It is What It is? Or is It?

“It is what it is.” This hackneyed phrase is on repeat in your head and odds are, you don’t even know it. We rarely question or bother to challenge things as they are. Why bother?

As Adam Grant points out in the un-put-downable book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, we accept the default setting for a lot of stuff in life. Examples abound in all aspects of our daily lives –even for basic stuff like which search engine you use. If you’re a Mac user, your computer came with Safari pre-installed so most likely you use Safari, not Chrome or Firefox. Few bother to explore whether a better option exists.

Relying on a mediocre search engine is but one example of the power of defaults. It occurs everywhere—at the voting booth, in the supermarket and in the office. The astonishing thing it is how it happens without most of us even noticing.

Grant uses the wildly successful online, affordable and fashionable eyeglass company Warby Parker to underscore the necessity of questioning things as they are. Up until Warby Parker came along, few questioned the “fact” that eyeglasses needed to be so expensive. The founders rejected this default position and the rest is history.

Accepting the status quo has consequences. It numbs us into believing that things are supposed to be as they are and it robs us of the initiative to take action to change them.

One way to defy defaults is to practice what Grant calls “Vuja De.”

We’re driven to question defaults when we experience vuja de, the opposite of déjà vu. Déjà vu occurs when we encounter something new but it feels as if we’ve seen it before. Vuja de is the reverse—we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insights into old problems.

It takes a little extra effort to practice vuja de but it may just open your eyes to what is in front of you and, even better, help you envision and create a better future.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman