The Alchemist: Lessons on Following Your Dreams

black and white open palm throwing sand

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it. – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

This one’s a classic! It’s all about following your heart’s desires to fulfilling the life of your dreams. Paulo takes us to the adventure of a young shepherd boy, Santiago, in pursuit of his Personal Legend, a search for a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the journey, he meets an old man who considers himself a king, an Englishman, a gypsy woman, and an alchemist.

Beyond the search for some worldly treasures, the journey was more about finding the treasure within.

Putting the story into perspectives and how we can apply it on The Path to Awesomeness, here’s what I came up with:

Alchemy is the process of transmuting base metals into gold. It relates to our own transformation from the lower to the highest version of ourselves. Seen this way, alchemy becomes a way of life.

Master Work, the goal of alchemy, is our inner purpose. It is the inner work we are doing, which we either do unconsciously or consciously, for our spiritual growth.

Personal Legend, our mission on earth, is our outer purpose. This is different for each and every one of us. We may or may not pursue it depending on our own choosing.

As pointed out in The Purpose Driven Life and A New Earth, aligning our Personal Legend with the Master Work is a key to a meaningful and happy life.

Let’s take a look at the insights we can gain from The Alchemist:

Mysterious Force

It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. 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.

What do you think is that force in your life that appears to be negative that when seen in a different light might actually be making you realize your Personal Legend? For me, it was a chronic sickness I’ve had and losing my father to cancer. This “negative” force made it clear to me that it has to happen so I can bring forth my gifts to the world.

There’s an interesting spiritual concept around here that our soul, prior to human incarnation, has pre-selected the life challenge that will trigger us to step up to our mission on earth.

Our soul is part of the soul of the universe. The deep burning desire comes from your soul, that when you choose to follow it, the whole universe conspires with you.

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Twin Flame

It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time… Because, when you know that language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.

Love is the pure Language of the World that was written by the Hand of God. It was written for two people sharing one soul, essentially making them twin!

Meeting Fatima, Santiago’s twin soul, was an omen that he was on the right track.

“You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it wasn’t true love… the love that speaks the Language of the World.”

True Love never keeps you from pursuing your Personal Legend. It pushes you to it. It helps two individuals do the Master Work. The partnership provides a loving space to cultivate each other’s spiritual growth.

So it can be a good measure in our relationships whether the love we share is true, or merely an illusion to satisfy the ego’s needs. Does the other person contribute to our growth? Does it move us toward our Personal Legend?

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The Secret

The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.

The secret is in the present moment! Given we may have some unforgiven past but would regret make it better? No matter how much we want to control the future, there’s really no guarantee. Would worry help? The answers to those questions are no secret at all.

Instead, we must strive to live in the now and what we can do about it. We already know the many great teachings about the importance of being present in the moment. What we need more of is practice.

Meditation, particularly mindfulness, is one practice we can do. Or if you find that too “spiritual” for you, doing what you love and loving what you do will give you equal benefit — being in the moment.

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Follow Your Heart

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

This is the simplest yet most profound teaching of the alchemist.

What Santiago realized was that his search for some worldly treasures led him to an inward journey, a self-discovery. His Personal Legend became the tool for him to accomplish the Master Work.

He sought for the omens, through which God speaks the Language of the World. And one who understands this language also understands how the desert, the wind, and the Sun communicate with everything. He came to the understanding of how God communicates with us through everything. He learned the spiritual teachings provided for him by the material world, which eventually led him to fulfilling his Personal Legend.

Let’s reword the proverb: Seek ye first the Language of the World, and your Personal Legend will be provided to you.

Only your heart understands the Language of the World. Seek first within and there you will find your treasure.

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The Search

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’s encounter with God and with eternity.

The belief in separation from the Source (God) is the root of all human suffering.

We’re all deeply yearning for that re-connection with God. Our dreams, given to us by God, are the calling for that reconnection. Our hearts can hear that call. When we choose to respond to that calling, when we go in search of our dreams, every second of that searching is an encounter with God. The search for dreams becomes the search for God.

