Lately, I’ve been on the receiving end of some lousy news and I find myself saying, “it is what it is” as I have heard that idiomatic phrase echoed from so many others. Does that sound familiar?

I know I am not alone here. What do we really mean by that notorious expression? “It is what it is!” I notice people usually use the phrase within the context of an unpleasant situation. Job loss, romantic break-up or a health crisis. “It is what it is.” Does it mean we’ve lost control of a particular circumstance and after a long unsuccessful battle, we throw our hands up in the air as a gesture of defeat? Not quite!

After further analysis, I realized my usage of the expression was actually a beginning, not an end. For me, “it is what it is” translated to a psychological state of acceptance regarding a bad situation. It was only after accepting the reality of a negative issue, I was able to take the first step to a strategic plan, motivated to confront the problem full force. So, “it is what it is” can put a bad situation behind you and set you on the path to resolution.

An article in Psychology Today relates the expression to the concepts of potentiality and ambiguity. Click here for a different perspective of the catchphrase. Here’s a fun activity…ask your friends and family about their interpretation of “it is what it is” as an exercise in subjectivity. Their response might shed some light on their degree of optimism.