What is the most important word in your vocabulary?

Did you read that intriguing Chicago Tribune story about six young black male students who were visiting our beautiful city from prestigious Washington University in St. Louis? Two of the young men were officers of the University’s senior class council. One of them, class treasurer Regis Murayi, had arranged in advance for nearly 175 of his classmates to party at Original Mother’s, the Chicago watering hole immortalized in one of my favorite movies, “About Last Night.” (Don’t barf; I have a romantic drama/comedy fetish.)

When Murayi and five of his black classmates darkened Original Mother’s door, they were denied admission. The reason, according to Murayi: They were wearing baggy pants; two donned backwards baseball caps.

Reportedly, management was afraid of gang violence, and these young men looked like trouble. Even though they explained that they were part of the student group (not to mention that all the folks whooping it up inside trusted one of these young black men with the class treasury), management would not relent. To test whether their attire was the issue, one of the six detainees exchanged pants with a Caucasian classmate. To their outrage, that young man, baggy pants and all, strolled through Original Mother’s door without incident.

For souls who have been judged by the color of the bodies they are wearing, rather than their divine nature, the alleged incident at Original Mother’s comes as no surprise. We have witnessed it happening every day—somewhere in this country we love.

This incident reminded me of a lively telephone conversation I’d had the previous night with my sister-friend Janet. We were bemoaning the complexity of romantic relationships. Janet, formerly a math teacher, now teaches Chinese language and culture.

In the middle of our Venus-Mars discussion, she blurted, “Do you know what I always ask my students on the first day of class: ‘What is the most important word in your vocabulary?’”

Our chat had suddenly whiplashed from male behavior to something much simpler to understand: the Chinese language. Maybe confusion is the common denominator, I thought.

“They shout out everything under the sun: Love, God, peace, faith, forgiveness, joy, charity,” she ranted. “But no one ever gives me the right answer.”

Most of those would have been my guesses. But before I could ask what in the world the word was, Janet shouted with exasperation, “It’s I! I is really the most important word in our vocabulary!

“Why don’t we understand that? How can we value another person if we don’t value ourselves?” she wondered. “Everything starts with I. How we see ourselves and see others ultimately determines what happens to us in life.”

True, that—something the folks at Original Mother’s haven’t yet figured out. Have you noticed that people who don’t value others appear to be singularly focused on the word I: I do not have to respect you, your rights, values, wardrobe, emotions, abilities, intelligence, opinion, job, possessions or your physical body. I am important; you are nothing. What I want is the only thing that matters. I am not bound by the law of reaping and sowing.

These lost souls view this world through what I call the “Visible I,” the most deceptive and myopic eye in the Universe. The directional system of the “Visible I” is extremely limited and highly ineffective. It leads its disciples down a crooked but well-worn path to short term physical, financial or psychological gains before hitting a dead end.

Even when fully functioning, the “Visible I” can’t find its way to the Light. It makes us deny the presence of the “Invisible I am that I am” within us. It dupes us into acting without asking, “How would I want to be treated under the same circumstances?”

You can spot these people in a crowd because they radiate no light; they have no “soular source.” They are solely powered by that fear-mongering mental midget, Ego. And it shows: Their interactions with others are forceful rather than powerful. They intimidate because they don’t have the spiritual strength to inspire or embrace. They lack the spiritual discernment to see others’ value—and honor it.

Original Mother’s management saw black guys, and the “Visible I” instantly painted a sketchy picture in their heads of potential violence. They panicked—not the optimum mode when sound judgment is required.

Actually, the folks at Original Mother’s had every right to be afraid. Regis Murayi is a bona fide gang member, and he was packing. He simply wasn’t packing the weapon that Mother’s management thought. His was more damaging.

Murayi is part of the new generation of Word Warriors. Armed with nothing more than intelligence, truth and an Internet-connected computer, Word Warrior gang members can bring an icon to its knees with their bare hands. Some even do it with two fingers at blazing speeds. And they work in concert with others. Before a misguided bully can audibly whimper, Word Warriors from major media outlets are on the scene, turning their embarrassing short-sightedness into a public spectacle.

