I hate clichés. Well, perhaps it’s not the sayings themselves that I detest, but the way they’re tossed around to explain away the bulk of human experiences. They’re too convenient, too cute by half, and, sometimes, they’re just downright annoying. But I had a good friend in college who lived for clichés. A stitch in time saves nine. A bird in hand is better than two in a bush. Everything happens for a reason. Good things come to those who wait. Relationships are for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. What God has for me, it is for me. Who in the hell left the gate open? You name it, she loved it.
Despite my aversion to overused aphorisms, I do understand their worth and validity. Clichés become clichés because they’re proved true often enough to work as explanations. And we need our explanations, don’t we? Sometimes, the more succinct the explanation for our pain, our grief, our unexpected fate or success, the better. In those moments, it’s nice to have these little one-liners to fall back on.
When I really began to think about it, quite a few of my life’s governing principles have a corresponding cliché, whether I choose to connect them or not. Here are a few of the clichés I’ve found most useful:
1. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
This one’s been helpful in reminding me not to get ahead of myself, especially in financial planning. As a freelancer and an artist, I know the promise of payment is not as good as payment itself. There’s no accounting for money (or opportunities) you don’t have yet.
2. Don’t put your egg in one basket.
You can’t hang all your hopes on one job offer, one open house showing, or one relationship. It’s great to reside in the moment and to enjoy what you’re experiencing; it’s not as great to get comfortable and believe you don’t have to have a back-up plan.
3. The early bird gets the worm.
I used to be a “night person.” Then I had a kid. Being forced into early rising will teach you quickly just how much people can get done before 9 a.m.
4. When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on a little while longer.
This is a relatively new one for me. I heard it on some reality show. “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s”? “Love Addiction”? One of those. It’s a simple concept, but the idea of tying a knot is a great one. Slipping to the end of your rope can make you feel helpless, like there’s officially nothing else you can do. But tying a knot gives you agency; it empowers you. There’s always something else you can do.
5. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
A great one for customer service situations. “Please” and “thank you” have broken down far more barricades for me than “Now!” and “Who’s your superior?” have for others I know.
Are there any clichés that ring true for you? Where did you first hear them?