30

Kind of like a "might as well go for it" kind of thing, in my language there are idioms that roughly translate to "you must finish everything on your plate, even if it's poison" or "you must follow the javelin you have hurled".

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  • 6
    Do you mean 'you must commit to following an undertaken course of action through completely, even if it turns out to have been not the best choice ... to change horses mid-course would be even worse'? Jan 3 at 19:18
  • 2
    You title doesn’t match your text.
    – Xanne
    Jan 3 at 20:22
  • 4
    "Doubling down" is related. It refers to "strengthening one's commitment to a particular strategy or course of action, typically one that is potentially risky." It's the opposite action of "cutting one's losses".
    – ikegami
    Jan 4 at 15:51
  • 1
    There are quite a few (Most answers here) that are the equivalent of "Commit" or "Go for it" and some "Deal with your own mistakes" but I can't think of a single one that means You cannot correct a poorly chosen course of action. It's not that the idea doesn't exist (I've seen correcting your choice treated as a weakness in political candidates among some groups), but I don't think I've ever heard an idiom for it.
    – Bill K
    Jan 4 at 18:55
  • 4
    If your native language is European, it might have a translation of the Latin phrase alea iacta est as an idiom. The English translation is "the die is cast", mentioned below. Jan 6 at 15:29

25 Answers 25

52

Per Merriam-Webster:

in for a penny, in for a pound
idiom
British
—used to say that a person should finish what he or she has started to do even though it may be difficult or expensive
“If you want to quit, I'll understand.” “No, I'm sure we can do this. In for a penny, in for a pound.”

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  • 17
    Which naturally leads to "throwing good money after bad". Good demonstration of the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Jan 4 at 13:23
  • 6
    Note that this just indicates that one should or wants to proceed, not that they must.
    – ikegami
    Jan 4 at 16:00
  • 3
    This expression doesn't really capture sense in the OP's examples of being obligated to moving forward even after discovering that it would be harmful to do so. In fact, it doesn't really convey obligation at all. Jan 5 at 16:25
  • 4
    IMO, the quoted dictionary definition misses the meaning of this expression. It's not about completing something. It's about any involvement instantaneously obligating full commitment. Jan 5 at 21:10
  • 1
    Interesting, my mother always used this like "might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb" Jan 6 at 16:04
44

the die is cast

You can say "the die is cast," which refers to one of the dice gamblers use in games of chance.

The meaning is, once the dice have left your hand, you have to play with whatever they show, even if bad.

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  • 26
    Oddly also works very well with a manufacturing Die. Which is used for casting objects.. Once cast, it's "set" and unchanging. Jan 4 at 10:44
  • 18
    I think this is also a quote from Julius Ceasar, before he crossed the Rubicon, which is another good answer below (+1) Jan 4 at 13:12
  • Agree whole-heartedly with Ruadhan2300. Do or die?!
    – Tim
    Jan 5 at 17:04
  • 5
    @DikranMarsupial: Alea iacta est Jan 6 at 15:02
25
  1. When someone complains that they are in a bad situation as a result of a decision they have made, or 2. when someone points out that the situation the other person is in is of their own making:

You have made your bed and now you must lie in it.

See The Free Dictionary.

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  • 8
    This is a statement usually said after the fact to say you now get the consequences of your choice. Not what OP asks.
    – Stilez
    Jan 4 at 10:16
  • @Stilez You seem to have repeated my first paragraph, which gives context. The pronoun can, of course be changed and thus fit with the OP's question.
    – Greybeard
    Jan 4 at 11:04
  • 3
    No, it wouldn't. This is more likely to be said after the action and consequences, whereas OP asks for a phrase related to just before even committing to the action (once more unto the breach! style), and clearly before any consequences
    – Stilez
    Jan 4 at 13:21
  • This feels very close to me, but with too much finality. The idiom I'm most familiar with in a more ongoing predicament is "You signed up for it" - a reminder that you made the decision with some implied responsibility to see it out
    – sbauch
    Jan 29 at 4:36
21

Bite the bullet

If someone bites the bullet, they accept that they have to do something unpleasant but necessary.