And there, spread out like boiled lasagna noodles, are the latest victims, deluded into thinking that they were Word Warrior road kill. They were not. They simply underestimated a Word Warrior’s intelligence, resources and ability to wrestle injustice to the ground and pin illegal or unethical behavior to the mat. Ultimately, they were laid waste by their “Visible I.”

This day, every card carrying member of the Word Warrior gang is bursting with pride and admiration for young Regis Murayi, who fearlessly scribed his divine right to be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. In a brilliantly written essay on the Chicago Tribune website, he nimbly mangled Original Mother’s public image, exposing the bar’s management as racist—a blight on the reputation of any business that caters to non-racist consumers.

He’s received additional aid from the Worldwide Word Warrior Web. Thanks to the social media and the blogosphere, Original Mother’s short-lived encounter with six African American men from Washington University will live in infamy for years. Imagine Word Warriors blogging about the incident, mentioning Original Mother’s so many times that stories about alleged racism at the bar on Rush and Division will rise to the top of the online search results. Already, many of these posts have hit the first page of results. Yessss!

Who knows? Original Mother’s latest story might even take on a life of its own—heaven forbid, in another cool movie.

The moral of this story: Always question your motivations and listen to the tone of your inner voice. Is it loving and respectful? Does it encourage you to look beneath the surface appearance before judging others? Does it direct you to only do what you would want done to you? Are you viewing the world and its inhabitants through the eyes of the ego-driven “Visible I” or the eternal “Invisible I am that I am?”

Allowing the “Visible I” to guide you is an option you can choose through free will; but the “Visible I” lacks the peripheral vision and depth perception required to successfully navigate your path, long term. Just when you become smug because you’ve managed to avoid the minefield of consequences from your actions—you step on the wrong one.

What’s the most important word in your vocabulary?

Did you read that intriguing Chicago Tribune story about six young black male students who were visiting our beautiful city from prestigious Washington University in St. Louis? Two of the young men were officers of the University’s senior class council. One of them, class treasurer Regis Murayi, had arranged in advance for nearly 175 of his classmates to party at Original Mother’s, the Chicago watering hole immortalized in one of my favorite movies, “About Last Night.” (Don’t barf; I have a romantic drama/comedy fetish.)

When Murayi and five of his black classmates darkened Original Mother’s door, they were denied admission. The reason, according to Murayi: They were wearing baggy pants; two donned backwards baseball caps.

Reportedly, management was afraid of gang violence, and these young men looked like trouble. Even though they explained that they were part of the student group (not to mention that all the folks whooping it up inside trusted one of these young black men with the class treasury), management would not relent. To test whether their attire was the issue, one of the six detainees exchanged pants with a Caucasian classmate. To their outrage, that young man, baggy pants and all, strolled through Original Mother’s door without incident.

For souls who have been judged by the color of the bodies they are wearing, rather than their divine nature, the alleged incident at Original Mother’s comes as no surprise. We have witnessed it happening every day—somewhere in this country we love.

This incident reminded me of a lively telephone conversation I’d had the previous night with my sister-friend Janet. We were bemoaning the complexity of romantic relationships. Janet, formerly a math teacher, now teaches Chinese language and culture.

In the middle of our Venus-Mars discussion, she blurted, “Do you know what I always ask my students on the first day of class: ‘What is the most important word in your vocabulary?’”

Our chat had suddenly whiplashed from male behavior to something much simpler to understand: the Chinese language. Maybe confusion is the common denominator, I thought.

“They shout out everything under the sun: Love, God, peace, faith, forgiveness, joy, charity,” she ranted. “But no one ever gives me the right answer.”

Most of those would have been my guesses. But before I could ask what in the world the word was, Janet shouted with exasperation, “It’s I! I is really the most important word in our vocabulary!

“Why don’t we understand that? How can we value another person if we don’t value ourselves?” she wondered. “Everything starts with I. How we see ourselves and see others ultimately determines what happens to us in life.

True, that—something the folks at Original Mother’s haven’t yet figured out. Have you noticed that people who don’t value others appear to be singularly focused on the word I: I do not have to respect you, your rights, values, wardrobe, emotions, abilities, intelligence, opinion, job, possessions or your physical body. I am important; you are nothing. What I want is the only thing that matters. I am not bound by the law of reaping and sowing.

