“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
Paulo Coelho’s evergreen deals with the questions of how one can become happy and pursue a fulfilling life.
A metaphor of life
Throughout the book a lot of insightful hints about the way we pursue our lives are given. To mention all would not be possible within this frame, which is why I can only recommend reading the Alchemist yourself. To give you an impression of the idea behind the book Paulo Coelho’s motivation is given a closer look. In the foreword he states four reasons that keep us from being happy, which hold us back from having the courage to pursue our own destiny:
- The belief that dreams do not come true
- The fear that our love ones will not support us
- The fear of failure
- The belief not being worth of reaching our dreams
“At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”
1. “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
“Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible to realize their destiny…”
As kids we are told that dreams do not come true. As we get older it is society and its norms that tell us what is possible and what not. So with time passing by we perceive this belief as our own. This is only supported by meeting people who have not even considered beginning to pursue it, haven’t lived up to their dreams or have given up on their journey.
“It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your destiny. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”
2. “True love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny.”
“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
We are humans and long for social acceptance. So we want to be understood for what we do. We fear that if we do not confirm the expectations of the ones who love us, we will be rejected and alone. However, we will become miserable when we live someone else’s life.
“You must always know what it is that you want.”
What we forget is that the people who love us want us to be safe and this is why they try to protect us from the unknown. In the end, however, they just want us to be happy, no matter what we do.
“When you are loved, you can do anything in creation.”
3. “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second encountered with God and with eternity.”
“Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away our souls, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.”
The only way to prevent the fear of failure and getting stuck in overthinking is to act.
“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”
“Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
4. Seeing our dream come true
“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person realize his dream.”
When we finally gain the courage to act and pursuing our personal legend, we will be surprised by the support we get if we are able to read the signs or omens on our path.
“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”
Eventually, we will face the last obstacle. The fear of seeing our dream comes true. When we are just one step away from reaching our destiny, we will remember all the others that have not reached their dreams. A feeling of not deserving to reach our own dreams develops.
“But if you believe yourself worthy of the things you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.”
The Andalusian shepherd boy Santiago decides to get to the Pyramids of Egypt after he had recurring dreams telling him that there he will find treasure. He decides to sell his sheep and follow his curiosity, since he recognizes that his heart is telling him to do so. On his way to living up his personal legend he encounters diverse people, who are all showing him new perspectives on life. He even meets the love of his life. Santiago has to face all the ups and downs life has prepared for him, so that he takes away a lesson from every experience and gets closer to his treasure. He has to take detours and grows as a person on his way so that he is eventually able to find his personal treasure.
Even though the story sounds simple and with a Hollywood-like happy ending, the message behind it is much deeper. The happy end comes in a different way than anticipated and lets the reader reflect about his own life. Maybe the secret of the books success is that such a deep message is told in such a simplistic way, delivering it on point.
The Brazilian Paulo Coelho wrote the Alchemist in 1988 in just two weeks. Later he said that the story was already written in his soul. The book, which was originally published in Portuguese, has up to this date been translated into more than 80 languages; making Coelho the most translated living author and ensuring him an entrance in the Guinness Book of Records in 2009. Although, now more than 65 million copies have been sold, the sale was slow in the beginning. The publisher even offered Coelho to give back the rights of his book. However, the author was so convinced of the quality of his book that he started knocking doors, as he later said to get attention for the Alchemist.
His own will and grid, which he so passionately wrote about, was tested in real life. Coelho also did not accept the path his parents had planned for him, leading him to commit asylum three times. Also on other levels he acted unconventional to live his own personal legend. He regularly publishes his own books on file sharing websites and torrents. He believes that giving the reader the opportunity to check the quality of his work themselves, by giving them the chance to read parts of the books, will convince them to buy the book. His publishers, of course, did not like that idea at all, but the increased number of sales proved him to be right once again.
“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
“You will never be able to escape form your heart. So it‘s better to listen what it has to say.”
Did you already read the book and found it as inspiring as I did?
I can only advice to get your hands on your own copy and take the time to read it yourself. It will be worth it. It is one of those books that you can read again and again just to discover something new every time. You can get ‘The Alchemist’ from Paulo Coelho in print, as eBook or as audio version.