Have you ever watched a friend with tremendous potential continue to beat their head against the wall, wasting their talents in a job or relationship that they were far too good for?
Have you ever had a work colleague who really did have the ability to go far but couldn’t get out of their own way?
Have you ever had a client who appeared afraid of success? Who continually refused to do the things you know will cause faster, stronger growth?
Have you ever tried to help any of those examples only to feel like you were bashing your own head against the wall? You were. Because you cannot will someone else to success.
The Signs to Watch For
Sometimes you are deep into a relationship or co-worker situation before you realize that the person you are trying to help is in a rut of their own making. How many of these situations do you look back on wondering “How did I not see this from the beginning?”
Well, it may not have been your fault, that time. But once you’ve had the experience, you can watch more closely for the indicators of someone who has decided, subconsciously perhaps, that success was not for them. Watch out for:
Too many stories of failure. We all face challenges, not all of our own making. Some of us create our own challenges. If most of the stories of someone’s life are about failures, watch out.
Too many others to blame. We don’t choose our parents, but we do choose our friends and to some extent, our jobs. If an individual names someone other than themselves again and again as the reason they didn’t get somewhere or something, watch out.
Unwilling to have the “what if” talk. If your client or colleague are resistant to listening to you describe a future where their problems have faded and they are truly successful, it means that they can’t face success. Deep down, they don’t want it. You won’t be able to figure out why and fix it for them unless perhaps you are a psychotherapist with years to spend on it.
Too much comfort with mediocrity. There are brilliant people who are satisfied with less than greatness. They live in a less than home, drive a less than car, do a job they aren’t thrilled with, and they seem perfectly happy. That is perfectly fine. Don’t try to make them want to be more successful, because they don’t want to be. They are satisfied with what they have. You can’t will them to want more.
What to Do When You Determine a Lost Cause Exists
The period immediately after you’ve recognized that someone is a lost cause for any reason is the most difficult time. Are you to cut and run? That’s not so easy if you’ve developed a deeper relationship. You may have come to this decision, but the person you’ve decided it about will probably be completely oblivious. The kindest thing may not be to have a direct conversation with the person you were trying to will to succeed. If they are in a difficult emotional state your utterance of giving up may send them spiraling. But, for your own sake, you do need to put some distance between the intervals you allow them to suck the energy out of you. It may need to be gradual, but you need to start to say “no” more often. Eventually, you can widen the interval time between your connections until they fade over time.
You don’t need to do this because you don’t care about them, but rather, because you care so much about yourself. For every moment you waste on their lost cause you are stealing a moment of positivity from your own life. We are here for such a limited amount of time, how much of it can you bear to waste?
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