These lost souls view this world through what I call the “Visible I,” the most deceptive and myopic eye in the Universe. The directional system of the “Visible I” is extremely limited and highly ineffective. It leads its disciples down a crooked but well-worn path to short term physical, financial or psychological gains before hitting a dead end.

Even when fully functioning, the “Visible I” can’t find its way to the Light. It makes us deny the presence of the “Invisible I am that I am” within us.  It dupes us into acting without asking, “How would I want to be treated under the same circumstances?”

You can spot these people in a crowd because they radiate no light; they have no “soular source.” They are solely powered by that fear-mongering mental midget, Ego. And it shows: Their interactions with others are forceful rather than powerful. They intimidate because they don’t have the spiritual strength to inspire or embrace. They lack the spiritual discernment to see others’ value—and honor it.

Original Mother’s management saw black guys, and the “Visible I” instantly painted a sketchy picture in their heads of potential violence. They panicked—not the optimum mode when sound judgment is required.

Actually, the folks at Original Mother’s had every right to be afraid. Regis Murayi is a bona fide gang member, and he was packing. He simply wasn’t packing the weapon that Mother’s management thought. His was more damaging.

Murayi is part of the new generation of Word Warriors. Armed with nothing more than intelligence, truth and an Internet-connected computer, Word Warrior gang members can bring an icon to its knees with their bare hands. Some even do it with two fingers at blazing speeds. And they work in concert with others. Before a misguided bully can audibly whimper, Word Warriors from major media outlets are on the scene, turning their embarrassing short-sightedness into a public spectacle.

And there, spread out like boiled lasagna noodles, are the latest victims, deluded into thinking that they were Word Warrior road kill. They were not. They simply underestimated a Word Warrior’s intelligence, resources and ability to wrestle injustice to the ground and pin illegal or unethical behavior to the mat. Ultimately, they were laid waste by their “Visible I.”

This day, every card carrying member of the Word Warrior gang is bursting with pride and admiration for young Regis Murayi, who fearlessly scribed his divine right to be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. In a brilliantly written essay on the Chicago Tribune website, he nimbly mangled Original Mother’s public image, exposing the bar’s management as racist—a blight on the reputation of any business that caters to non-racist consumers.

He’s received additional aid from the Worldwide Word Warrior Web. Thanks to the social media and the blogosphere, Original Mother’s short-lived encounter with six African American men from Washington University will live in infamy for years. Imagine Word Warriors blogging about the incident, mentioning Original Mother’s so many times that stories about alleged racism at the bar on Rush and Division will rise to the top of the online search results. Already, many of those posts have made it to the first page of results. Yesssss!

Who knows? Original Mother’s latest story might even take on a life of its own—heaven forbid, in another cool movie.

The moral of this story: Always question your motivations and listen to the tone of your inner voice. Is it loving and respectful? Does it encourage you to look beneath the surface appearance before judging others? Does it direct you to only do what you would want done to you? Are you viewing the world and its inhabitants through the eyes of the ego-driven “Visible I” or the eternal “Invisible I am that I am?”

Allowing the “Visible I” to guide you is an option you can choose through free will; but the “Visible I” lacks the peripheral vision and depth perception required to successfully navigate your path, long term. Just when you become smug because you’ve managed to avoid the minefield of consequences from your actions—you step on the wrong one.

Are you fantasizing failure?

This morning a facebook friend, frustrated by his results from an obviously important endeavor, wondered how many times he should keep trying before he writes off the effort as a failure. The overwhelming response from his fb family was that whatever he was trying to do wasn’t working because it wasn’t supposed to: We concluded that he must be attempting to accomplish something that was not in his best interest or for his highest good.

If he was exerting his best effort, conducting himself with integrity and good intention, and he wasn’t achieving the desired outcome, perhaps that route he’d chosen was not the best for him, and he was being guided in a different, more beneficial direction. He’d also chosen to label his outcome as failure–and he could choose to perceive it differently.

