The Truth About Clichés

I never liked clichés. I thought they were annoying, trite, unoriginal, and frankly — passive aggressive.

Like, “make lemonade out of lemons.” I mean, what does that even mean? Just say what you want to say. Be direct. Don’t “beat around the bush” — to use yet another cliche.

A cliché is an expression, an idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some point in time, when it was first said, it was considered original and really meaningful and insightful.

But, what I’ve come to realize recently is that clichés get a bad rap, often when they shouldn’t. Because, at the end of the day (another cliché), most overused expressions and clichés are overused and thus become clichés because they are universal truths. They are truisms.

The fact that their overuse has taken away their meaning doesn’t mean that the original meaning is no longer true or relevant or insightful.

Here are a few examples that have really hit home (yes, another one) for me recently:

1. “Every cloud has a silver lining, ” OR “When you have lemons, make lemonade,” OR “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, ” OR “If you want success, start failing.”

For me, all these clichés say the same thing: to encourage you to remember to have a positive attitude, even and especially when things are going bad; and to actively and consciously see the value that’s inherent in our mistakes, our failures, and the bad times, and that value for me is learning and growing and evolving and becoming better.

2. “The grass is always greener on the other side,” OR “Have an Attitude of Gratitude,” OR “It’s Not The Destination, It’s the Journey That Matters.”

I’ve come to realize that when you put all your focus on whatever your end goal is, then you end up spending all your time forever “chasing” something and you are never actually enjoying or being present in the chase itself- which is the whole point of why you’re chasing what your chasing. When you’re constantly focusing on how things could be better, or how far you have to go to reach your goal, you never actually turn around and see how far you’ve come or how much you already have. So, don’t be a “Gapper”; rather, be a “Gainer.”

3. “What goes around comes around,” OR “Give and You Shall Receive,” AND “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

If you’re constantly “selling” or “pushing” others on your end goal, you’re not giving anything to them, but rather trying to take something from them to achieve your goal. But, if you surround yourself with people that have aligned values or similar goals, and you give them your honest feedback, your thoughts, your time, your insights, your service — whatever it is — then, you’ll naturally and organically find that you yourself will get back what you were seeking to begin with.

4. “It’s not what you get, but who you become,” OR “Don’t just make a dollar, make a difference.”

These are two crucial messages:

(A) Instead of viewing personal development as a byproduct of success, view success as a byproduct of your personal development.

(B) Let’s be real — money is important and it’s a powerful resource. And, there is absolutely no shame in wanting financial success and financial abundance. But, if your sole end goal is simply to make money, chances are you’ll end up with an inverse function: for as much money you make, you’ll have an equally inverted amount of fulfillment and purpose and happiness in your life. Money without meaning is worthless. (Is that a cliché?).

5. Lastly, “Actions speak louder than words,” OR “There’s no time like the present,” OR “Just go with your gut,” OR “Trust your intuition,” OR “Follow your heart,” OR “Follow your dreams,” OR “Pursue your passion.”

My version of these truisms is, of course, “SEIZE YOUR PASSION!” I only hope that everyone starts doing it, saying it, breathing it, and living it that it becomes so overused and trite that it earns its own cliché status.

So, the next time you hear a cliché thrown at you — stop, listen and think about its true meaning. Perhaps then, it will guide you and help propel you forward; rather than irritate you. That’s what I’m choosing to do.

Thank you, and don’t forget to Seize Your Passion! Whatever it may be.

You can watch all of our live streams on this topic and more here.


Rachel Ellner Lebensohn

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