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If you are not only accepting a situation that is not what you wanted, but are taking steps to adapt to that situation, is there a word/phrase that describes this?

Neither "resignation" or "capitulation" seems to imply the adaptation step.

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resourcefulness? – thang Jan 21 '13 at 17:59
Resourcefulness covers the adaptation, but not the acceptance. – Jason S Jan 21 '13 at 18:03
Satisfice is a verbal amalgam of satisfy and suffice that seems to cover the territory; it means to settle for enough, whether you're satisfied or not. As the adage goes, "Better is the enemy of Good Enough". – John Lawler Jan 21 '13 at 18:04
@JohnLawler: 'satisficing' is a positive term (accepting a non-optimal not out of resignation but as a successful goal oriented strategy). The OP is looking for a negative term for which 'resignation' or 'settling' describe the negatively stigmatized result. – Mitch Jan 21 '13 at 18:18
Satisficing was designed to be a positive term; but one is never in control of connotations, even with newly-minted terms. For many people, satisfice is bureacratic/planning/managerialese for "settle for less and like it". – John Lawler Jan 21 '13 at 18:24
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I believe "coping" covers the part about adapting to the situation.

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+1. I really like this word in the context of what OP is looking for. "Sub-optimal situation" is there. "Accepting a situation" is there. "Effort to adapt" is there. – Mohit Jan 22 '13 at 6:01

You are making do in that case.

make do
to manage or get along by the means available

As my comment suggests, you can also simply use manage.

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+1 as it's a good fit, I was looking for something more latinate I guess. – Jason S Jan 21 '13 at 18:02
The definition includes the word manage, which might work as well. "How did you do?" "We managed." – Robusto Jan 21 '13 at 18:05
Yeah, I think I like manage better. Thanks. – Jason S Jan 21 '13 at 18:09
"Making do" has a particularly good history in British English, since WWII propaganda aimed at encouraging people to see putting up with repairs over replacements and the effort of doing something yourself rather than hiring someone, as part of the war effort. ("Make do and mend" in particular remains an expression to this day). Of course the expression works perfectly well in other forms of English, too. – Jon Hanna Jan 21 '13 at 19:22

Perhaps working with what you have, playing the cards you're dealt, or being resourceful meet the criteria.

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You can use adapt, acclimatize or accommodate, depending on the exact situation.

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I personally would strongly recommend acclimate over acclimatize. – Hellion Jan 21 '13 at 18:40
That may be part of it, but the other part is, why take a word that's already a verb and attach a suffix which makes a verb out of it? – Hellion Jan 21 '13 at 19:55

You can say that you "settled" for the sub-optimum situation or option

"Acquiesced" is another choice with a slightly different implication:

intr.v. ac·qui·esced, ac·qui·esc·ing, ac·qui·esc·es. To consent or comply passively or without protest.

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Those imply acceptance of the situation, but not really the adaptation. If I get arrested for protesting, and I let the police take me to jail, I settled for it or acquiesced. But if I change my plans after doing so, to take into account the situation, this aspect of it isn't encompassed by "settled" or "acquiesced". – Jason S Jan 21 '13 at 18:42
@JasonS, sorry these weren't the perfect fit for your use - if you want some other options, do a search on this site for "jerry-rig" and you'll get at least 4 questions that involved "making do" with less-than-optimum options. – Kristina Lopez Jan 21 '13 at 18:47

You could use endure, or even abide. Both suggest actively withstanding a difficult situation.

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This is what is meant by "the new normal.". The term originally referred to the need to adapt to the attacks of sept.11. Having to be hyper vigilant was a suboptimal condition, but a necessary one in terms of how the world had been changed

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My father liked to call this "making a creative adjustment".

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