I am not a true fan of fiction books, my overwhelming preference is non-fiction books. However, the Alchemist is one of those books that leave you motivated and inspired to get started or keep moving forward. This powerful and inspiring fictional story is about the journey of a shepherd boy named Santiago who is in search of his “Personal Legend.” Author Paulo Coelho uses the terminology “Personal Legend” to reference a person’s “personal calling” or purpose as I like to say. He states, “All I know is that, like Santiago the shepherd boy, we all need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dreams.” He goes on to layout the top four obstacles that keep us from pursuing our personal calling…
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE
Based on what we are told as children, we grow up believing that everything we want to do is impossible, and our dreams and visions get buried over time.
For instance, Santiago’s path crosses with an old man name Melchizedek, the King of Salem. During this encounter, the old man tells Santiago, “…everyone believes the world’s greatest lie…that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate…everyone when they are young, know what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is 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 for them to realize their Personal Legend.” Think about kids you know for a moment – in their innocence, they believe all things are possible. Inside of that belief, they are able to access creativity on exceptionally high levels. They essentially see the world in amazement with all of its infinite beauty and power. However, as they grow older, we are constantly told, “No”. No you can’t do that, you can’t have this, etc. The end result is, the creativity, the possibilities begin to diminish and they/we step into and get stuck in the realm of impossibility. And inside that realm, we lose sight of our personal calling/purpose.
WE WILL BETRAY THOSE WE LOVE
We feel that in pursuing our dreams/visions, we would somehow be betraying our loved ones. As Santiago contemplates pursuing his dream, he finds himself at a crossroad – having to make a choice between leaving his flock behind and that which he was accustomed and comfortable doing in his present reality or moving forward to pursuing what’s possible inside his dreams, his purpose. After going through every reason and excuse why he shouldn’t move forward, the book reads, “the boy felt jealous of the freedom of the wind, and saw that he could have the same freedom. There was nothing to hold him back except himself. The sheep, the merchant’s daughter, and the fields of Andalusia were only steps along the way to his Personal Legend.” In that moment, he realized that the only thing holding him back or that could stop him was himself. How many times do we convince ourselves that we can’t or shouldn’t do something? We stop ourselves all the time.
FEAR OF DEFEAT
Fear is one of those variables that we all encounter on our path to destiny. We are afraid we will fail, we are afraid to do it alone, we fear the unknown, etc. Fear will paralyze us if we allow it. Santiago decides to move forward and pursue his dreams – not long thereafter he is faced with his first major defeat on his journey. In that moment, “as he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.” Essentially, he had to choose between being a victim and allow the setback to paralyze him or the victor who continue to plow forward in the face of defeat, even if it meant starting again from scratch.
FEAR OF ACTUALLY REALIZING THE DREAM
The last obstacle that the author references is the fear of actually realizing the dream that we’ve fought all our lives. During Santiago’s recovery or rebuilding stage, he finds himself in a conversation with a local merchant owner who is also his employer at the time. The merchant owner is sharing a story about his lifelong dream in great detail. At the conclusion of the story, he says, “I’m afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.” How sad is that?
In a nutshell, the story walks us through Santiago’s experience in confronting and overcoming each of these obstacles on his journey. In addition, the book highlights a plethora of great nuggets that can be applied to the reader’s life.
For me, there were two other very important themes that I drew on inside the pursuit of purpose:
When you really want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it. In my belief that we each truly create our own realities – the good, bad and ugly – the universe works in alignment with what we are creating.
Life is all about connecting with the source (God) – when we connect with God, absolutely nothing is impossible.
I will end with one final quote from the book…“if a person is living out his [her] Personal Legend, he [she] knows everything he [she] needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho (Translated by Alan R. Clarke)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-112241-5 | ISBN-10: 0-06-112241-6 | Price: $14.99
HarperOne, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers | New York, NY
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