Playing the Infinite Game
It’s been almost 40 years since James Carse published “Finite and Infinite Games”, his book exploring two contrasting approaches to life.
As he describes, finite games have winners and losers. They are defined by specific rules, objectives, and a clear endpoint. Most competitive activities, like sports or board games, are considered finite games.
On the other hand, in infinite games, the purpose is not to win or lose, but to keep the game going. In infinite games, we aim to continue the play. Infinite games have no fixed rules, objectives, or predetermined endpoint. Life, work, relationships: these are considered infinite games.
Sometimes things that are considered infinite games are approached with a finite game mindset- and that can cause problems. For example, in education (an infinite game meant for lifelong learning), some people adopt a finite mindset and fixate on achieving high test scores or grades, with a narrow focus on memorization and exams rather than cultivating a deeper understanding of the subject. Or, in business for example, some companies adopt a finite mindset by prioritizing short-term profits at the expense of long-term viability, or sustainable ecosytems.
Especially in relationships, we want to take an infinite mindset approach. This might include embracing the idea that we all evolve over time, with a willingness to adjust roles, expectations, and routines to accommodate change. In an infinite relationship, we are committed to continuous growth and learning. People playing life as an infinite game encourage each other to pursue interests and passions, and celebrate each other's achievements and milestones. They root for each other. They approach challenges with curiosity and adaptability. Most importantly, an infinite mindset doesn’t measure the relationship in either short-term victories or temporary conflicts, but by its long-term health and well-being. An infinite mindset values the ongoing journey.
If you are in midlife and interested in ways to stay fresh while going through the many changes at this age, I'd like to recommend Katie Fogarty's podcast, A Certain Age, and her broader work Age Out Loud. She's thoroughly devoted to amplifying voices of potency and power.
May we live with more playfulness and openness, finding new possibilities our whole life long. May we all keep playing, infinitely.
All the best,