Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ has been dominating the bestseller charts ever since its release in the year 1993. Loaded with profound spiritual insights, The Alchemist is not just a book to enjoy; it offers a seamless blend of wisdom with storytelling. There are lot of life lessons that might initially sound philosophical but when reflected upon, will prove out to be true and very meaningful.
The story of The Alchemist traces the journey of a young shepherd boy, Santiago, to distant lands to realize his Personal Legend (destiny/ goal). One night when a dream reoccurs, he assumes it to be prophetic and decides to consult a fortune teller about the same. The hippy woman tells the boy that his dream is a prophecy that he would find treasure under the pyramids in Egypt. Simple, isn’t it? No, not so. Beneath the facade of this simple storyline, Paulo Coelho knits together threads of wisdom and subtle pieces of advice that are crucial for living a happy and contented life. The story has inspired people all over the world to chase their dreams.
Here are 9 lessons that can be learnt from this uncomplicated story and can be applied to your life:
1) You’re capable
Resonating with the central symbol of the story i.e. Alchemy, the story uses the character of Santiago as a metaphor, comparing him to metal. The entire universe tries to coax the metal to achieve its own Personal Legend.
Everyone, when young, knows what their destiny is. But as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.
When one embarks on a journey to live the dream, one faces a lot of criticism and challenges in many forms.
Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victors being severely tested.
Even if the journey begins on a good note, the next step is always difficult and often other people play a major role in letting you down. But that’s when the role of the heart becomes the most important. The heart is your only reliable friend because once you become acquainted with it, neither will it betray you, nor will you betray your heart.
2) Mind Your Own Business
No, the author is not being rude here. It is left for the readers to read the language. Often we come across people who are good at giving suggestions even when they are not needed. Our society runs on this! There are a set of rules that need to be followed by every individual and if you dare change your path, the society will make sure that you drown in the chasm of solitude and sorrow. The Alchemist teaches us the art of minding our own business and not bothering about things that do not concern us. It is ironical how everybody is eager to solve others’ problems but they fail miserably when the dark clouds surround them.
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.
Sometimes it’s better to be with the sheep or books (they tell stories). When you are with people, they say something strange and you don’t know how to continue the conversation.
3) The World has a Soul
The soul is defined as the energy that has sensations, desires, thoughts and beliefs. A soul performs intentional actions too. The World, too, has a soul that performs the intentional action of pushing any person towards their Personal Legend. Do you remember the famous dialogue from Om Shanti Om?
इतनी शिद्दत से मैंने तुम्हें पाने की कोशिश की है कि हर ज़र्रे ने मुझे तुमसे मिलने की साज़िश की है
कहते हैं अगर किसी चीज़ को दिल से चाहो तो पूरी कायनात उसे तुमसे मिलाने की कोशिश में लग जाती है।
This dialogue was an adaptation from The Alchemist as well.
And, when you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
The soul of the World is defined by its People. When they are happy, the soul is satisfied because life might not always be good but it isn’t bad either.
The Soul of the World is nourished by people’s happiness.
4) The world speaks a silent language
Yes, the world communicates with us. If you know what is important, rest everything becomes chaos. Amidst that chaos, if you can identify the whisper, that’s when you channelize your energy in achieving your goal. They say that it is all in the mind. And it is true. If you decide to take a stand and fight for what is important for you, no one can stop you.
Have the freedom of the mind because nothing holds you back except yourself.
Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the language of the world.
Some of you might already be judging me and calling me crazy for believing in all this. But I have experienced this too. I can talk to the mountains. I can talk to the rains, to the sun, to my things as well. I am not insane; I believe that that’s the World’s way of reciprocating to my thoughts. To understand the language, it is important to find your inner peace. A moment of silence won’t help. A combination of peace and concentration (and belief) will help you understand this language.
The Universe has a language. God’s secrets are not easily revealed to all his creatures. The creatures have to understand things this way as these truths or secrets are made up of pure life and this kind of life cannot be captured in words or pictures because people become fascinated by pictures or words and forget the language of the World.
5) Strike the right balance
Striking the right balance is the key to a successful and happy life. In the book, there is a short story that explains the importance of this. Once when a young boy is given a chance to see the marvellous decor of a palace, he is also bound by a condition: he is given a spoon with some drops of oil in it. The condition asks the boy not to spill the oil and enjoy the beauty of the palace. When the boy returns, he admits to having ignored the palatial beauty because he was more focused on preventing the oil from spilling. In the next attempt, he is asked to ignore the oil and just enjoy the decorations. When he returns, he realises that there is no oil left in the spoon at all because he did not pay attention to it. One must not ignore the blessings one already has. In search of a new pursuit, one must always preserve what one has, for one doesn’t know what future has in store.
The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.
6) Live in the present
The Alchemist urges us to live in the present. Your past cannot be changed and your future is not known. The only phase during which you can make a change is your present. It is futile to worry about something that hasn’t happened yet.
If you can concentrate always on the present, you will be a happy man.
Why not cross the bridge when you come to it? But carrying a float is not harmful either, isn’t it? What I mean by this is that the world acts as a subtle indicator of what is going to happen in your life. There will be events that will indicate if something is going to work or not. Then, it becomes unnecessary to brood and waste time. Instead, one must learn to embrace the signs that the world gives in its own language.
If good things are coming, they will be a pleasant surprise. If bad things are, and you know in advance, you will suffer greatly before they even occur.
7) Love exists
For the ones who do not believe in love, love does exist.
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.
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.
8) Use words wisely
Words have immense power. They can either make a person or break a person. Thus, it is important to weigh the significance of each word that you plan to use. They often have emotions attached to them. If used incorrectly, they can convey wrong messages and break relationships easily.
It is not what enters men’s mouth that’s evil. It’s what comes out of their mouth that is.
9) Persistence is the key
Patience and persistence go hand in hand in the pursuit of success. When you become tired of failure that is when success is at the closest distance. If you throw your hands up in the air at that moment, all the efforts will go in vain. Often you might struggle to convince people around you that your ambition can become a reality. But that should not forbid you from going an extra mile in search of that dream.
When you possess great treasures within you and try to tell others about them, seldom are you believed.
Paulo Coelho has not had an easy life. His insight into the purpose behind life and death is something that has the ability to change your perspective completely. Reading The Alchemist has been a great experience for me as there are truths about life that cannot be more beautifully expressed in words than they have been in this book.
If you have read this book, do share your take away from it.