I’ve personally experienced this encounter when I went searching for my entrepreneurial dream, which later evolved to becoming-an-author dream. I even wrote in my 2014 New Year’s resolutions list not to become so spiritual that the world might perceive me as some freak. But as I was moving toward my dreams, I felt being drawn closer to God. I am becoming spiritual! (New Year’s resolutions don’t work — confirmed!)

Ultimately, this is what the Master Work is all about — to become spiritual because God is spirit. It is how we can become spiritual while having a human experience in a material world. It is how we can be in the world but not of it.

Let’s reword another proverb: Be ye spiritual, even as God is spirit.

Go for your dreams. Respond to the call. That is God calling you.

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Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him. We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them… Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.

Anais Nin captures it succinctly, “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”

How we see the world says a lot about how we see ourselves. There are two ways we can see ourselves. One is through the ego’s eye, which fears everything it sees. The other, through God’s eye, which loves everything it sees.

Through the ego’s eye, anything it perceives is based on fear: fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing money, fear of having money, fear of anything that comes up to mind. This is what’s paralyzing most people from going in search of the Personal Legend. So we end up back in our comfort zone, which is suffering.

the alchemist

It is really up to us how we will choose to see the world. What you see is what you get.

The Road of Trials

What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.

Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.

Okay, I know it sounds scary. But there’s really no other way to our Personal Legend but to go through “The Road of Trials.” It’s what molds the hero’s character in the hero’s journey. It’s what makes the hero awesome. No tests, no awesomeness. Ask Master Yoda and he would probably say the same.

As mythologist Joseph Campbell illustrates, “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

The treasure usually reveals itself at the point of giving up. Keep going.

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When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.

The Truth is unspeakable. And even if it were, people will ignore it. Ignorance is the root of all evil doings. They say “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” But not knowing (ignorance) is the very reason why people are hurting. We hurt ourselves and we hurt others. “Hurt people, hurt people.” We crucify ourselves because we don’t know.

Forgive us for we do not know what we do.

We have been so accustomed to beliefs we have falsely created in place of the Truth. Of course, what we believe would seem true for us. But is it really true?

By experience, we can tell (feel actually) if it’s true. Something happens, then we start questioning the beliefs we hold on to because they don’t resonate with the knowing that comes from the core of our being. Truth then becomes self-evident.

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It’s the purpose of fulfilling our Personal Legend. By living it, we learn the Master Work not through beliefs, but through experience.

I’m Possible

If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

Here’s one more for the Truth: in reality, there is no failure. There is only experience. Failure and success are both judgments given to the experience. And every experience is a learning experience. In fact, we learn more from what we call “failure”.

So perhaps what most people are afraid of is not failure itself, but the judgment that comes from it. We are afraid of the “you are a failure” label. The failure becomes associated with who we are, rather than what we do.

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Yes, there is a doing part. It is necessary for fulfilling our Personal Legend. But the fulfillment comes from Being — the Master Work.

The Master Work

This is why alchemist exists. So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life… That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.

It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse.

The Master Work — this is why an alchemist exists. They show us the work is about striving to become better than we are. The work is becoming the best version of ourselves.

It is ‘we’ (being), not what we do (doing), that nourishes the Soul of the World (the collective human consciousness). And the world will be determined by the level of our consciousness.

the alchemist

Arguably more of an alchemist than a scientist, Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

All of the world’s problems are ego-based, from a lower consciousness. Our Personal Legends have something to do with solving those problems. But the solutions will not come from the same level of consciousness, the ego.

Enter the alchemist, to show us the Master Work — becoming a better person, one with an elevated level of consciousness. In being so, we can do better with fulfilling our Personal Legend.

You are the alchemist. Be legendary!

The Alchemist


PAULO COELHO is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist. He is the recipient of numerous international awards, amongst them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. His novel The Alchemist has been translated into 80 languages. Coelho has sold over 200 million copies worldwide and is the all-time bestselling Portuguese language author.

Other Books by Paulo Coelho

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
Eleven Minutes
Veronika Decides to Die
Aleph (Vintage International)
The Witch of Portobello

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