Some of us learn the hard way, like me: I’m a do-it-yourselfer, been one for years. I have several tool boxes and a couple of drills—cordless and corded. About the only thing I won’t mess with is plumbing. I always get this vision of a geyser pummeling me into a wall if a make a mistake. Not cute, and mopping is not one of my favorite DIY tasks.

Years ago, I rarely read the step-by-step assembly or installation instructions before starting projects. If it looked like a no-brainer, I dug right in. Often I made a mess that took twice as long to undo or clean up.
Too often, we handle our lives like DIY projects. We just charge ahead, making our plans—sometimes a Plan A and Plan B—without asking for divine direction. As a result, we end up with results that we didn’t expect from either plan. We get in our way. We block the good that’s coming our way; we make life more difficult and disappointing.

 Sometimes we suck it up and correct our error. Other times, we lack the skill, experience or the guts to admit that we blew it, so instead of salvaging what we can, we throw it all away as if it never happened. Sometimes, as was the case with my dear facebook friend, we keep doing the same thing—just from different angles or with different people. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that doing the same thing and expecting different results is, well, simply insane.

Thinking can prevent that. It’s prudent to think before we act, and prudent to think before we react. If we show up and exhibit our best effort and our highest-selves, and things don’t turn out the way we desired, it doesn’t mean we failed. It only means that the outcome we expected or desired wasn’t the best one for us—at least not at that moment.

 The concept of failure exists exclusively in the physical world. It is merely a figment of our imaginations, created in our physical brains. Failure is a misperception, a misinterpretation of the truth about you and that situation. Thomas Edison understood it well: “I have not failed,” he said. “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

 It’s natural that an inventor without an instruction manual, who’s experimenting with outcomes, would draw that conclusion. Why don’t we? After all, we’re winging it, too: trying this, trying that without seeking any guidance. Of course we don’t have to figure it out ourselves. We’ve chosen to lean on the understanding of our physical brains. Consequently, we are more likely to find 10,000 ways that won’t work than ten ways that will.

We can choose differently and respond differently to our outcomes by looking at, working through and responding to situations from the perspective of our unlimited eternal (soul) level rather than our limited physical (ego) level. You can determine how well you are doing that now by answering five simple questions:

  1. Who am I? 

              a.  Do I have a soul?
              b.  Am I a soul?
      2.    Who’s leading me?
              a.  Do I believe: If it is to be, it’s up to me?
               b.  Do I wait on God for guidance?
      3.     When unpleasant things occur that I didn’t expect…
                a.  Am I disappointed?
                b.  Do I ask how the situation serves me, what growth opportunities does it present?
        4.     How do I attract things and people into my life experience?
                 a.   Do I pray for specific things, visualize everything in great detail, and focus on accomplishing my goal?
                 b.  Do I gratefully accept all outcomes, knowing that they serve me in some way?
       5.      What I most desire right now is __________________________________.

Did you answer “a” to questions 1-4? That means that you perceive yourself, make decisions, respond to situations and manifest things into your life from a limited physical perspective and you’re receiving the corresponding results. If you answered “b” to questions 1-4, you perceive yourself as an eternal soul temporarily experiencing life in a temporary world, and you are less likely to rely on your brain and more likely to rely on the Divine to help you out of a jam. If your answer to number five was something tangible, that reflects an ego-level desire. If it was intangible, it reflects a soul-level desire.

If your answers included “a” and “b,” chances are, you’re probably in a growth stage. And your outcomes appear to be  inconsistent. You have an awareness of yourself as more than a body, but because you’ve perceived yourself as only a body for so long, you often default to the limitations of physical actions, responses and outcomes. That’s only natural.

We have to discard the old information about who we are and replace it with new information. Until then, we’re going to have a “new wine in old skins” experience. There will be trial, and expect error. Just be patient with yourself–and love yourself unconditionally, no matter what mess your body has created. Forgive yourself for getting into the jam. Most important, resist the urge to declare defeat, no matter what your outcome looks like.

In reality, your soul has never experienced failure–only your ego.

Is Your Life Purpose-Driven or Purpose-Given?