{journalism}

Tour operators may be forced to bite the bullet and cut prices.

[Collins]

Better yet,

Burn your boats

[British]

or Burn your bridges

To do something which forces you to continue with a particular course of action, and makes it impossible for you to return to an earlier situation

I didn't sell it because I didn't know how long I would be here. I didn't want to burn all my bridges.

[Collins]

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  • 7
    FWIW in American English, burning your bridges is different from burning your boats. It means destroying a relationship with a person or a group in a way that keeps you from going back, but it's generally not something you do deliberately, just an accident or a consequence you accept. E.g. you might say "I know I'll burn this bridge if I quit with no notice, but this job is so awful it's worth it." Jan 5 at 14:14
  • 1
    And burning your boats very explicitly brings up the history of the Conquistador Hernán Cortés burning his ships (or sinking them, at least) to motivate his men as they landed near Veracruz to fight the Aztecs and not mutiny.
    – Tim
    Jan 7 at 3:27
13

point of no return n. pl. points of no return

  1. The point in a course of action beyond which reversal is not possible.
  2. The point in the flight of an aircraft beyond which there is insufficient fuel for return to the starting point.

AHD

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  • 10
    What's AHD?.... Jan 3 at 23:27
  • 2
    The American Heritage Dictionary
    – user405662
    Jan 4 at 4:49
  • 3
    Often used as "[we are] past the point of no return", which is apt here.
    – ikegami
    Jan 4 at 15:57
  • Can also say "we are almost at the point of no return" meaning that there is no time left for further analysis and that a changeable course of action will very soon become unchangeable.
    – nigel222
    Jan 5 at 15:29
11

"Face the music"

Oxford Languages

be confronted with the unpleasant consequences of one's actions.

This next one isn't exactly related to what you are asking for but still may be relevant to your context.

"Cross the Rubicon"

Collins

If you say that someone has crossed the Rubicon, you mean that they have reached a point where they cannot change a decision or course of action.

3
  • 1
    Rubicon is closer to cannot change it now, whereas I think OP wants more like decide to follow it through, now. Unsure if its the same
    – Stilez
    Jan 4 at 20:02
  • @Stilez I agree. That is why I said it isn't exactly related to what he was asking for but still could be relevant. I am unsure of his exact context.
    – BreWoodsy
    Jan 5 at 6:07
  • Crossing the Rubicon is also the origin of alea iacta est; they go together part and parcel.
    – Tim
    Jan 7 at 4:18
9

"No turning back" describes this situation where you must simply keep moving on.

7
  • Why on earth would you downvote this? "No turning back" is used exactly when you must commit to a course of action regardless of the pros or cons of it all. Rightly or wrongly there's "no turning back" you must continue onward.
    – Paul Evans
    Jan 5 at 16:38
  • To me "no turning back" implies no choices at all which doesn't quite fit the OP's question.
    – deep64blue
    Jan 5 at 17:58
  • 2
    @AlanDev How does "You must commit to a course of action" give you any wiggle room to decide on choices? You're also ignoring that "No turning back" implies there is a way back but you just can't do that. It's like "can only go forwards" vs "can't go backwards".
    – Paul Evans
    Jan 5 at 18:22
  • No turning back, to me, means you just have to go on regardless of anything. I think it's subtly different than the OP's request.
    – deep64blue
    Jan 5 at 20:40
  • 1
    It's different though, ''there's no turning back now'' can mean that there is something which prevents you from turning back. Jan 6 at 20:39
6

Often any decision, even the wrong decision, is better than no decision.

This quotation is attributed to Ben Horowitz at a few websites, e.g., wisefamousquotes.com however I haven’t found a “reliable” source yet.

