“You can see almost every part of life as a finite or an infinite game.” - James P. Carse, author of Finite and Infinite Games.
Some things in life are easy to view as a finite game. Actual games, like sports, activities, or board games, all have a defined beginning and end. They have an agreed upon set of rules and players compete with the goal of winning the game.
When Andrew and I were kids, we played a lot of finite games. We made a game out of EVERYTHING. It’s probably why we have so much fun running a gym now because it’s like a constant creation of games and activities to enjoy with our friends.
But as I’ve matured, I’m realizing what a double-edged sword gamifying things can be.
CrossFit and our group-class industry has seen gigantic success gamifying workouts to help athletes fight for those extra reps or try their best to beat the clock. If you listened to Austin and I’s recent podcast on “Adaptation”, you know how much I value that above-and-beyond effort.
Yet as much as finite games can inspire and motivate, they can also leave you feeling empty when the game ends. You find yourself searching for something and you’re not even sure what it is you’re seeking.
This is how incredibly talented musicians, sports stars, and award-winning actors fall into deep depressions when the spotlight comes off of them. They won a game, but didn’t have a healthy way to keep on playing, and/or walk away in a healthy way.
We don’t currently have any spotlight celebs in our gym, but I know we have some athletes who feel lost. We have athletes who have taken sweat sabbaticals to figure out what their next chapter looks like. They’ve played many finite games over their fitness career and are wondering which game to play next, if any…
I can empathize with this athlete because that’s how I got into group fitness classes and CrossFit in the first place. I remember sitting on the cold, vinyl benches of Gold’s Gym, watching the gym rats 10 to 20 years my elder getting after it day after day.
I sat there searching for motivation. I hit my number goals in certain lifts. I could bench press over 300 pounds. I could run a 5k under 23 minutes consistently. I physically looked how I always wanted to look since I was a scrawny middle-schooler bench pressing a 25 pound bar in my garage.
I had a ton of wins. A ton of wins just like my athletes at FitTown Jupiter have.
But when we run out of wins, we run out of reasons.
And when we run out of reasons, we wonder why we’re even playing the game at all?
Since reading the book, “Finite and Infinite Games” by James P. Carse, I’ve learned that an infinite mindset is necessary in most things in life if we want to be truly successful at them.
The three biggest that come to mind for me are FITNESS, FAITH, and FAMILY.
For brevity sake, I’m going to lump nutrition and self-care into the fitness category. Financial health in business and our personal lives would also be great examples of infinite games we’re playing, but often get treated like finite games.
What does it mean to treat fitness, faith, and family with an infinite mindset?
It means you will never wake up and win fitness. You have to try to win today, you’ll have to try and win tomorrow, you’ll have to try and win the next day, and so on. You have to try and win every day. We won’t always “win” but we can always try.
Babe Ruth said it best, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s game.”
For the true greats in their sport or industry, they renewed their greatness every day. Likewise, for the stay-at-home parent, their consistency to serve their family is what matters most to their loved ones.
And even though we can celebrate and kick back after a day of hard work, our work is NEVER truly finished when playing an infinite game.
You can’t just win being a Dad, then leave your kids at the bus stop the next day. You will never finish your last salad, and say “Boom! That’s all the micronutrients I’ll ever need!” If you want a relationship with God, you will never stop seeking His grace and love.
It’s important to notice that there are finite games still played within an infinite game. It’s only your outlook on the WHOLE that changes.
I’ve listed examples of finite games you can win each day in each of the three categories below.
Move Every Day. Higher intensity, challenging workout 3-5 times a week.
Eating real food and avoiding sweets and sugars.
Drink sufficient water each day.
Get enough sleep, and good sleep at that.
Having daily prayer time.
Attending church every Sunday.
Finding ways to serve in your community.
Reading The Bible and finding inspiring religious content to watch or listen to.
Family dinners together without distractions.
Set weekly date nights with your spouse.
Reading to your kids.
Calling or texting friends you haven’t spoken to in some time.
So even though we can checkmark all the above in a given week, we don’t get to stop playing the game. We just got better at playing the game and raised our standards.
We raised our level of health.
We raised our relationship with God.
We raised our relationship with our loved ones.
Just when you think you’ve run out of reasons to play another finite game, your infinite mindset opens up a whole new world of possibilities. You’d be surprised by the levels you can reach by taking the pressure off of the finite wins.
Where are you playing a finite game currently and need to make it an infinite game?
I’m here to coach you. Game on.