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Is there a term for someone who gets all excited about a new undertaking and is wildly enthusiastic and full of promises until she realizes how much work is involved...whereupon she loses all interest? The intense burst of energy and commitment is very quickly extinguished.

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  • I think we're looking for a good antonym to mettle or perhaps fortitude, but according to my online resources, none exist.
    – Otheus
    Nov 10, 2015 at 14:04
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    A number of writers have used a fair-weather follower (fan, disciple, supporter, etc.) to describe someone whose support evaporates when the going gets tough. But although there's only one written instance, I quite like infortitudinous (lacking the fortitude to see something through). Nov 10, 2015 at 14:15
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    I think "disenchanted" or "disengaged" could have a less biased tone. There are many reasons why a person might be overwhelmed by a large task... including some that are entirely natural behaviours that should not be considered in a negative light...
    – Benjamin
    Nov 11, 2015 at 2:29
  • @tchrist unmark this as a duplicate please. There is a fine distinction between these two questions. If you don't realize that, you don't belong moderating this forum. (BTW: You're still God in my book when it comes to your anti-csh / pro-perl blogs you wrote 20+ years ago.)
    – Otheus
    Nov 12, 2015 at 10:14

12 Answers 12

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These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

-Thomas Paine in The American Crisis (1776)

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    "Summer soldier" and "sunshine patriot" deserve to make a comeback. Thank you: I was seeking not so much an adjective to describe such a person (e.g., "fickle"--a good descriptor) as a term FOR that person, like "fair-weather friend" (or "fair-weather follower," as suggested above).
    – MFisher
    Nov 10, 2015 at 18:53
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Dilettante

I think the aversion to the required effort is implied by this word, but not specifically stated.

A person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge: [AS MODIFIER]: a dilettante approach to science

Link-Oxford

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It's very similar to the term fair-weather. A fair-weather fan is one who pulls for a (organized sports) team when they perform well, but who ignores the team when they fail.

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  • Also, fair-weather friend.
    – bonh
    Nov 10, 2015 at 19:13
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Similarly, a three day monk is someone who pursues something passionately for a short while.

a person who picks up a cause, a subject, a skill, or an idea, pursues it passionately for a while, and then gets tired of it and moves on to something else.

(Feel free to improve the quality of that source)

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Fickle:

marked by lack of steadfastness, constancy, or stability : given to erratic changeableness (MW)

This word emphasizes the idea of losing interest, though it doesn't specify the reason.

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  • Fickle may describe such a person, but it isn't a word that means what the OP asked for. Nov 11, 2015 at 5:49
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Someone who is wildly enthusiastic and full of promises until they realize how much work is involved, talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk.

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There are a number of words to choose from depending on the context and connotation:

idealist

An unrealistic or impractical visionary.

flake

(informal) A person who is impractical, flighty, unreliable, or inconsistent; especially with maintaining a living.

sluggard

A person slow to begin necessary work, a slothful person.

hypocrite

Someone who practices hypocrisy, who pretends to hold beliefs, or whose actions are not consistent with their claimed beliefs.

Without knowing the context, I'd lean towards flake.

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A couple of phrases that could be applied as slang to a person are "all sizzle, no steak" meaning they are all about the style and very little on actual substance, OR perhaps "their eyes are bigger than their stomach" meaning they desire more than they could actually process.

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    "All hat and no cattle", "paper tiger"
    – Mitch
    Nov 11, 2015 at 4:55
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Seems like capricious almost fits, but misses the "enthusiastic until effort needed" part of the equation.

Edit: Possibly ephemeral enthusiast hits closer, still missing the why. Of course we rarely know precisely why someone changes their mind, for certain.

Capricious has always had a bit of an intentional feel to it, in my mind.

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  • Capricious brings a quality of bad intent that is not present in the OP's question. Nov 11, 2015 at 5:52
  • I think we know the why is a lock of fortitude that borders on laziness in this particular example, but @GreenAsJade's comment on intent sounds valid. Nov 14, 2015 at 23:15
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One word? Can't think of one. Two words? How about

easily daunted

Daunted is to experience the lessening of one's courage or resolution; to be disheartened or intimidated. One starts out with enthusiasm and resolution (remember your last New Year's resolution?), but the enthusiasm and resolution start to flag once the really hard work begins.

Personal anecdote. I've been convinced for years that I should shed at least 20 pounds, so more than occasionally I'll commit myself to make the necessary changes in my diet that will result in slimming down. Two hours later, I'm chowing down a candy bar. Now exactly how enthusiasm can be maintained may be different for each person, but one factor we all have to deal with is motivation.

Motivation is a bit mysterious, but if after resolving to lose weight you find yourself bingeing on a no-no, I suggest that you forgive yourself, recommit to your intention, and get right back on the horse. The next time you are faced with the decision to binge or not to binge and then decide not to binge (and don't), you are then steeled for another temptation, which becomes a little easier to face.

The opposite of daunted, I suppose, would be undaunted. A person who is undaunted hangs in there when the going gets tough, especially when there's a temporary setback.

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  • @Otheus: Thanks for the vote of confidence. +1 deserves a +1. Don Nov 12, 2015 at 19:07
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"Overconfident." I was overconfident that I could finish that fiction manuscript. What was I thinking! The first 100 pages were a snap. ..._

"Overzealous" also works. "Delusional" (colloquial). "Grandiose."

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    These are adjectives that may describe a person like the one the OP asked about, but they aren't words that mean what the OP asked about. Nov 11, 2015 at 5:50
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You could use "overcommitted"

overcommit: to obligate (as oneself) beyond the ability for fulfillment. Merriam Webster

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  • This is a word that may describe a person like the one the OP asked about, but it isn't a term for what the OP asked about Nov 11, 2015 at 5:51

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