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  • 2
    Jack Ma, founder of Ali Baba, said this in a speech from the 90s/00s in a documentary I recently watched. Unfortunately I can't remember at what point. Jan 4 at 19:27
  • 1
    "being a leader is not about being right or wrong, it's about being certain" - T Pratchett?
    – Caius Jard
    Jan 5 at 17:57
  • 1
    "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice" - Geddy Lee
    – user662852
    Jan 6 at 5:43
6

In keeping with the battle mindset you give, you could say you're willing to die on this hill. Also seen as a mountain I'm willing to die on.

It's a fight or an issue where for better or worse, you decide to draw a line in the sand or take a stand.

Noun
hill to die on (plural hills to die on)

(idiomatic) An issue to pursue with wholehearted conviction and/or single-minded focus, with little or no regard to the cost.

More in depth origins can be found in this question.

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  • 4
    Doesn't seem quite the right nuance. Also too strong compared to OP??
    – Stilez
    Jan 4 at 10:14
  • 2
    This indicates a choice to continue (like "doubling-down" does), whereas there was no such component in the OP's examples.
    – ikegami
    Jan 4 at 15:55
  • @Stilez About as strong as eating a plate full poisoned food, no?
    – livresque
    Jan 5 at 1:53
5

I think it's close to "play the hand you are dealt"

To use the resources which one actually has available; to operate realistically, within the limits of one's circumstances

Source: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/play_the_hand_one_is_dealt

4

Specifically for committing to one of two bad alternatives, I'd say "Pick your poison". When maintaining a bad status quo instead of taking a chance on a bad action, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't." But for pushing through on a decision already made, I like the previous answer "In for a penny, in for a pound."

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  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 4 at 23:34
  • Connected, is a "poisoned chalice" meaning a job or task which nobody wants, but which somebody has to do (and which they are almost certain to receive blame for).
    – nigel222
    Jan 5 at 15:24
3

(a person's) "hands are tied"

Does not refer to a literal tying of hands. Merely that one person is unable to assist another due to some external pressure or situation.

e.g. "I'd love to help you out, but my hands are tied". or
"I wish I didn't have to let you go (fire you), but my hands are tied. Someone has to pay for the data leak."

Merriam-Webster

1
  • I don't understand the downvote; I believe my answer fits with the title of the question. Can someone shed some light on it? The English.SE [help guide for answers]((english.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer) didn't make it immediately clear to me.
    – Ed HP
    Jan 5 at 14:46
3

"Don't switch/change/swap horses in mid-stream" is an idiom often used to say that the current course of action (and in particular the current leader) has been chosen and there is no option but to keep "crossing the stream" until the other side has been reached. It is attributed to Abraham Lincoln (source)

1
  • This one comes with the implication that there might have been a choice initially, but once you committed to one choice, you have to stick with it. Chose the weaker, shorter "horse"? Well, midstream, sticking with it is better than trying to dismount and choose a better "horse"; circumstances prevent you from making a new choice. Jan 6 at 22:05
2

Damn the torpedoes!

David Farragut

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  • 1
    Fun fact. back then, torpedoes were what we call 'mines' today.
    – Tony Ennis
    Jan 8 at 19:31
2

"Come hell or high water" immediately came to mind for me.

Source: Merriam-Webster

1

If one has to put a brave face on a sorry business you may say "He cracks hardy".

When it's a matter of pretending that everything is fine when things are actually going quite badly, "one puts up a good/a brave front".

If one managed to gain an advantage from something that he has to do and cannot avoid / accepted responsibility for or did cheerfuly and with interest smth. that he cannot avoid, you may say: "He made a virtue of necessity / made the best of a bad bargain".

1

How about, "Shit, or get off the pot ..."?

The question is about proceeding with a given, one course of action in terms of the time to go with it, or let it go. How about, "Fish, or cut bait"?

