can't see the forest for the trees

can't see the forest for the trees

Cannot see, understand, or focus on a situation in its entirety due to being preoccupied with minor details. The way he's obsessing over one doorknob when we're renovating the entire house makes me think that he can't see the forest for the trees.
See also: forest, see, tree
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

can't see the forest for the trees

Also, can't see the wood for the trees. Focus only on small details and fail to understand larger plans or principles, as in Alex argues about petty cash and overlooks the budget-he can't see the forest for the trees . This expression was already a proverb in John Heywood's 1546 collection.
See also: forest, see, tree
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
We are getting walled in, drinking bottled water, and we can't see the forest for the trees.
Such is the case with the urban forest: Sometimes, we can't see the forest for the trees.
Sometimes just a patch will do, for in words of this stature, you often can't see the forest for the trees.
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