Clichés That Work


“a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought”;

“expression that has been overused to the extent that it loses its original meaning or novelty.”

You are bombarded with them every day of your life.

On your Instagram, Twitter and now even your TitTok feed (if you’re over 30 you probably don’t know the last one, trust me, stay away…unless you have GREAT dance moves). They are in the media, they are on billboards and ‘lo and behold you may have even used one yourself recently. Yes, in this week’s BVP Blog we are discussing the good ‘ol cliché.

Clichés are those “pearls of wisdom” that social media starlets, motivational speakers and even sport stars dust off to try and make sense of situations that we cannot fathom happening, or happening to them (yes COVID, I’m looking at you!). We use them to explain events in history “it lasted an eternity”; our own shady actions “all is fair in love and war” and to even resign ourselves to the inevitable “the writing is on the wall”.

Sport psychology has also not been spared the cliché avalanche and terms such as “have a clear mind”, “flow like water” and “clear your mind” have both exasperated and frustrated athletes in equal measure. However, clichés like many things when it comes to our “mental diet”, are not all good or all bad. They can actually have immense value if they become a consistent reminder or mantra that is connected to an athlete’s values and actions.

In fact, since the start of “locked-in” (I refuse to call it lock-down…too much of a downer) we have turned to some useful clichés to communicate the mindsets or behaviours we would like our athletes to focus on in these trying times.

Yes, some clichés may have overstayed their welcome, but the right “cliché” at the right time can help you re-focus and re-energize at moments where you may need it most.

So, without further ado, our BVP list of most useful, impactful and least cringe-worthy clichés for “locked-in”:

1. “The future only comes one day at a time”.

This has been a favourite we have used in sessions lately to remind our athletes that even though you may be worried about the future, it still arrives in 24 hour installments. This has both a mindfulness implication and a potential calming effect.

As it relates to mindfulness, it implies that worrying about EVERYTHING that will or won’t happen in the future might be valid but that it needn’t change your commitment to today. We also remind our athletes that staying present, moment-to-moment, is the best antidote to anxiety, worry and fear. All three of which are born from too much thinking about the past or future and not enough present moment action.

Secondly, the calm that we encourage our athletes to derive from this cliché is that you can only have an impact on the current moment and that your full focus should be in the here-and-now. Thus, by staying FULLY grounded in action and the present you won’t be as prone to worrying about the future. Therefore allowing for a calm, action-orientated and step-by-step approach to your day.

2. “Control the Controllables”.

Everyone and their dog probably knows this sport psychology staple. This beauty has been applied to everything from dealing with difficult conditions to rowdy crowds, but its common use doesn’t make it any less true.

Like all simple adages “controlling the controllables” is much easier said than done. In the social media age, it seems we are constantly (and subtly) reminded that we are not in control. We don’t control what Trump or China will do, we cannot impact decision made by government and we certainly cannot control the spread of a pandemic.

However, what we can control in relation to all these people and events is our actions, thoughts and words in response to them. Trump says something you don’t agree with? Brush it off with a laugh. The government acting in way you do not agree with? Focus on doing something positive for those around you. A pandemic hits the world and changes it forever? Start planning how you are going to keep your mindset positive and your self-talk hopeful. Sometimes controlling ourselves is all we have and sometimes that is all we need.

3. “It’s a process”.

This is probably the one cliché that our clients hear the most but listen to the least. By implication a process brings to mind steps or actions that one needs to complete to reach a desired outcome. Unfortunately, as human beings we are not always that good at following the steps and therefore often miss the desired target or goal.

A good example is not following the plans for any construction of a toy or a piece of household furniture. “It’s fine, we do not ACTUALLY need the instructions” is almost invariably followed a few hours later with “why is there an extra screw left?”. (Well in my house anyway!)

If we stay focused on the fact that there are many steps that need to be completed in constructing a modular chair or a round of golf, we become less prone to take the short cut of missing steps…and invariably ending up with a “loose screw”.

The process-mindset is even more valid in every-day life right now when we are faced with the uncertainty of COVID. Every action that we undertake in the time post-COVID will need our full attention and focus and process-orientated thinking is the easiest way to achieve conventional or great outcomes.

Be that the process of focusing on the steps that keep our families safe or the daily affirmations that safe-guard our own optimistic mindsets. In reminding ourselves that the journey back to “normality” will have many steps we can rely on a focus that is more about championing every individual step done well, rather than worrying about an outcome that we do not control.

Let’s face it, the next few weeks, months and even years are going to be challenging and without considered thoughts, words and actions it could be an emotional rollercoaster. A well delivered cliché may not solve the whole problem but it can remind us of what we stand for in times of crisis. As the old clichéd saying goes: “when life throws you lemons….build a lemonade stand”.

All the best and remember to Stay SAFE and Play GREAT!