I read an inspiring story in this Sunday’s Chicago Tribune about Derrius Quarles, a Chicago teen who leverages his inner power in an extraordinary way. Derrius’s father was murdered when he was four years old. His mother was addicted to drugs. He and his older brother were shuttled from one foster care home to another; eventually they were separated. By 17, Derrius was living alone, as an adult.

Under these circumstances, and without a nurturing family to encourage him to excel in school, you might guess that Derrius landed in the criminal justice system. He didn’t. Instead, he landed $1 million in college scholarship offers, some of which he is investing in a degree from prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta.
With so much scholarship money, Derrius will be able to fund his other dreams: a medical degree and a doctorate. After that, it’s back to Chicago, where he wants to start a tutoring program for low-income students. His aspirations for improving the lives of others reach from the grassroots to higher levels. He wants to help shape the city’s public health policy. Beyond that, he wants to become the U.S. surgeon general. Wow.

Where do those dreams and that drive come from? Derrius says that he is inspired by the song “Pure Imagination,” from the movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Perhaps you remember the words: Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.

“It’s so powerful,” Derrius told a reporter. “It shows the power of imagination. If you imagine it, you can do it.”

While his own life has demonstrated that imagination is powerful, Derrius’s experience also has taught him that Life is not a lyric or a catchy motivational maxim. We really cannot do anything we imagine. Thank God for that! Can you envision how chaotic our lives would be, if we could?

Admittedly, I have been told that I’m being negative when I make such a declaration; I’m stealing people’s hope. Well arrest me. As far as the Loud Mouth is concerned, there’s nothing more negative or predatory than a thought or witticism that misleads and disappoints.

If we’re not willing to look at our own lives to determine if it’s true that we can have or do anything we imagine, let’s look at someone else’s: Derrius’s, for example. Derrius never imagined that his brother would leave him; but he did. On the other hand, Derrius did imagine that he would attend Harvard as an undergraduate; but he didn’t. If this was Derrius’s life, instead of his soul’s, if imagination makes it so, then he would have been interviewed in Cambridge rather than Atlanta. It obviously is not what the soul in the body of Derrius desired.

I can’t emphasize enough that your finite body–the space suit required for this atmosphere–is enabling your infinite soul to experience life on planet Earth. Without it, you could not be visible here. The body, the spacesuit, is not who you are, any more than a Halloween costume is who you are. When the body dies, you will not be dead, just as you will not die when you discard or recycle that costume.

Focusing all of our attention on the temporary physical stage and its props distracts us from fulfilling our purpose for being here. The ego wants to monopolize your attention, fulfill its purpose–not yours. And it works day and night to focus your attention exclusively on the physical realm.

As powerful as your imagination is, the engine is not the images, the visualizations or the beliefs–all of which emanate from your physical brain. Without exception, everyone has been in situations and met people that we never imagined.  Each of us has imagined outcomes that simply didn’t happened. ]

So is imagination the magic? No. Imagination opens us up to possibilities, not probabilities or definite outcomes. We frustrate ourselves—even make ourselves miserable—when we imagine that things will go a certain way (usually our way) and they don’t.

We can believe that there is a prayer, a saint, a secret or a set of formulas or principles that force God to manifest physical things according to our will. But if we’ve even casually paid attention to our track record, we’ve noticed that sometimes things go our way, sometimes not.

If an action or technique doesn’t yield the same results 100 percent of the time for 100 percent of the people, it means that we’re not dealing with a law or a truth principle; we’re playing with possibilities. Hooray for possibilities! Too often, we are in such a rush to envision a desired outcome–or “claim” that outcome–that we miss the beauty or the lesson that lives in that moment, and we miss the true value of that experience.

Can we give our lives purpose by using our imaginations to create specific outcomes–or did we already have a purpose when we arrived on the planet? Consider this:  A purpose-driven life isn’t one in which your brain decides your body’s reason for being on Earth, and then gets busy fulfilling that mission. It’s one in which you successfully discern your soul’s purpose, and align your physical thoughts and actions to fulfill that purpose. It’s a difference in perception that makes a big difference in your results.

