference between self-awareness and self-deception.
Awareness of the moment means you understand the reality of what you are facing and take new actions to go in a new direction.
Deception is when you understand the reality of what you are facing and think you can’t do anything to change it.
I’ve been reading the book, Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling.
It’s the story of a man who learns to say YES! to the biggest challenges brought to him, even the “impossible” ones, and then scrambles to figure out a way to make what he just promised come into reality.
He’s famous for creating artificial limbs for war victims out of 3-D printers.
He could have said “It is what it is” and went about his life.
Instead he said the equivalent of, “It is what it is and I am doing something to change it!”
And he did.
The point here is to be aware of the statements you speak and how you feel when you say them.
Do they empower you or weaken you?
You want to be empowered, so you can live out your mission and make a difference.
After all, is anything really impossible?
PS — I started Miracles Coaching so you can have one on one assistance in working with your database of hidden beliefs and concepts like this blog post. Check it out.
Joe, I am a truck driver running central to east coast regional. I am on the road 7 to 8 days at a time. ALL of my things are in storage. So the truck is basically my home as long as I keep my job. But the problem is I make pennies on the dollar per paid mile. Stuck in the truck for 170hrs or more a week. I want to quit driving a truck asap, but haven’t a job to goto. I’m always fatigue, but we have to go, go go out here, then fight for truck parking. If I quit, I’m instantly homeless. Rents are wicked high, about 300 per week which it would be foolish to pay when I only get 34 hours home in a 8 day period. How do I get out of this trap. My fiancee’ lives in housing, she won’t get s job, her 3 girls are 11, 14 & 18 one is in college, but her girls don’t want us to marry until they are through college, so they can qualify for low income scholarships & basically I would have to pay, & I’m homeless. I’ll be 56 years old if I even live that long, when I’m allowed to marry.
My home scheduale is always different, so I haven’t been able to look for a local church to tithe to, so where can I pay my tithes? I haven’t even a place to park my car
Hi Jeffrey. You question is bigger than what I can answer here, or without knowing you. First, you don’t need to tithe to a church. You tithe to wherever you received inspiration or spiritual nourishment. That could be anyone. You get to decide. And it could be a church. Second, I was a truck driver once, too. I was broke, struggling, and felt chained to the steering wheel. But I also kept writing, trying other things, searching for multiple streams of income, and eventually, got off the road. You can do it, too.
I don’t agree with this. I think it CAN be an expression of helplessness, and it often is, but it can also be an expression of acceptance that you can’t control everything, especially other people’s actions. For example, if you’re in love with someone, but they are not in love with you. You can’t force them to return your affections. “I’m in love with her. She cannot love me back. It is what it is.”
It can also be a less self-judgmental expression of understanding of your current, factual, non-ideal state of being — as in “this is what I have to work with at the present moment.” Too many people are in denial about what’s going on in their lives. They run away from bad feelings and actions instead of accepting them and using them as a starting place. “I am overweight right now. It is what it is.” To me, this is far better than judging or shaming yourself for what is going wrong in one’s life.
Even more important than actual words is the mindset behind them. After all, you can say “I love you” and have it be an expression of love and generosity, but you can ALSO say “I love you” as a tool of control and manipulation.
Hi Kate. Thanks for your thought. I think you found the exception to ignore the rule. I never advocate trying to control others, so the line in question wouldn’t even come into play. But I do advocate knowing what you want and doing what you are inspired to do to attract it, without violating anyone else or their free will. Richard Bach may have a thought here: “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” And I totally agree about mindset (or real intent) behind what you say. Again, thanks for your comment.
I agree with Kate. I have a child with a disability and that term has actually helped me accept the situation instead of being depressed about the challenges we face. Sometimes it is what it is. Not being a victim just accepting what is.
Hi Nicole. I certainly accept your choice as your choice.
Hi Nicole. I am an elementary teacher. We have two special ed units at my school. There is a student in a wheelchair who can walk with braces if she decides to learn how. Another student with the same disability is now walking around (as his legs would allow) because he is determined to play with the other children. He uses his wheelchair now when he is tired of walking..,,…As a man/child thinketh so is he. But not to manipulate others.
Joe, I have worked closely over the past five years with Howard Wills. I wonder why you don’t mention him or promote him in any way. Didn’t he assist you in a major healing for yourself? I have no judgement about it. I’m just very curious! I am a very powerful energy worker as well and I have learned a great deal from Howard and I’m curious. I send you pure gold loving light!
XO – Dede
Hi Dede. I haven’t heard Howard’s name in almost ten years. I mention him in my book, The Key.
