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“Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can – working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed”  Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Tell me your “wins”.

You know, how are you doing in the game of life? Are you “winning”? Or are you “surviving”?

I am there will be different answers depending on the season of life and circumstances.

The first “game” I remember playing was in college. The workload was challenging, but I knew there was an end in the not-so-distant future. So I pushed through in order to “win” the prize of a college degree.

I am sure I am not speaking out of turn when I say my accountant is in the midst of one such game. The evidence is the emails I receive late at night and on the weekends. However, in a few months, I will listen to stories about his golf trips to Florida. The end of tax season is near. Add a “win” to the “books.”

In America, we are in the midst of NCAA championship season. Gymnastics happens to be my spectating sport of choice. Agree or disagree, gymnasts win the superlative for mental fortitude. Routine after routine, they demonstrate an insane ability to flip and twist their body through the air and land on a dime. Noteworthy is the fact that one landing exerts a force through the body upwards of nine times their body weight.

In a couple of weeks, the NCAA gymnastics champions will be crowned.  For the record, OU might have the greatest women’s gymnastics team in history. But I digress.

The winning team will be the team that can gracefully execute specific movement patterns with precision, accuracy, and consistency. This requires hundreds, if not thousands, of repetitions in the gym prior to “game day.” There is no “thinking your way through it.” It must be automatic. How their body endures is somewhat mysterious to mortals like me. I can only assume that at this point in the season, their bodies are fueled by a desire to win.

NCAA competition has many similarities to how we win in life. There are times when we can find the will within ourselves to push a little bit beyond our physical and mental comfort zone.  Of course, this works best when we know there is an end date. A date when we will be declared “the winner” over our current circumstances.

I don’t think I am alone when I say the best “challenges” in life are those where you know the rules. You know when the game starts and ends and what you need to do to “win”.  To view life through this lens seems ideal. It provides moments of happiness when “all is right with the world”. That is, until you choose the next hill to climb and a new game begins.

James P Carse describes this the finite game of life. Life through this lens has a clear beginning and end. The “players” are all defined and are playing on their own volition. In a finite game there are boundaries and rules. Duration of time is established and everyone will know when the game ends.

Finite games seemingly make life easier. Work becomes a little more tolerable. Challenges become a little more bearable.

However, there is one little problem with this that I have experienced personally and observed in others. Life becomes somewhat of a rollercoaster of happiness. Winning brings incredible highs with inevitable “lows”.

And this is where James P Carse, and more recently Simon Sinek (in his Podcast on Finding Mastery) bring to light a seemingly better “game”. The Infinite game.

In the infinite game, there is no end. Time does not exist. Yes, there are still rules, and finite games exist, but they are within this timeless infinite game with no end.

With this in mind, how would you live if you knew you were playing a game that had no end?

It is so easy to find comfort in “rules”, “boundaries”, and yes, time. Tell me what I need to do, how much energy I need to invest, and when I can notch the “win” on the scoreboard of life. But “comfort” and “freedom” are not the same thing.

The finite game, with it’s rules, boundaries, and a definitive end date bring comfort. But this is comfort with external constraints. Call it a boss, family member, an organization, or a government, someone or something is establishing the rules of the game. Comforting, yes.

On the other hand, it is possible to zoom out and recognize that the game we call life is not the end of the story but only a small blip on the radar of a greater story that has no end.

I have had many opportunities working with people whose end of life was eminent. In my first year after PT school I was green as green could be and remember very little about that year except for one patient. She was 92, and every time I worked with her, she would have a huge smile on her face but wouldn’t open her eyes. She wasn’t trying to be defiant, as she would do everything I asked her to do. In an effort to get her to open her eyes, I wanted to understand why she preferred to keep them closed. In her words… “When my eyes are closed, I get excited because I can see where I am going”. Hmm, “end of life” or just a game within a game?

Finite games are valuable and even necessary.  Time frames and end dates are valuable tools for overcoming challenges, raising a family, getting that promotion, and fulfilling our life’s purpose. And yes, restoring full function after a neurologic injury.

But living solely within the context of a finite game comes restrictions, limitations, and sometimes a sense of powerlessness to the greater powers that be.

The infinite game is a way of zooming out, providing a view without a frame, understanding that this moment is just a game within an endless game.

In the infinite game you aren’t playing for the win, but you are playing with the understanding that playing never ends. Within this context, your mindset shifts from figuring out how to end the game to figuring out how to continue playing. The current game you are in might really suck or you could be on your way to the next promotion. But in both cases this game will end and you will need to continue playing.

Here is the reality…. I don’t know if you will make a full recovery. Anyone who tells you they do, is guessing.

Here is what I know for sure… if you do your daily therapy with focused attention, fuel your body with healthy foods, manage your stress/optimize your mental well-being, and participate in community/social activities you will continue to put “wins” on the scoreboard.

But setting times and dates will either force you to engage in a life with limitations, leave you disappointed when you perceive a “loss”, or putting you on a rollercoaster continuously seeking the next mountaintop.

This is where zooming out, isn’t just “optimal” it is essential.

In light of this infinite frame, how might your perspective change on your current circumstances? How might you play the game of life differently knowing that there is no end?

“While we look not at the things which are seen but the things that are unseen. What is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal”. 2 Corinthians 4:18