The it is what you make it approach

Of late, whenever I am asked if a certain experience has met or exceeded my expectations, I typically respond with a variant of “it is what you make of it.” There are two reasons for this.

First, there are certain experiences decide I’d like to go through. Whether that is marriage or graduate school, it doesn’t matter. It just matters that experience x passes my decision criteria at the time. Once I make the choice to go through that experience and assuming it works out, there is little point in going in with high expectations. Not only do these result in inevitable disappointment and unhappiness, they focus us too much on the past and sunk costs. Both of these don’t matter – we presumably made the best possible decision with the information we had then and sunk costs should be ignored anyway. Essentially, once you make it to wherever you want to go, all bets are off.

The second and more important reason is that all of life is a lesson in the idea that “it is what you make of it.” In almost any environment, my experience has been directly proportional to how much I give to it. The only choice, then, is how much I give or what I make of it. I could choose not to do much – and that’s okay. I could choose to do a lot – that’s also okay. But, it would be foolish to expect a ton from an environment where I am not engaged.

You can say all you want about how disappointed you are with your choice of job/school/partner. But, the fact remains that there are only 2 things you can improve – how you choose (books have been written on this and for good reason) and, once you choose, how much you engage.

Whatever “it” might be, it is what you make of it. Make it good, make it meaningful, and make it count.

it is what you make of it
Thanks to the source for the image

6 thoughts on “The it is what you make it approach”

  1. I see this as only part of the story. It is extremely important. I believe luck is also a variable. I know many people who put everything they’ve got into a business that failed within 2 to 5 years or could not get off the ground. I’ve seen marriages fail because only 1 gave it all. But at least you have a chance of what you want if you do give it your all.

    1. Hi Pat,

      2 notes –
      – I think of luck as something you don’t control. :) It is definitely a variable but one I don’t focus on here as it is purely focused on what you control.

      – With the marriage example, a partner not doing much is an example of getting better at choosing. Are you attributing it to luck?

      1. sorry for the delayed response.

        First off, yes, I understand not covering what is out of your control in your blog. (I really enjoy reading it…glad Seth Godin pointed me this way).

        My thoughts was people beating themselves up because they do not believe in anything being out of their control.

        Another side (using your marriage example), the choice may be what the person is comfortable with due to the environment they grew up in. If a parent did nothing, the person may be following the only pattern s/he knows. S/he is unaware of doing anything else. It is only luck is understanding in the first place that their are other options.

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