Let me know if this sounds familiar:
You set a lofty goal, dream of completing it, determine the steps to get there, but for some reason or other you need to stop.
It may be an injury, you may be burnt out, or you may just lose sight of what you’re actually after.
But there’s a way to stay on track, and I want to share it with you.
The Big Picture
I used to dread my daily runs. When I was younger, I never had the best endurance. I was great at soccer but not so good at running around. So, I ran whenever I didn’t have practice.
I hated it and would always stop. My motivation would evaporate and I would be left without progress. This happened on and off again for me.
The problem is that in things like running, creating, or simply making your mark, you can’t start and stop again. Consistency gets you ahead. It’s what gets you the results you long for.
In the moment though, we rarely consider what’s actually at stake. We set a finite goal. To run a certain number of miles. To study for a certain number of hours. To create X number of pieces to publish. But we forget the bigger picture.
Injuries and Burnout
We tend to distinguish between two reasons for quitting. It’s most apparent in sports. There’s injuries and then there’s a lack of discipline. For injuries, you overwork yourself. You push too hard. You get hurt. And you have to quit.
But let’s say you don’t get injured. You lose hope or motivation or something else, and you quit. Often, we look at this as a lack of discipline. Discipline is a trait you need and you simply don’t have it. I don’t think this tells the whole story.
Burnout is very much like an injury. You overwork yourself and you pay the price. Maybe our solution to avoid quitting should be the same approach we use in avoiding injuries: to value consistency over all. And the key? Infinite games.
I was first introduced to infinite games by Simon Sinek. He distinguished them from their counterpart, finite games. In finite games, there’s a clear end. There are clear winners and losers. It’s like a basketball game.
In infinite games, there is no clear end. It goes on forever. There are no winners and losers. The goal is to simply keep playing the game.
What if we framed our work this way?
What if instead of trying to get X number of viewers, we create because there’s a cause we believe in and want to share? What if instead of running X miles so we can be skinnier for the summer, we run X miles because we are playing a lifelong game of prioritizing our health? What if instead of grinding to study for good grades, we grinded to learn as much as we can and create as much as we can?
Infinite games changed the way I looked at everything. Suddenly, that daily run was both so important and so unimportant. Important in the sense that it was consistency that was going to keep me healthy and this was a day of consistency. Unimportant in that the intensity didn’t matter so much as I was going to be running every other day.
This doesn’t mean go easy. But it does mean giving yourself the space to consider the long-term journey rather than the short-term wins.