I recently heard James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, talk about the importance of mastering trajectory over position on Michael Gervais’ Finding Mastery Podcast. What I love about this distinction is that it reminded me of another way in which to speak about the difference between infinite games and finite games, a concept originally coined and discussed by James Carse that Simon Sinek explored furthered in his book The Infinite Game.
Finite games have fixed rules, known players, and the games have a beginning, middle, and end with a clear objective, which is to win the game. Whereas, infinite games have no fixed rules, known and unknown players, and the games have infinite time horizons with the objective to keep the game in play. Life, relationships, and business are infinite games that most of us, mistakenly, play with a finite mindset. When playing with a finite mindset, we become overly attached and fixated on what our current POSITION is, forgoing a long term perspective of growth and development. When we focus on POSITION, we adopt a binary view of reality, e.g., winner or loser, good day or bad day, right or wrong, yes or no, always or never. In contrast, when we focus on TRAJECTORY, we adopt a nuanced view of reality that is flexible and interested in a journey of advancement, as opposed to comparison.
When under stress, pressure, and/or feeling bad, our default is to get stuck viewing our situation and reality in finite terms, which only exacerbates are stress and ill feelings. The opportunity is to zoom out and enhance our perspective outside of what we perceive to be the stakes of our short-term context. We can do this by referencing the characteristics of an infinite game. While we may not be able to exert much influence or control over our current POSITION, we certainly can affect the TRAJECTORY of our future outcomes. What’s the next best thing we can do to be trending upwards?