The Problem with the Player vs. Victim Dichotomy

Early on in my personal development journey, I learned about the “player” versus “victim” mentality in a leadership training. The training was based a book called Conscious Business by Fred Kofman. He says:

“You must take unconditional responsibility; you need to see yourself as a ‘player,’ as a central character who has contributed to shape the current situation — and who can thus affect its future.
This is the opposite of seeing yourself as a ‘victim,’ subject to forces beyond your control. The player is in the game and can affect the result. The victim is out of the game and can only suffer the consequences of others’ actions.”

What he said resonated with me, and still motivates me to “own my commitments” and take responsibility for my actions. This book taught me to stop saying things like, “Sorry I was late, there was traffic,” and replace them with “Sorry I was late, I didn’t leave early enough, and there was traffic.” Even better? “Sorry I was late.”

A player who makes impeccable commitments (another of Kaufman’s principles) responds to his environmental conditions in an even more proactive way: calling ahead to push back the meeting, leaving earlier to beat traffic, perhaps not agreeing to overbook commitments in the first place. As the saying goes, “Under promise, over deliver.”

In general, I am all for these principles. I love the idea of impeccable commitments. For any request, you can say yes, no, or renegotiate. If you are going to miss a deadline, communicate! Re-negotiate. I think it is critical to our happiness to generally maintain a “player” mindset with an internal locus of control.

But there are many times striving to exist in this mode has haunted me, particularly during times of sadness, change or confusion. “If you were a ‘player,’ you wouldn’t feel this way!” My Personal Development Police say to me. Or, “You created this. If you don’t like it, do things differently.”

When Change Chooses You

But what about the times when change chooses us? What about life events beyond our ability to rationalize or control? That is where even deeper growth and acceptance comes from.

Until recently, I was on board with the idea that for the most part, we choose many of our biggest life transitions. We quit our jobs, we end relationships, we set goals, we “make shit happen.”

At this point in my life, this perspective now lacks a bit of grace. I am not religious, and I used to not be very spiritual, at one point toying with whether Atheist or Agnostic was a better label for my beliefs. But the more I come to understand myself, the more intensely spiritual I have become (with a primarily Buddhist/Taoist lean).

I do believe in a super-consciousness, a shared intelligence beyond my own conscious mind. I am fascinated by intuition and coincidences. During my daily meditation sessions I often ask for guidance and insight, whether from my “higher self” or a universal intelligence beyond me. I ask to be shown next steps for how I can best be of service.

In these ways, I can see that so many aspects of my life come to me. They cannot be forced. They can be received, with gratitude and grace, even when it feels impossible to do so.

From this perspective, I am not the sole creator of all the good that happens, or the bad. I am the alchemist. I am a receiver. I am a transformer and a transmuter. I am a collaborator.

I can choose what I do with my thoughts, and my life, and my insights, but I no longer believe that I am choosing every single of one them in the first place — so many have come to me, bursts of inspiration and insight that seemed to appear out of nowhere. And there are changes that in the moment felt awful, that I might not have chosen, but that turned out to be huge blessings-in-disguise, each precipitating major breakthroughs.

This revised player-receiver-alchemist shift gives me a deep sense of trust, faith, and inner knowing. I do believe in a benevolent universe, dharma, coincidences, karma, and in the golden rule.

Whether or not these things can be logically, categorically, linearly, scientifically proven is unimportant to me, because believing in them improves the quality of my life. I experience evidence of them all the time, even moreso when I am open to seeing and acknowledging them.

Charles Eisenstein (whose books I could not put down after hearing him speak in Bali) sparked many of these insights. In his words:

“Things have to happen that we don’t know how to make happen. If you dont’ “make” it happen, and it happens, then how does it happen? Obviously, it happens as a gift. You may have noticed that very generous people themselves attract more gifts. Therefore, if we are giving our lives in service, we will experience more of these fortuitous events. These are key to the creative potency beyond the old conception of causality.
. . . Anything devoting a life to today requires some of these miracles, these things that we do not and cannot make happen, that come as gifts. Therefore, if you follow your heart’s guidance toward any of these worthwhile goals, your choices will seem to many (and sometimes to yourself) a little bit crazy. That is true of anything genuinely new.
To step into the attempt anyway is always an act of courage, at once arrogant and humble: arrogant because our confidence is unwarranted; humble because we put ourselves at the mercy of the unknown.
Paradoxically, the path to achieve the impossible consists of many practical steps, each of them possible. We know how to walk; we just don’t have a map.”

As the Saying Goes, “Don’t Push the River”

“Go with the flow” does not mean you have to like everything that happens to you, but it does mean aligning with the meridian lines of your life. In Chinese Medicine, meridian lines are paths in our body through which Qi (pronounced chi) energy flows.

If a thought or action makes you feel terrible, drop it. Ask for guidance instead. Byron Katie and Tosha Silver taught me that.

To go with the flow is to accept the energy you have, the state you are in, the changes that are occurring and to trust that they are moving you toward greater truth, fulfillment, and growth.

Everything can be fuel for your highest learning, evolution and contribution. And that is a “player” mentality I can get on board with.