Thank you so much for explaining. I have always hated that saying and actually, I have never said it because I disliked it so much. Now I know why. You are a great communicator. Keep up the good work. Cheers, Linda
Thank you, Linda. 🙂
lol yea I keep hearing this phrase and it is entirely funny for me when I hear it and it becomes a part of any other everyday phrases. Here’s another two: I’m not gonna lie…… and To tell you the truth,….. Whenever I hear this from someone, I think hmmmm. So, you haven’t been honest this whole time? 🙂
Dr Vitale, thank you for bringing that phrase up. I want to share something a security guard gave me, this is simple wisdom.
One who knows and he knows that he knows, learn from him
One who knows but knows that he knows not, teach him
One who knows not but knows not that he knows not, stay away.
I found the proverb on google:
“He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool – shun him. He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple – teach him. He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep – wake him. He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise – follow him.”
This is how I have started my day. Have a terrific Thursday, Doc!
You, too ! 🙂
While reading this article, it occurred to me that I must have done considerable growth to have reached exactly the same conclusion as you have right when I got to the line that said, “It is what it is for the moment and I am doing something about it!” I am making progress! Thanks in part to your work and the work of your contemporaries. Finally! *big smile*
“It is what it is” allows us to surrender and let go of “what is”, which is important. But you’re correct, we can’t just leave it there–we MUST amend it with a follow-up statement.
Life in this mindset is bliss, isn’t it?
It sure is, Jeanne. 🙂
Hi Dr. Vitale,
Funny how something so innocent has such a big impact on your life. Thank you for pointing this out and I will now monitor my verbiage a lot better to ensure I am not giving up my power through idle words…Wow, thank you for this post!
You are welcome, John.
I’m reminded of a line from a Tom Robbins novel that became a character’s family credo: “It is what it is. I am what I it. And there are no mistakes”. I repeat it often when disturbed by something as it acts like a clearing tool to stop resisting the moment and ‘arguing with reality’ and to take responsibility and be present and open to insight.
I sometimes truly sense that you’re reading my mind Joe… or better yet. were inspired by the same great Divine mind expressing the desire to assist others.
Yesterday, writing a chapter about being aware of the “normal” negative feelings we commonly evoke — things we say or think without realizing the energy propelled from it. My attention was towards understanding the negative, seemingly harmless – yet repelling underlying money forces we were programmed to feel are ok.
The self-sarcastic statement came to my attention which is “Must be nice…”
There are so many personally belittling quirky one-liners in our simple everyday communication. Thinking something like “I could never afford that” or “This is way too expensive for me” leads right into the same disempowerment of “it is what it is…”
I envision the day when more people say “I AM what I AM” with a true knowing connected to what they are feeling and believing within. The ability to feel and make changes first knowing that or something better is taking place.
Thank you for your constant inspiration Joe! My gratitude for your ongoing positivity is filled with confidence in reflection.
Thank you, Al. I appreciate the comment. 🙂
Words cannot express my gratitude towards you. I am a follower of you and Dr. Hew Len. I try to practice Ho-oponopono and have read few of your books. Your fascinating insights have changed the perspective of what is life to me. I am a rock n roll singer and wants to be the best of it. I have failed to form my band after 21 line up changes in 6 years of time. I want to be a star and I know I can because you have invoked the spirit of positiveness in me. Can you please suggest how can I make Ho’oponopono a habit and what precisely I need to practice to materialize my dreams…. Arnab Sarkar (India)… I love you.. 🙂
Hi Arnab. Like any habit, at first you have to consciously will it; you have to choose to do it. But in time it will become second nature. You can do it. I believe in you.
Thanks a ton Sir… I will do it..Its not desperation Sir (as you have pointed out in your books that desperation ultimately repels the abundance), but its from that inner happiness. And I have your Mirror Image sessions through You Tube. Can I practice the same for myself taking the videos as a reference???
Would love to hear your suggestions Sir.
I Love You… 🙂
Peace of I…
My husband has been saying this to me when I talk to him on the phone and I couldn’t put my finger on it either. See, he decided to move out in November, he was cheating on me. He was upset with me because he thought I was ignoring him and used that as an excuse for his bad behavior. Now his reality that he has to pay his own way and oops accidentally got his girlfriend pregnant. All he does is say this and mention how tired he is(plus blames a lot on his ADHD). He is really playing the victim and with all of this I am hoping he is learning a valuable lesson. I don’t know if he realizes how good it really was at home. He hadn’t worked in 4 years and me and my mother-in-law were keeping it all together. Yes I started to ignore him, i was so stressed from trying to save our house and pay the rest of the bills that I shut down. I was barely functioning, just enough to go to work and do what minimally had to do at home with our son.
