Turning over a new leaf: idioms and phrases for the New Year

by Liz Walter

Lewis Mulatero/Moment Mobile/Getty
Lewis Mulatero/Moment Mobile/Getty

New Year is a time when we often take stock of our life (think about what is good or bad about it). We may feel that we should draw a line under the past (finish with it and forget about it) and make a fresh start. This post looks at idioms and other phrases connected with this phenomenon.

If we decide to stop doing something we consider to be bad and to start behaving in a better way, we can say that we are going to turn over a new leaf. We might decide to kick a habit such as smoking (stop doing it), have a crack at (try) a new hobby, or even leave a dead-end job (one with no chance of promotion) or finish a relationship that isn’t going anywhere.

Of course, many of these things are difficult. You may have decided to give up sweets once and for all (definitely and for ever), but that’s easier said than done when you receive a birthday box of your favourite chocolates. If you have a bad day or two, it’s easy to feel that you are back to square one (have made no progress). However, people who advise on such things will tell you that it’s not all or nothing – if you break your resolution, it’s not the end of the world and you can soon be back on the straight and narrow (doing what you should be doing).

In order to stick to a resolution, there are some strategies you can use. First, you could put your money where your mouth is (pay money to show you are serious about something), for instance by taking out a gym membership to get fit. One common piece of advice is to take it one day at a time (not focus too much on the long-term goal). After all, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Another is not to bite off more than you can chew (not try to do too much) – we all know someone whose New Year’s resolution to ‘renovate their house’ means that they and their family are still living in a building site ten years later. It’s also important to be realistic – with the best will in the world (even with a lot of effort), a chain-smoking couch potato (lazy person) isn’t likely to give up cigarettes and go running five times a week. It may be a good idea to get the ball rolling (start) with a more modest aim.

Some people are very successful in their resolutions. Once they’ve decided to bite the bullet (do something difficult), they get their act together (organize themselves effectively) and put their heart and soul into achieving what they want to achieve. If they manage to stay the course (not give up), they will see their efforts bear fruit.

And finally, I could not leave this topic without one well-known proverb: the road to hell is paved with good intentions, which means that although people often intend to be good, they often fail at it.

Happy New Year!

40 thoughts on “Turning over a new leaf: idioms and phrases for the New Year

    1. Satish

      Great, please kindly let me know, how it gonna be happend. I would like to follow your plan if you have any specific and realistic pathway to make it ..

  1. Pingback: Turning over a new leaf: idioms and phrases for the New Year - Editorials Today

    1. Hadeel Hammam

      Hi Joyce, think of a mother has kids and she has good intentions to raise them well and keep them safe, but she also has to work hard for money to maintain this good attention. If she terribly spends more time at her work than at her home with her kids, they may lose their belonging to her and feel alone and sad, even they might be criminals, God forbid. For me, I hate this saying and I still believe in good attentions and their good influence on life and people.

      1. Monica

        Sad to say but this has been me for the last 18yrs… I had to quit employment in the beginning of this year to give my children more time. I have decided to be back on the straight and narrow and work with something that leaves me a bit more time for the children.

  2. You’re an absolute genius – you just have got your act together and put your heart and soul into bringing all necessary expressions and explaining them.

    Thanks a lot and Happy New Year!

  3. Pingback: Turning over a new leaf: idioms and phrases for the New Year – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Jan 04, 2017) | Editorial Words

  4. Tatiana Balandina

    In Russia we are celebrating Christmas tomorrow and are turning a new leaf now.(The so called “Russian old New Year celebration” is on the 13th of January, though it is a home holiday now). Thank you , Liz, for this excellent present! I wish we had more posts of yours and I hope we all will be back on the straight and narrow. Good luck and Happy New Year!

    1. Liz Walter

      Thank you, Tatiana – if you click on my name in the place with pictures of all the blog authors, you can get many more posts!

  5. Oriel Villagarcia

    it’s funny that the expression DRAW A LINE UNDER THE PAST is not listed in the Cambridge English Dictionary. An oversight? I’d be grateful for your comments. Oriel at orielv7@yahoo.com.ar
    Incidentally, I receive your wonderful ABOUT WORDS section and I think your articles are great!!!

  6. Liz Walter

    As a couple of people have asked about this – to see more of my blogs, or those of any of the other authors, just go to the ‘author’ section on the right-hand side of this page and click on a name to see all the older posts.

  7. Pingback: Turning over a new leaf: idioms and phrases for the New Year | più rospi che principi

  8. Pingback: Turning over a new leaf: idioms and phrases for the New Year — englishinyourlife.ru

  9. Eva

    That’s a well-done job, I must say! I’ll definitely study the article again and go to great lengths to use the expressions in my speech.

  10. Omar

    It is also said : Paradise Road is fraught with difficulties, it’s not easy to reach without hardship and trouble . And The road to hell is fraught with lusts..
    Thanks for that great topic , too much things to know ))

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