As a type-A perfectionist, goal-setting has always stressed me out. I would either sandbag myself to ensure I’d meet my goal or beat myself up over not being “good enough” to reach something more ambitious. Because I often tie my self-worth to performance, I become too paralyzed to attempt any new skill or hobby I don’t think I’d be naturally good at.
I know this isn’t a healthy mindset. It’s one that’s protective, self-sabotaging, and limiting. I’m constantly competing against myself towards become an unrealistically perfect human being. And for what? With some help from my therapists, I realized a lot of this comes from having OCPD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.
Coupled with hearing Simon Sinek keynote a recent work conference, I cried with hope that I could reframe my way of thinking. In his newest book The Infinite Game, Sinek describes the difference between leading with a finite vs. infinite mindset:
Finite games, like football or chess, have known players, fixed rules, and a clear endpoint. The winners and losers are easily identified. In infinite games, like business or politics or life itself, the players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers in an infinite game, there is only ahead and behind. Those of us who adopt an infinite mindset build stronger, more innovative and inspiring teams, organizations, careers and lives. Ultimately, those who live with an infinite mindset are the ones who lead the rest of us into the future.
This changed the way I saw life and validated many of my habits. Instead of seeing life as a series of wins and losses, I could instead focus on an infinite pursuit towards becoming the healthiest and happiest version of myself. The goal is to keep perpetuating the game and trend positively. I thought of a few key ways this has manifested itself in my life:
My involvement in Toastmasters is a great example of an infinite mindset I’ve always pursued. For me, winning speech contests and achieving designations, i.e. Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), aren’t as rewarding as continuously serving in leadership roles that grow my skills as a leader and a person. Lifelong learning totally fits into the framework of an infinite mindset.
I’ve tried countless diets, exercise regimens, and ways of motivating myself to lose weight. Whenever I couldn’t meet my goal of burning 5 pounds in 2 weeks, I felt like a failure. Since I discovered pole dancing and focused on enjoying the activity, I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist. I realized as long as I’m trending positively in my pole progress and health journey, I’m happy.
MENTALLY & EMOTIONALLY
It’s painful to admit that my marriage came from a finite mindset–a box to be checked. Once I decided to pursue my own happiness and keep choosing love, I found myself in a relationship that’s gifted me with so much growth and prompted me to work on myself in a way I’ve always wanted to. And actually, non-monogamy is a type of infinite game if you really think about it.
Living my life through this lens has brought me more joy and alleviated the competitive pressure I’ve put on myself all these years. I kept burning out trying to win an unwinnable game, inflicting self-shame whenever I made a mistake or missed some arbitrary goal. What’s more gratifying is to keep fostering relationships with other humans and collaborate to improve the world.
I know I’ll never reach whatever perfect, infinite version of myself my brain is convinced exists, but I will certainly try my best every single day, and that’s self-worth to be proud of.