Cliches – Clues to your model of the world?

Sources of wisdom – Clichés

Clichés are terms, phrases, or even ideas that capture or rather, once captured something valuable enough for them to repeated and used extensively. However, in the most part over use and common acceptance has led us to relegate them to the fringe. We hear then and dismiss them effectively losing any of the value they were once intended to pass on.


Take any cliché :

A stitch in time saves nine

Originally captured to set us a guide to repair clothes or sails quickly when we first notice a tear or a rip because we know that if you leave it the tear or rip gets worse and it’ll soon take 9 stitches not just the well timed 1  to fix it.

This cliché reflects a common success principle that works for many of us to achieve positive change by nudging things in a general direction or by resisting degradation of what we have that we enjoy now.

It’s relatively easy to see how the same good advice works in many different situations. A stitch in time ….

Doing something today in good time to make tomorrow easier or better ….

Saving a penny today means the job of getting rich tomorrow is smaller

Doing sit ups today means getting fit tomorrow is less of a job

Saying no to the cake or pudding today means getting slim is less of a job tomorrow

There are multiple applications of this simple principle encouraging us to do simple easy things today designed to make tomorrow easier or less onerous than it will otherwise be.

Of course, there’s a balance, today is full of stiches we could do now and if your mind is a what’s wrong what needs to be fixed slant then there will always be more than you could every do.

The principle is good but it still means how we use it counts and we have decide which situation receives our stitch

The English language contains hundreds of cliches

We could see them as part of an oral tradition that passes down advice and wisdom. advice and wisdom that may still be valid in your model of the world.

To make the most of them we need to see beyond the words, beyond the context of the cliché itself and look for the success principle that lurks beneath them.

Don’t cry over spilled milk

This not just about ‘not crying’ when things apparently go wrong it’s about telling us that when you feel like crying there are more important things to do than cry.

We might want to check our perspective is right and useful

We eight want to make plans to avoid spilling any more milk, it goes on and if you apply the cliché in its widest terms to your situation its usually easy to find the application that will help.

Cliches provide a stimulus for us to stop what we would do naturally and to consider other options. They can  help us break up any  stimulus response failure pattern or get us to look closer at cause and effect relationships.


All that glitters isn’t gold

Caught up in the positive future or opportunity we see we rush to make choices or decisions that are not in our best interest. Research shows younger women are more interested in bad boys and yet good boys tend to make better husbands.

This cliché says stop check that the glitter is real that it has relevance, that it is not hiding something more important  that would be a valuable fact to notice.


Cliches help us see when we are not working optimally

Don’t get your knickers in a twist

This reminds us we can sometimes get worked up over the wrong things, it helps us remember that when this happens we may make poor choices and that the first job is to untwist the nickers if we are to be effective.

Cliches help us understand temporary mood swings

Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed simply means we have the wrong view point. It implies we can choose our view point and even create it (by getting out of the right side of the bed).

With our wrong head on, we see things in a way that doesn’t suit us long term, perhaps we see the negative in everything rather than the positive that is also there. This cliché reminds us our perception and thinking can be changed by circumstances and if we let this happen it’s not necessarily going to end well. It reminds us that we our responsible for our mood and that we can and should take steps to make sure our best interests are served by which side of the bed we get out of.

We get more help from cliché with managing our reactions

Only time will tell

This cliché is covered effectively in our story of the White Horse. 

When news arrives and it looks like bad news or, good news, the reality is we don’t yet know if this is true, it takes time to understand the real impact of anything. We have met so many self-employed, business, people who started their business because no one else would employ them or employ them fairly. Those pushed out of their jobs can recall the emotion of that awful day when they were sacked and lost their ‘’real job’.

And yet, ten years later, all of them looked back on that moment as the start of all their real success.

Model of the World and success principles

Even with these few examples we can see how cliches underpin some of our most effective success principles. Writing off cliches when you don’t really get them can cheat you out of lots of good ideas and advice. Some of these also let us see what we think or how we think and so provide clues into our own models of the world

There’s a list below if you want to have a quick run through and if any resonate for you today……



All for one, and one for all

Kiss and make up

He has his tail between his legs

Cat got your tongue?

Read between the lines

Just a matter of time

As old as the hills

Fit as a fiddle

A diamond in the rough

Opposites attract

Every cloud has a silver lining

Don’t cry over spilled milk

The calm before the storm

Laughter is the best medicine

Frightened to death

All is fair in love and war

All’s well that ends well

Haste makes waste

The writing’s on the wall

Time heals all wounds

What goes around comes around

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

Sick to your guts

Start with a clean slate

You want an axe to grind

another day, another dollar

A penny saved is a penny earned

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

All’s fair in love and war

All’s well that ends well

It’ll be all right in the end

Avoid it (them) like the plague

Her bark is worse than her bite

Your barking up the wrong tree

Beggars can’t be choosers

It’s better to be late than never

It’s better to be safe than sorry

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

He’s a big fish in a small pond

The bigger they are the harder they fall

A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush

Birds of a feather flock together

Like a bull in a china shop

Burn the midnight oil

You can’t burn the candle at both ends

It’s the calm before the storm

It’s a can of worms

Don’t cross a bridge before you come to it

Curiosity killed the cat

The darkest hour is just before the dawn

The devil is in the details

Divide and conquer

Don’t burn your bridges

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Don’t rock the boat

Every dog has its day

This will pass

You got to have eyes in the back of your head

If you always do what you always did then you’ll always get what you always got.

Put garbage in, get garbage out

Go against the grain …

It isn’t over till the fat lady sings

It takes one to know one

You can’t judge a book by its cover

It’s best to let sleeping dogs lie

Don’t let the cat out of the bag

Live like there’s no tomorrow

Make hay while the sun shines

There’s more than one way to skin a cat

No pain no gain

No time like the present

If not now when?

If not you who?

There’s no use crying over spilled milk

Just keep your nose to the grindstone

There’s not a hope in hell

He / she they are not playing with a full deck

It’s really not the end of the world

No not in my backyard

It’s not written in stone

That’s nothing to sneeze at

Nothing ventured nothing gained

You are they are – on thin ice

Once bitten, twice shy

One bad apple doesn’t spoil the bushel

There’s one born every minute

Out of sight, out of mind

Don’t jump out of the frying pan into the fire

We’re not out of the woods yet

You’re / we are out on a limb

It’s as plain as the nose on your face

They don’t play by the rules

If you play your cards right

Don’t pull your punches

Time to put the pedal to the metal

Don’t put the cart before the horse

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

It’s six of one, half a dozen of another

You are skating on thin ice

The squeaky wheel gets the oi

Still waters run deep

A stitch in time- saves 9

The straw that broke the camel’s back

Wake up smell the coffee

It’s time to throw in the towel

That’s water under the bridge

Weather the storm, it’ll pass

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

wrong side of the bed

You can run, but you can’t hide

You only live once

Cliches – Clues to your model of the world?