It Is What It Is

“It is what it is.” That’s one of my favorite sayings. It’s my way of reminding myself I cannot change the inevitable. I’ve been reading a book entitled How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. One of the chapters in that book states the same thing. There are things we must just accept as so. I am not arguing we shouldn’t do everything we can to improve our station in life. Set your goals and dreams and then work to achieve them. But while trying to do it, accept what you cannot change. As Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:

                                                “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.”

Those are such wise words, and they’ve been the philosophy of wise men from Socrates to Plato, to Epictetus to Jesus.  We must learn to accept what is and just move on with life. So much of our stress and our worry in society comes from our concerns over all the things we cannot change. Things outside of our control. We worry about the weather, about the past, and about the future. We worry about Congress and what our kids might do. We can keep ourselves up at night upset about something inevitable. We must learn to say, “It is what it is.” If there’s nothing you can do about it move on and spend time on things you can do something about. 

                                                For every ailment under the sun,

                                                There is a remedy or there is none;

                                                If there be one, try to find it;

                                                If there be none, never mind it.

It’s a nursery rhyme but a nursery rhyme full of wisdom.  If you can do something about it, then work, strive, labor to make it better. But if there’s nothing that can be done, accept it and stop thinking about it. Animals have a huge advantage over us. I have never seen one of my cows complain or get upset because it was too hot, or too cold, or there were flies, or her bull was checking out another cow. Deer don’t dread the winter, and geese don’t lament they are going to have to make another flight this fall. They accept life as it is and move on. 

                                                Oh, to confront the night, storms, hunger,

                                                Ridicule, accident, rebuffs as the trees

                                                And animals do.

                                                                        Walt Whitman

Early in my career I would fret and worry over all kinds of things that were inevitable.  I would worry about what my patients might think about me. I would worry about what grades my professors might give me. I would worry about my family’s financial situation and how we were going to pay the bills. Over time, and with much more learning and experience, I’ve learned what Epictetus taught the Romans centuries ago is still true today:

                                                There is only one way to happiness,

                                                And that is to cease worrying about

                                                Things which are beyond the power

                                                Of our will.

I no longer worry about the things I cannot control. What good would that do? How does that help me or my family? No, instead I focus on what I can do and should. Let the birds take care of the birds.  Focus on your circle of control and influence. Stay in your lane. Do your job. Stay so busy working on the things you can control. Your attitude, your learning, your fitness, your health, taking care of others, your relationships, that you don’t have time to worry about what IS.  This is the key to decreasing stress and having a better life and Living Every Minute. IT IS WHAT IT IS.

Keep Living Every Minute.

Dr. Tim, M.D.

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