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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is definitely one of my favourite books of all time and has a special place in my heart.  I love to go back and read this (or listen to it) every couple of years.

I listened to the audiobook before I read the actual book and I was at one of my lowest points in my life when I did.  I had been working like a maniac at work non-stop for about two years and it had now taken its toll on me.  I had surpassed the constant fatigue and migraines stage and after feeling really dizzy and literally collapsing one day, I ended up in bed with labyrinthitis, a condition that affects the inner ear and balance organs which made it feel like the world was spinning around me.  I couldn’t even stand up straight, let alone walk or go anywhere, so I was stuck in bed until the world and my body felt normal again.  It was not a fun time at all.

I was determined not to feel sorry for myself, I knew this would only make me feel worse and delay my healing.  I wanted to make the best use of the time I had on my hands and take my mind off my sorry state and so rummaged for the audiobooks I had in my library.  Pretty much all of my books were personal development related and were just too much for my brain to take in at that point.  I needed something that wouldn’t require my already fuzzy, spinning brain to think too hard!  The only ‘light read’ (or ‘listen’ in this case) I had available was The Alchemist.  I had heard it was a great book but had never got round to listening to it.  Now was a good time to.  And so I lay there and pressed ‘play’.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.

What’s it about?

In a nutshell it’s about following your destiny, pursuing your dreams, finding and living out your purpose – your ‘personal legend’ as the author called it.  And it’s all told through a fable, or parable if you like, by a boy who decides to leave his simple but comfortable and routine life as he knows it, to follow his destiny, to discover his ‘personal legend’.

I can tell you that by the time I finished this book, told through such a beautiful tale (I felt like I was there, living it) I was determined to wave goodbye to my own pathetic existence and seek out my own personal legend!

Here are ten life lessons I learned from The Alchemist.  This little book is packed to the brim with golden nuggets and each time I read it, new things pop up for me!

1 |  Don’t get to the end of your life and regret that you didn’t follow your dreams and live the life you really wanted to live

2 |  Sometimes we need to step out of our comfortable but boring, routine lives to see what else is out there in life for us, even if we can’t see exactly where the journey we take will lead us to

3 |  There’s always a sacrifice to make when you want to reach for more in life – but it’s only temporary! The long term rewards are worth it!

4 |  Challenges, setbacks, obstacles will always come your way and test you to the max when you’re moving in the direction of your dreams – you’ve got to push through them and keep going.

5 |  The journey is just as (if not more) important than your destination – your character is being refined with each step that you take, the journey enables you to become the person you need to be when you eventually reach your desired destination

6 |  Our greatest lessons come from the simplest of things in life – don’t live on autopilot – open your eyes to what’s around you and what it’s trying to teach you or where it’s trying to lead you to

7 |  You need courage, faith, resilience and determination to keep going for your dreams

8 |  Being afraid of change has cost many a person their dreams – embrace change

9 |  Listen to your heart – it will always guide you IF you take the time to listen to it

10 |  It doesn’t matter how long it takes to reach your destiny, just keep going in the direction of your dreams – don’t stop!


My biggest lesson from The Alchemist?  Don’t believe ‘the world’s greatest lie’

What does the author call the world’s greatest lie?

‘That at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what happens to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.’

That’s the world’s greatest lie.  We are always in control.  We can always change our story – if we choose to.


Why do most of us never choose to follow our dreams?

These are the four reasons why most of us never choose to follow our dreams as described by author Paulo Coelho:

  1. We have been conditioned since childhood to believe that everything we wanted to do is impossible
  2. We are afraid to or feel guilty to hurt those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dreams
  3. Fear of the challenges and setbacks we will meet (and meet them we will)
  4. The fear of realising our dream

Isn’t it interesting how fear seems to be the one thing that holds us back from living the life of our dreams?  Not only do we fear failing to reach our dreams but we fear reaching our dreams too, so many of us actually fear success!

The overall message of this book is that there has to be more to life than our robot existence through life that most of us experience.  Living the same year 60 years in a row and calling it a life.  Being able to predict what tomorrow, next week, next year, ten, twenty years down the line will be like.  It takes courage to dare to step out of the ‘norm’ and do something that fills our heart with joy rather than just pays the bills and gets us a nice little holiday once or twice a year (the only times we look forward to and enjoy).

I read somewhere that most of us will give more thought to what we’re going to wear today than what we’re actually doing with our lives.  A rather sobering thought!

The Alchemist is the most beautiful tale that really got me thinking deeply and will get you thinking too.

What are you doing with your life?  Are you living out your purpose?  Or someone else’s?  Are you letting life just happen to you?  Or are you the master of your fate, the captain of your soul?

It’s never too late to discover your personal legend.  And I can’t recommend this book enough to set you on your way.  If it’s good enough for former US President Bill Clinton (who was spotted reading it) and the other 175 million people who have bought copies of The Alchemist, it’s definitely worth a read!

Speaking of living with purpose, check out my blog post on ‘How to discover your purpose‘ which includes a free worksheet to help you do just that!