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  • 3
    Please explain how this addresses the question. I encourage you to tour the site and see the help center for how to answer.
    – livresque
    Jan 5 at 1:44
  • Going "shit or bust". seems closer to me.
    – WS2
    Jan 5 at 23:36
  • @WS2 I've never heard that in my life, must be something people say in the US. Jan 6 at 20:37
  • @Tom See my answer below - possibly Australian, possibly UK depending on whether you believe Wiktionary or Urban Dictionary.
    – WS2
    Jan 6 at 21:28
1

It's not a well-known phrase by any means but a snippet of dialogue from a season one episode of Babylon 5 captures the idea.

The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.

1

Ride or die

A modern metaphor of commitment to the cause.

0

Macbeth Act 2, Scene 2:

Things bad begun make themselves strong by ill.

could actually be used as an idiom though you might raise a few eyebrows. If you want to go for an applause you might try these lines from Act 3, Scene 4:

I am in blood Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er.

2
  • To use such old literary language would raise more than a few eyebrows. Not appropriate at all, I assume (or hope) that you are joking. Jan 6 at 20:37
  • Naturally the second is exaggerated, but I find your downvote goes too far. In for a penny, in for a pound, is great. There is no answer other than the first line by Macbeth that fits better the title of the question. Furthermore I would argue in the UK, a.k.a. the home of the English language, many people would even know the following line, and certainly many would know the line itself. The asker didn't mention which brand of English he wants. Jan 7 at 11:37
0

I think the answer is Shit or Bust.

According to Wiktionary it is Australian slang meaning: With extreme vigour and enthusiasm, where quality may be considered. However, efforts involve high risk, and therefore the potential for adverse outcomes. Vision exceeds regard for due care and consideration.

But according to Urban Dictionary it is a rephrasing of Royal Corps of Signals motto Certa Cito meaning "Swift and Sure". But don't ask me how you get from one to the other.

But it does seem to imply commitment to a course of action even if it is the wrong one.

2
  • Again a bit too strong for the given description.
    – user405662
    Jan 7 at 6:27
  • 1
    @user405662 The questioner gave as an example "you must finish everything on your plate even if it's poison". My answer didn't seem especially strong by that standard.
    – WS2
    Jan 7 at 9:26
0

"You need to pull the trigger on [doing something]" or just "it's time to pull the trigger."

This is definitely more American in context, but this indicates a choice must be made, and that choice cannot be undone, just as one cannot call a bullet back once it has been fired from a gun. The bullet is going to go where it's going to go, for better or for worse, and you're either going to hit your target, miss your target, or hit something you do not want to hit. But the phrase means that the person addressed needs to truly commit to something, even if they are not sure or are worried about the outcome, and then it is decided. It can be something completely trivial (getting a haircut, buying a new phone) or something serious (getting married, choosing a college to attend, buying a house, admitting a serious problem to someone, getting a serious problem fixed, etc).

1
  • This also mirrors OP's javelin idiom pretty closely, and is the closest idiom I can think of in English, though I've upvoted several other recommendations here cuz they work too.
    – Tim
    Jan 7 at 3:40
0

In too deep

means being stuck in an unpleasant situation one cannot escape from. It's typically used to emphasize that it's too late to back out and the only choice is to continue on the same path even though it will be difficult and the end result could be grave.

1
  • This is also more of an "along the way, something got screwed up and I regret it / I'm in big trouble" idiom versus the OP seeking an idiom about needing to commit to a course of action when uncertain about it.
    – Tim
    Jan 7 at 4:14
-1

Nail your colours to the mast, perhaps. The general idea being "...to defiantly display one's opinions and beliefs and also to show one's intention to hold on to those beliefs until the end".

1
  • 2
    No, this is much too strong for the given description. Not my downvote, by the way.
    – user405662
    Jan 4 at 10:12
-1

You are cursed if you do, and cursed if you don't. (Curse is often spelled d***ed).

0

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