Last year you confirmed your intention to retire from professional tennis. You had many defining moments, from winning your first grand slam at the US open to being crowned Wimbledon champion. You’ve changed the public’s perception of being a grumpy Scotsman, to being a dedicated family man, and you’ve even received a knighthood from the Queen. At just 32 you’ve inspired a generation and made a nation proud.
… now what?
When you have finite targets, such as winning Wimbledon, what do you do once you’ve achieved your goal? This isn’t just applicable to the world’s top athletes:
The goal is big beautiful wedding, but has the bride considered her infinite goal for married life?
The dream house is purchased, so now let’s buy a boat. Are these infinite goals for a happy life?
Botox has fixed the crows feet, so thoughts move to the boob job and then the facelift…. The infinite goal of never getting old?
It’s really interesting to consider what are the motivations behind your goals, and when setting these finite goals to consider what will happen when you achieve them. Is the big house to provide more room for a large family, or is a status symbol to impress friends, or a point to prove to doubtful parents? Is the Botox for the appearance of being younger or are there actually deeper roots in self-esteem? You can’t make assumptions, and so long as other people’s decisions are not harmful, it’s really none of your business. It is however, beneficial to allow yourself the time to think about your own decisions. Do your finite goals work towards an infinite goal?
I am a huge Simon Sinek fan. His ‘Start With Why’ book changed my approach to marketing, and his ‘Leaders Eat Last’ book ignited my interest in leadership development. His new book, ‘The Infinite Game’, looks at goal setting and the impact an organisation can make when working words infinite goals. For example, a company that is playing the infinite game will have a sense of cause, rather than seeking to be “the biggest” or “the best”. There will be a sense of advancing, but there is no sense of “we are the best”, as everything is temporary. You may be the best, right now (based on the metrics and timeframes you have set) but then what? In an infinite game there is a sense of cause that is more important than finite wins. This develops trust, supportive teams and nurturing culture – wouldn’t we want to work there, rather than “the biggest” or “the best”?
Simon’s book is nothing new, but for me, it does have a wonderful way of making good ol’ fashioned common sense relevant in our modern working environments. The inspiration for Simon’s book came from work published in 1986 by James P. Carse, ‘Finite and Infinite Games’ that describes that “a finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game is for the purpose of continuing the play.” An interesting statement when considering one’s own career.
As for Andy, it will be interesting to see what he does next. Will that be in the infinite goal of developing young talent with the finite goals of a tennis academy. Or perhaps the infinite goal to advance his own profile with a finite goal of tennis punditry or releasing a book.
What are the motivations behind your goals? It’s a tough one, as we often don’t allow ourselves time to think deeply to truly understand this. That’s where the role of a coach can be powerful, an executive coach not a tennis coach!
By Karen Slupinski