5 Outdated Phrases We Use Without Contemplating Their Meanings

by Lauren Santye

People have the tendency to repeat things they’ve heard without actually considering about what's being said.

When a phrase is heard repetitively, we will adopt it, store it away and then carelessly throw it around.

If you incessantly hear something, it becomes ingrained into your brain. The phrase may then slip out, whether you mean to say it or not.

The older I get, the more interested I have become in human behavior. I am fascinated by examining why we behave and say the things we do.

When I actually stop to think about phrases we use, the more I believe we need to be mindful about what our words imply.

We should say what we mean and mean what we say (another one of those pesky sayings).

So, here are five phrases we are all guilty of using without taking a moment to reflect on their meanings:

1. "Practice makes perfect."

"Perfection" is such a tricky word. Those who are striving for perfection always risk living lives that will never be good enough for them.

There is nothing wrong with improving yourself or striving to do better. But, trying to attain perfection is impossible. No one, no matter how great the person seems, is perfect.

So, when we repeat this phrase to our friends, family and children, we are fueling a detrimental mindset. We are saying perfection can be achieved if only you try hard enough.

My sister, a first-grade teacher, prefers saying, “Practice makes progress,” when she's teaching or encouraging her students to keep trying.

Simply by changing some key words, a phrase with a negative connotation can be changed into something positive.

2. "I have no regrets."

When people say they have no regrets, I can’t help but roll my eyes. I think they're being dishonest.

Have you truly never done something you wish you hadn’t? Said something you wish you could take back?

Yes, I’ve heard, “I try to not regret anything.” But, what is so bad about having regrets?

Perhaps, I’m the outlier, but I have a ton of regrets. I have more regrets than I can count; I have years of regret that have piled up over time.

The difference is I don’t dwell over my regrets or let them pull me down.

I acknowledge my regrets and their existence, and I use them as learning opportunities.

Regrets serve as a reminder to avoid repeating past mistakes. They are the compass I use to help keep me on the path I want to stay on.

3. "Once a cheater, always a cheater."

My issue with this phrase is not so much the phrase itself, but the idea behind it.

We use this to serve as warning when dealing with relationships. To be fair, there are times when you should learn to walk away. But, what this phrase means to me is something so much bigger.

We have all made many mistakes in life, but that doesn’t mean we should be defined by them.

Should there be a phrase created for every past transgression we have ever made in our lives?

Does this mean that because a mistake was made, we will automatically be making that mistake time and time again? I certainly don’t believe so.

It’s important to remember you are not your mistakes. They are merely the building blocks to get to where you currently are in your life.

4. “You can't teach an old dog new tricks.”

This phrase means it is impossible to change people’s traits, habits or mindsets. We are stuck with what we were born with, never being able to really change.

However, Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, has been doing research for 20 years on this idea.

In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” she discovered people either have a "growth mindset," where they face challenges and see failure as growth, or a "fixed mindset," where it is believed intelligence, character traits and creativity don’t change and can be determining factors in our happiness and success in life.

Dweck writes:

“Growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience [...] "Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”

5. “It is what it is.”

Right now, many Millennials have donned the “couldn’t care less” attitude.

For them, it's cooler to not care about anything rather than to express passion about something.

The phrase, “It is what it is,” is thrown around so frequently, it has become vacuous. Often times, it is used simply as a placeholder because we don’t know what else to say.

When this phrase is used, people are usually talking about a situation they are unhappy about and think circumstances can be changed. It is the ultimate sign of giving up.

You could even say this phrase falls into the “fixed mindset” category.

If you are unhappy about something in your life, change it. We have the freedom and options to do so.

Whether it requires us to be a little creative or think outside the box, you can free yourself from it.