The Alchemist is an extraordinary book. It is no easy feat to include so many life lessons that resonate so deeply into a single book without it sounding completely contrived.
This is not a book that tries to convince you of anything. It will speak to the beliefs which you hold deeply. So, there are no lessons - only reminders of how you already know you should be living. Still, there are a few ideas I wanted to write about.
I felt It didn’t make sense to make a list of ten, or some other arbitrary number, so I have put a few of my favourites together on an unnumbered list, as my SEO gently weeps.
It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
As much as we would like to be absolutely comfortable in the present, we all need something to look forward to. Motivation, if you like, is the difference between here and there.
You can’t rid yourself of a dream, you can only suppress it, but even then it will always continue to whisper to you. Peace is having no motivation. If you motivation is to get rid of your motivation that will not work. Earn your peace by answering your dream.
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
You can’t control your thoughts or your emotions, but you can control your response to them. This is crucial, because we have cognitive biases that mean we see whatever it is we prime ourselves to see. If you think only of disaster, you only see where things can go wrong. If you think of opportunity, you see the way forwards even when it seems there is none.
The truth is that there are always ways that things can go well or poorly right in front of us —infinite paths and possibilities. Our minds are limited, as is our attention, focus and cognition. So, choose to direct your limited mental resources towards the opportunities to move forwards.
People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being... Maybe that’s why they give up on it so early, too.
It is common for us to spend much of our adolescence trying to let go of our childhood fancies and and much of our adult lives trying to recover them.
In anything, the difficult part is to keep going. Especially if you are surrounded by others who have given up.
Combine the immersion of childish joy with the consistency of matured discipline so that you show up every day and it’s a question of time.
In 2021, the best-selling book on Amazon across all genres was James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which is a detailed version of Plato’s observation that ‘we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.’ Clear adds astutely that good habits make time your ally and bad habits make it your enemy.
He had to choose between something he had become accustomed to and something he wanted to have.
Comfort offers certainty. Change is unknown. In times of uncertainty, we see those who have adapted to change and those who are waiting for everything to go back to normal. We know who we admire.
In our own lives, what are we accustomed to that is actually holding us back? Which creature comfort or guilty habit do we insist is harmless or even necessary to keep us stable, all the while knowing that it limits our potential and growth?
The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes. That’s the way it will be with our love for each other.
A relationship can have different seasons, even though the underlying love is present throughout. It is easy to give up when your relationship is in the middle of winter, not realising that spring is on the way. A deeper love learns to appreciate the seasons for what they are.
Every couple has a different set of seasons — equator couples are always sunny. You can be happy as a polar couple, with very long days and very long nights. I’m sure there are infinite variations.
If you can understand and accept the seasons you go through as individuals and as partners, then there is no cause for alarm when the leaves start to fall. They will be back again soon — so long as you don’t burn down the trees.
Now, I’m beginning what I could have started ten years ago. But I’m happy at least that I didn’t wait twenty years.
One year from now, you may wish you had started one year ago. Start today. In fact, start right now. Close this article and do whatever it is you’ve been thinking about since you started reading it. Remember that inspiration is perishable. This article will be here if you decide to come back, but your dream will not wait for you.
So there you go, some of my favourite lessons from The Alchemist. There are many more in the book which make more sense in the context of the story and many which will resonate with you that I did not even recognise.
The core takeaway for me is to have the courage to act out what you believe. Whether you take away one lesson or a hundred from this book, it doesn’t mean anything unless you allow those thoughts to influence your actions.
Each of us will have missed a powerful idea and it is always exciting to discover something important which was right in front of you.
Leave your favourite takeaway in the comments below.
It is easy to read all the various iterations of ‘chase your dreams’ scattered throughout the novel and conclude that it is more wishful thinking that has snuck off of the self-help pile in the disguise of an allegory.
Regardless, it is impossible to truly teach anyone anything through words alone. People agree with things that are relatable. For something to be relatable, it means that you already have some prior experience which is connected to the words you are reading. Like a tuning fork or glass object, your experiences have to have shaped you in a certain way before specific frequencies will resonate with you.
Find the frequencies that resonate with you so deeply that they shatter your misconceptions.