Where do you start? You begin the process by asking questions and being open to receive your answers. Question one is obvious: “Why am I here now as (your body’s name)?” Next, “Is my current path leading to the fulfillment of my purpose for being here?”

You cannot discern your purpose by looking at or comparing your life circumstances with someone else’s. Perhaps they have a good job with lucrative pay, and you’ve been laid off. Was having a good job with lucrative pay the purpose for which you entered your body? What if fulfilling your purpose attracted more income than having a good job? What have you forfeited by failing to fulfill your purpose? These are the questions we fail to ask when we’re fixated on acquiring cash and other props on the Earth stage.

Once we understand that purpose is woven into every strand of the fabric of our lives, anger, frustration and victimization seem inappropriate responses when unpleasant and unexpected circumstances appear. If life worked the way some motivational maxims teach us, we’d never have unexpected circumstances; no one would ever be disappointed or even pleasantly surprised. We’d be following a script, in total control of our entire experience. How many people do you know who have done that?

Stuff happens, and it happens purposefully. Situations and people appear on your path to help you fulfill your purpose. No matter how bitter the experience, do yourself a favor and ask, “How does this serve me? What did these Golden Rule-averse individuals come to teach me? How will I grow through this encounter?”
Wait for the response. It will be worth it.

Our quest to learn our life’s purpose is fully supported by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Whether we find our purpose depends upon our response to those circumstances.

Derrius Quarles powerfully demonstrated the value of adverse circumstances. He might not have been as compelled to serve others if he’d experienced a more comfortable childhood. We don’t know. What we do know is that, as a soul, he attracted a caring biology teacher onto his path who inspired him to pursue a career in medicine, and that he took an extremely challenging childhood and converted into a million dollar payday that will be priceless for others: The purpose for which he arrived.

What’s going on in your life that offers clues to your life’s purpose? What kind of opportunities and people are you attracting?

You can’t fulfill your purpose until you know what it is. If it’s not obvious, based on your experiences and encounters, just ask for it to be revealed. Say it out loud. Right now. And take the first step on your path to your amazingly purposeful life.

Is your life purpose-driven or purpose-given?

I read an inspiring story in this Sunday’s Chicago Tribune about Derrius Quarles, a Chicago teen who leverages his inner power in an extraordinary way. Derrius’s father was murdered when he was four years old. His mother was addicted to drugs. He and his older brother were shuttled from one foster care home to another; eventually they were separated. By 17, Derrius was living alone, as an adult.

Under these circumstances, and without a nurturing family to encourage him to excel in school, you might guess that Derrius landed in the criminal justice system. He didn’t. Instead, he landed $1 million in college scholarship offers, some of which he is investing in a degree from prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta.

With so much scholarship money, Derrius will be able to fund his other dreams: a medical degree and a doctorate. After that, it’s back to Chicago, where he wants to start a tutoring program for low-income students. His aspirations for improving the lives of others reach from the grassroots to higher levels. He wants to help shape the city’s public health policy. Beyond that, he wants to become the U.S. surgeon general. Wow.

Where do those dreams and that drive come from? Derrius says that he is inspired by the song “Pure Imagination,” from the movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Perhaps you remember the words: Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.

“It’s so powerful,” Derrius told a reporter. “It shows the power of imagination. If you imagine it, you can do it.”

While his own life has demonstrated that imagination is powerful, Derrius’s experience also has taught him that Life is not a lyric or a catchy motivational maxim. We really cannot do anything we imagine. Thank God for that! Can you envision how chaotic our lives would be, if we could?

Admittedly, I have been told that I’m being negative when I make such a declaration; I’m stealing people’s hope. Well arrest me. As far as the Loud Mouth is concerned, there’s nothing more negative or predatory than a thought or witticism that misleads and disappoints.

If we’re not willing to look at our own lives to determine if it’s true that we can have or do anything we imagine, let’s look at someone else’s: Derrius’s, for example. Derrius never imagined that his brother would leave him; but he did. On the other hand, Derrius did imagine that he would attend Harvard as an undergraduate; but he didn’t. If this was Derrius’s life, instead of his soul’s, if imagination makes it so, then he would have been interviewed in Cambridge rather than Atlanta. It obviously is not what the soul in the body of Derrius desired.

