The dictionary defines ‘success’ as: ‘the achievement of a desired goal’.
So if a person achieves their goals, they are successful.
This logic works great for finite goals when the goal only has to be achieved once. If your goal is to save $20,000 for a new car and you do it, the goal is accomplished forever. But it works less well for infinite goals where you must keep working to keep the goal fulfilled.
Take Mark’s story as an example. Weighing 232 lbs he was definitely obese. Fed up with his bulging waistline, he committed to a low-calorie diet of zero refined carbohydrates and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. His goal was to lose 40 lbs over the next 8 weeks.
Fast forward 8 weeks and Mark had managed to lose 47 lbs. He was feeling both ecstatic about his results and relieved to let go of his low-calorie diet. It had been painful, but worth it!
6 months later Mark had put his old weight back again.
Every. Single. Pound.
Mark’s story is a typical example of mistaking an infinite goal for a finite goal. Being in good shape is not something you achieve once. You need to keep achieving it every day.
Conquering an infinite goal is done by adopting a new identity.
Imagine if Mark had said to himself: ‘I am a healthy person. I am someone who takes good care of their body.’
With this mindset, would Mark go on a diet as a temporary event only? No. He would change to a healthier diet with the intent of keeping it forever. Anything else would clash with his own identity. His new diet might be less strict than the one he did choose, but it would likely have been more sustainable in the long run.
Adopting a new identity also makes the infinite journey more enjoyable. Imagine that you are eating out and the waiter asks you if you want to add french fries. If your goal is just to lose weight, your response would be: ‘I can’t do it, because I have to reach my weight goal.’ You reject the fries and feel a twinge of loss. It is almost as if the goal controls you and you have to obey.
But if your goal is to be a healthy person, you would say: ‘I don’t do it, because it clashes with my identity.’ You reject the fries, but this time the twinge of loss is pushed aside by a swelling of pride in your chest. You feel proud of staying true to yourself. And you chose ‘no’ entirely from within.
Finite goals are not bad or worse than infinite goals. They are just different. Finite goals can also exist either on their own – e.g tasks like ‘clean the garage’ – or they can exist within an infinite goal. Mark’s finite goal ‘I will lose 40 lbs!’ was actually a part of the infinite goal ‘I want to have a healthy body’. Mark gained back the weight because he didn’t realize he was really pursuing an infinite and not a finite goal. And he hadn’t committed to becoming the new person that infinite goal required.
This is why most New Year’s resolutions fail. We don’t realize we are truly pursuing an infinite goal and we haven’t committed to changing our identity.
The goal is not to run a 10K once, but to become a runner.
The goal is not to earn $1000 on a stock trade once, but to become an investor.
The goal is not to go write a story once, but to become an author.
What goals have you set for yourself? Are they separate finite goals, i.e you only need to achieve once? Or are they really infinite goals, and you must work on them regularly?
For the goals that are infinite, have you committed yourself to becoming the new person which these goals require?
If not, is that infinite goal something you want to pursue?