How Reading ‘The Alchemist’ Can Change Your Life
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho has been described as more of a self-help book than fiction, though it clearly follows the narrative of a young boy. This young boy, Santiago, goes on a journey to realize his “personal dream” and to fulfill the destiny the universe seems to be laying out for him.
This is one of those stories that individuals either quickly dismiss, or tightly hold onto for the rest of their lives. A quick Google search will bring you countless blogs and essays from people who have been deeply affected by the book and wish to share these feelings with others.
I want to delve a bit into how reading The Alchemist can change your life, as it has mine, but first I think one needs to understand where the book comes from to grasp all of its themes and meanings.
A Paulo Coelho biography explains much of what he would eventually go on to write. He wrote The Alchemist after a life of hardship and perseverance. Paulo was born in Brazil to a staunch Catholic family. His desire to be a writer troubled his family, and he was committed to a mental asylum at the age of 18. He attempted three escapes before being released at 20. Paulo then journeyed through Central and South America as a hippie and lyricist – both of which contributed to his subsequent arrest by the military junta that had taken control of Brazil. Eventually, he was released and traveled to Spain.
While in Spain, Paulo had an epiphany which he describes in The Pilgrimage. He had everything he wanted, but he was not following his dream. Thus he could never be truly happy. He began to write, and although his career had a slow start The Alchemist went on to be one of the best-selling books in history. He now runs an institute which provides support to children and the elderly.
The themes in The Alchemist heavily parallel his life journey.
When you understand the story that birthed The Alchemist and how passionately the author believes in the messages he instilled within it, the book becomes that much more powerful. You can learn more about Paulo Coelho and how ‘The Alchemist’ came to be by reading ‘Paulo Coelho’s: A Warrior’s Life’ by Fernando Morais on Geeker.
The Power of The Alchemist
The Alchemist conspires to teach you. Hidden behind its narrative are various life lessons about struggling to fulfill your wants and being true to yourself.
“…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.”
– The Alchemist quotes
The Alchemist meaning is something often talked about. In the story, a young Andalusian boy travels far from home in search of a treasure buried in the pyramids. Along the way he meets a series of transformative characters, from a beautiful Arabian woman to British gentlemen in search of a fabled alchemist. The boy discovers he never truly needed to take his journey to find the treasure that lies at the end of it, but then he never would have had the journey – and the journey is the real purpose of why we all are here. The meaning of The Alchemist ending seems to promote this commonly stated theme.
One cannot do justice to the lessons presented in an entire book, and there are hundreds of people who have experienced their own personal epiphanies from the reading of The Alchemist. But the many lessons waiting in the book can be distilled down into three main points:
1. Embrace Your Goals, No Matter How Impossible
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
– Paulo Coelho quotes
The story in the book, and of the author himself, is one about overcoming the odds to achieve the seemingly impossible; you must make mistakes and learn from the effort, and then keep getting back up. At the end of all that, what you actually desire may just be waiting for you.
2. Live in the Present
Though the end goal is where victory lies, the journey is what matters. The most meaningful experiences rarely come from accomplishments themselves – rather it is how we came to that point that really matters. One of the lessons the boy in the story learns is that his journey may have been irrelevant to his end goal, but it is that journey that truly shaped him.
You Must Do
Nothing good will come from your inaction. If you want to accomplish anything, you must begin the effort. No amount of only wishing for something will do anybody any good.
You will discover your own lessons when you read The Alchemist, and the journey through the book is one you should strongly consider taking if you haven’t already.