13 Powerful Lessons From ‘The Alchemist’ That Changed My Life

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“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”


Whenever I feel like I’m struggling to stay afloat, I open the pages of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and lose myself in them.

Within its pages, Coelho weaves together intricate strands of hope, love, courage, faith and above all, resilience through the adventures of Santiago, the Andalusian shepherd boy who sells his sheep to venture wide and far in search of his Personal Legend (destiny) and a treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt.

By the time I turn the last page, I feel comforted and ready to try again.

These are the passages and lessons from The Alchemist that have made the biggest imprint on my outlook on life, and I hope they help change yours too.

1. Fight To Keep Hope Alive — It Nourishes Your Soul

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Why do we dream of taking risks, winning the lottery, or making that huge (but potentially rewarding) leap of faith?

It’s because dreams give us something to shoot for: Better days, more happiness, less suffering and more options.

The hope of achieving these things helps us to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when times get tough.

2. Don’t Let The Harshness Of Life Kill Your Dreams

“Everyone, when they are young, knows 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.”

Make no mistake: life will pull that rug from under your feet when you least expect it, dull your edges by wearing you down with drudgery, and lead you into the thickest, heaviest quicksand just when you’re about to take off.

Life hurts.

Things can get sticky, inconvenient or just downright unfair in the blink of an eye.

But it doesn’t have to keep you down.

3. Most People Will Never Realize Their True Potential

I just want to dream about Mecca. I’ve already imagined a thousand times crossing the desert, arriving at the Plaza of the Sacred Stone, the seven times I walk around it before allowing myself to touch it.

I’ve already imagined the people who would be at my side, and those in front of me, and the conversations and prayers we would share. But I’m afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer to dream about it.”

All of us have a dream or two, but most of us will never make them a reality.

It’s way easier to ‘go with the flow’, and stay on the beaten path rather than grab that damn shovel to dig an entirely new one for yourself.

I mean, think about it: Would you rather roll downhill with minimal effort by following the herd, or push a boulder up the hill all by yourself while watching everyone else roll down and past you?

The truth is that it’s far safer and more comfortable to keep a dream, a dream.

4. A Good Life Is About Living In The Present

“When I’m eating, that’s all I’ll think about. If I’m on the march, I just concentrate on marching. If I have to fight, it will be just as good a day to die as any other.

Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.

Obsessing over the past will keep you stuck there, and worrying about the future will guarantee the absence of happiness right now.

Every second you waste on the irreversible past or unknown future is already gone.

The only thing you can truly enjoy or do anything about is right here, in front of you.

5. Don’t Know How To Do Something? Just Do It Anyway

“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”

Every human on earth is in the driver’s seat of their life with headlamps that let them see no more than 350 feet ahead.

The only way to know where you’re going is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, acting on your instincts (or smart information someone else has given you), making mistakes along the way, and learning as you’re doing.

The end result? Building layer upon layer of experience, which is how you carve out the life that you want.

6. Make Time To Keep Your Spark Alive

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. We speak of them only to children.

Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them — the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness.

Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.”

The older we get, the more the lenses through which we see the world get tainted with pain, trauma and fear.

And the more hard stuff you go through, the harder it gets to feel good about being in this world.

To keep your spark alive, give those lenses of yours a routine cleaning: Soften your gaze on the world by processing the pain and healing from it, then add some much-needed rose-colored tint by focusing on what brings you joy.

7. Listen To Your Heart — It’s Got Plenty To Say

You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say. That way, you’ll never have to fear an unanticipated blow.”

The more you listen to your heart, the better you’ll get to know it.

And the more intimately you know its hopes, desires and fears, the less likely it’ll be to slip you unexpected (and painful) revelations.

8. Trust Your Heart, But Use Your Head

“Trust in your heart, but never forget that you’re in the desert. When men are at war with one another, the Soul of the World can hear the screams of battle.

No one fails to suffer the consequences of everything under the sun.”

It can feel all soft, warm and fuzzy where your heart’s concerned, but out in the big bad world, reality prevails, and it doesn’t always reward heart-driven decisions.

Use your heart as a compass, but always check in with your brain to make sure your judgments are sound.

9. You Will Be Tested

“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 most people give up. It’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’.

No matter how lucky you feel when it appears that a dream is on its way to becoming a reality, it won’t always be a smooth ride to victory.

Also, Murphy’s Law.

Sooner or later, bumps will come up on the horizon to test you, and how you respond to these tests will determine if you win…or lose.