I can’t emphasize enough that your finite body–the space suit required for this atmosphere–is enabling your infinite soul to experience life on planet Earth. Without it, you could not be visible here. The body, the spacesuit, is not who you are, any more than a Halloween costume is who you are. When the body dies, you will not be dead, just as you will not die when you discard or recycle that costume.

Focusing all of our attention on the temporary physical stage and its props distracts us from fulfilling our purpose for being here. The ego wants to monopolize your attention, fulfill its purpose–not yours. And it works day and night to focus your attention exclusively on the physical realm.

As powerful as your imagination is, the engine is not the images, the visualizations or the beliefs–all of which emanate from your physical brain. Without exception, everyone has been in situations and met people that we never imagined.  Each of us has imagined outcomes that simply didn’t happened. So is imagination the magic? No.

Imagination opens us up to possibilities, not probabilities or definite outcomes. We frustrate ourselves—even make ourselves miserable—when we imagine that things will go a certain way (usually our way) and they don’t.

We can believe that there is a prayer, a saint, a secret or a set of formulas or principles that force God to manifest physical things according to our will. But if we’ve even casually paid attention to our track record, we’ve noticed that sometimes things go our way, sometimes not.

If an action or technique doesn’t yield the same results 100 percent of the time for 100 percent of the people, it means that we’re not dealing with a law or a truth principle; we’re playing with possibilities. Hooray for possibilities! Too often, we are in such a rush to envision a desired outcome–or “claim” that outcome–that we miss the beauty or the lesson that lives in that moment, and we miss the true value of that experience.

Can we give our lives purpose by using our imaginations to create specific outcomes–or did we already have a purpose when we arrived on the planet? Consider this:  A purpose-driven life isn’t one in which your brain decides your body’s reason for being on Earth, and then gets busy fulfilling that mission. It’s one in which you successfully discern your soul’s purpose, and align your physical thoughts and actions to fulfill that purpose. It’s a difference in perception that makes a big difference in your results.

Where do you start? You begin the process by asking questions and being open to receive your answers. Question one is obvious: “Why am I here now as (your body’s name)?” Next, “Is my current path leading to the fulfillment of my purpose for being here?”

You cannot discern your purpose by looking at or comparing your life circumstances with someone else’s. Perhaps they have a good job with lucrative pay, and you’ve been laid off. Was having a good job with lucrative pay the purpose for which you entered your body? What if fulfilling your purpose attracted more income than having a good job? What have you forfeited by failing to fulfill your purpose? These are the questions we fail to ask when we’re fixated on acquiring cash and other props on the Earth stage.

Once we understand that purpose is woven into every strand of the fabric of our lives, anger, frustration and victimization seem inappropriate responses when unpleasant and unexpected circumstances appear. If life worked the way some motivational maxims teach us, we’d never have unexpected circumstances; no one would ever be disappointed or even pleasantly surprised. We’d be following a script, in total control of our entire experience. How many people do you know who have done that?

Stuff happens, and it happens purposefully. Situations and people appear on your path to help you fulfill your purpose. No matter how bitter the experience, do yourself a favor and ask, “How does this serve me? What did these Golden Rule-averse individuals come to teach me? How will I grow through this encounter?”

Wait for the response. It will be worth it.

Our quest to learn our life’s purpose is fully supported by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Whether we find our purpose depends upon our response to those circumstances.

Derrius Quarles powerfully demonstrated the value of adverse circumstances. He might not have been as compelled to serve others if he’d experienced a more comfortable childhood. We don’t know. What we do know is that, as a soul, he attracted a caring biology teacher onto his path who inspired him to pursue a career in medicine, and that he took an extremely challenging childhood and converted into a million dollar payday that will be priceless for others: The purpose for which he arrived.

What’s going on in your life that offers clues to your life’s purpose? What kind of opportunities and people are you attracting?

You can’t fulfill your purpose until you know what it is. If it’s not obvious, based on your experiences and encounters, just ask for it to be revealed. Say it out loud. Right now. And take the first step on your path to your amazingly purposeful life.