So anyway I wanted to thank you for this!!!!!!! Now I know what to say to him.
Hi Crystal. I’m glad it helped, and I’m glad you are in a strong place. Stay strong.
Joe, u could not be more right….im in a relationship that is not the best for last 15years but I stack to it becouse / i recently realised/ that was conveniente…that i wanted to keep it for kids and family…that i have a fear how im gonna be on my own…..and this all and maybe more puts me on the statement it is what it is….but i do not agree with it…. still afraid to take action…still not sure if my action will be right….Thank u Joe …
Hi Joe. I so agree with you. The statement…”it is what it is” is only true if your beliefs limit you to that. Here we go again by people conforming and accepting a statement with the same type of minded people. Once one accepts that they attract all thier circumstances and totally change thier thoughts only then thier dreams, changes of circumstances, situations, and answers in lives will be there. Faith can change anything! Any circumstance or situation. People are not aware of what this means. They use this “saying” it as if it were the end of the world and there is no tomorrow. Believe and all things are possible if one holds the right thoughts !
hi Joe, I found this article to be inspirational! I’ve never liked the saying and now you articulated why it’s bothering me as well. To Kate, I know what it is to have a child with disabilities and the feeling of helplessness and overwhelmed associated with caring for that child. However, by meeting with doctor and researchers and other similar individuals we don’t feel so alone or out of control.
Just because you think you don’t have a solution or maybe you haven’t found it yet doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution, there isn’t something better, there isn’t something that you can do!
I’ve had the pleasure of hanging around Joe spending the weekend at his home and picking his brains until 3 o’clock in the morning. I have found, from experience, that Joe is right!
sometimes it’s not the answer I wanted but as I meditated and ponder and journeyed forward I found that Joe was right again. That’s what it!
You Were Created to Succeed!
Thank you, my friend. 🙂
It’s the same attitude that always annoys me when people say “que sera sera” (I love the song, but the sentiment it reflects is disastrous). It’s giving up in the face of circumstances, when you could do something about it instead.
Nowadays, when someone tries to use either of them on me, I tell them to get off their backside and get cracking on solving the problem.
Thanks for a great post, and thanks to all the other people who added their two cents to the discussion.
I agree and disagree. I totally agree that its a statement of victim-hood when it is used that way, but it can also be used as a statement of acceptance of what is to have a place to start and create what you want it to be.
I recently got another part time job in the food service industry with, of all foods, Hawaiia! It is great quality and delicious.
I noticed my emoyer is usually very tired and uses the phrase, “It is what it is”.
When I first met the owner I showed him a copy of your book At Zero,
he was interested.
Due to my being an EXECUTIVE CHEF, he and his wife are receptive, to suggestions I make.
I will introduce the solution idea at the end of his phrase and watch the growth!
You know Stacy and I love you very much,
and is open and receptive to comments I make, due to being an Executive e Chef also.
I will now teach him the ability to add on to his phrase , “It is what it is”, and watch the changes as they experience them.
Ho’ oponopono is AMAZING
When I first started hearing that phrase “it is what it is” it jarred me, but I didn’t know why. Now I do. It implies helplessness, but in a subtle way. You are right re. its not taking things far enough, as in, OK here’s the situation, I accept it, but what do I want and where do I go from here?
You also talk about surrendering, and I’m wondering how the Serenity Prayer would fit in with that.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
BTW thanks so much for the Ho’oponopono mantra (for lack of a better word). I’m finding that it has made a huge difference in how I feel in just a very few days. I was very depressed, and all the other practices I’d been doing helped some but not enough. Ho’oponopono fills a very big need in me: that of forgiveness. It was a missing ingredient in my quest for inner peace. Don’t know how I could have overlooked something that vital, but hey, it was what it was! Glad I found Ho’oponopono, thank you and Dr. Hew Len for sharing it with the world.
Hello Sir ! I am a BIGGG follower of you and your ideas out of which I have changed my life by 75% !! I loved the way you are replying back to everyone’s comments. I just have one question in my mind- I am a 18 year old medical student studying in 2nd year of medicine. I want to help the society as a doctor by working full fledged ! But manyy times I get depressed and my environment is a bit negative. As my parents talk about their stresses at work and home. How can I use the secret to achieve my passion for medical studies(means how can I achieve more enthusiasm in studies along with grades !!) And even solve the negativity at home?
This is too big a question to answer in a simple comment section. You might read my Miracles Manuals, free at http://www.miraclesmanual.com