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.