10. Your Fear Of Failure Is Keeping You From Success

“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.”

No matter how brilliant your idea or big your dream is, if you’re allowing the fear of falling flat on your face to control you, you’re guaranteed to fail by virtue of not doing anything at all, or playing small.

11. Sometimes, It’s Better To Work Quietly On Your Dream

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

As creatures of comfort and habit, we humans don’t like venturing too far out of the box. It threatens our safety and the ‘sameness’ that we’re so used to from day to day.

And that’s not where our discomfort with change ends — we don’t like it when the people around us break out of the mould either.

It’s far easier to criticize, shame, or belittle someone who’s visibly charting their own path or going against the grain than it is to change ourselves.

The best way to keep your sanity, hopes, and ambitions intact in the face of hostility and disbelief if you’re one of those who aren’t ‘fitting in’? Work hard quietly in the background. 

And when you’re ready, show, don’t tell.

Let your success speak for itself.

12. The Journey Is More Important Than Your Destination

“(The other alchemists tried to make gold and were unable to do so because) they were looking only for gold. They were seeking the treasure of their Personal Legend without wanting actually to live out the Personal Legend.”

Let’s be honest: Money is a big motivator for many of us.

It’s no exaggeration when they say that money makes the world go round, because the truth is, it does.

But if it’s our only motivation, any endeavour that doesn’t lead us to riches is going to feel like a failure and disappointment rather than an opportunity to learn, find meaning and purpose, and grow — all the more reason to give up sooner than we should.

13. There Is Magic In This World

“I always appear in one form or another. Sometimes I appear in the form of a solution, or a good idea. At other times, at a crucial moment, I make it easier for things to happen.

There are other things I do too, but most of the time people don’t realize I’ve done them.”

Yes, facts and data matter.

Without these, making rational, logical decisions would be a hundred times harder, if not impossible.

Yet, not everything can be explained with science or logic — certainly not things like omens, serendipity, and faith. There is more to this world than numbers, charts and scientific formulas.

How would your view of the world change if you truly believed that a magical, unseen force was present and guiding you in your life?


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Is a short read, but an inspiring one. In its pages, Coelho weaves together an intricate tale of adventure, hope and magic, all of which are buoyed by the resilience of the human spirit.

Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways To Slow Down And Enjoy The Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James I got my hands on this treasure over 15 years ago, way before simple living and minimalism became popular, and it was the first resource that introduced me to the practical, everyday steps I needed to ‘un-complicate’ my life.

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No To Take Control Of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend Not having boundaries can end up wreaking havoc in your relationships and leave you feeling resentful, used, and disrespected. In this book, Cloud and Townsend show you how to get over the guilt of setting limits (this is particularly helpful if you’re a recovering people-pleaser like me) and equip you with the skills you need to build healthy relationships that will fulfill, not drain you dry.

Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher Lousy, conflict-ridden conversations strain relationships, and don’t make difficult relationships any better. Here, the authors take you into the process of managing and expressing your feelings constructively rather than constantly muddling through who’s right, who meant what and who’s to blame.

Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret To Recognizing And Coping With Narcissists by Dr. Craig Malkin I never realized narcissists existed until I became tangled up with one for several years. It was only after I discovered what a narcissist was that I understood the damage that had been done to me. Dr. Malkin, a therapist, explains the true nature of narcissism — the good and bad, how unhealthy levels of narcissism can wreak havoc on your life, how to spot red flags that you might be dealing with a narcissist, and how to not only cope, but thrive when dealing with the narcissists in your life.

The Simple Living Guide When life feels overwhelming, this guide-and-workbook-in-one will help you gain clarity with your values, well-being, career, relationships and money.

The Good Morning Guide If your mornings are typically rushed, chaotic and stressful, I made this guide to help you start your day calm, sane and strong.

Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Timothy Ferriss Nothing beats having a mentor in your life who can personally guide you from day one. But not everyone does, and if (like me), you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the best. Take what you need from the likes of Ray Dalio, Ben Stiller, Bear Grylls and more in this varied but comprehensive compilation of bite-sized advice on life, work and purpose from some of the best minds in the world.


If you’re too busy surviving, chances are, you’re not thriving. You’re feeling tired, unhealthy, unmotivated and just plain worn-out from life. I created my FREE Daily Self-Care Ritual Workbook just for busy folks like you who want to take back their health, peace of mind and happiness. Get your very own copy of the workbook HERE. No spam. Just helpful, good-for-you stuff. Pinky swear.

Feature photo: Diane Picchiottino / Unsplash

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