The Alchemist

The Alchemist


I’ve been teaching the novel, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho to my Grade 12 students for the past few years and find it to be a really valuable novel to study in school, particularly for people venturing out into the world for the first time.

One of the main reasons I enjoy teaching it is because I find it very important to teach students the importance of following their true paths in life. They often don’t yet realize that there are many things that come up in life (mostly responsibilities and expectations placed on them by others) that may very easily push them off their true path and can prevent them from following their dreams. I often mention to them an article that really resonated with me years ago It was about Catherine Zeta-Jones discussing her decision to go to L.A. to try and pursue her dream of being an actress, and she said that as scared as she was of going to L.A., she was more scared of what would happen if she didn’t and she didn’t want to be lying in bed at night as an old lady filled with regret, and thinking to herself that she should’ve taken a risk on herself.

The main character in The Alchemist, also takes risks in his life because he feels very strongly about what his path is, or what Coelho refers to as one’s Personal Legend.

So, if we want to live happy, fulfilling lives, why do so many people not take that risk? Why do so many people lie in bed at night filled with regret? Why are we so afraid of failure?

The Alchemist

Coelho lists four obstacles that he sees as standing in our way:

1) Since childhood, we are told that we can’t do what we want, or that what we want is impossible.

When we look at many people that we encounter as children, teens or even in our twenties, there are many nay-sayers, and they cause a lot of damage.

2) The wrong kind of love. Love that is more controlling than freeing. We are afraid of hurting or disappointing people close to us, so we do what they want more than what we want.

Usually our parents, who want to protect us, encourage us to take the easy road, which is often the wrong road.

3) Fear of failure or defeats.

Coelho also adds that while not necessary, defeats happen. A great way to look at this. There’s nothing we can do, whether we are on the right path, or wrong path, defeats or moments of perceived failure exist.

4) The fear of realizing our dream.

Usually the road that we’ve travelled to get what we want is long and difficult. That is why, on the home stretch, so many people give up. As Coelho reminds us, “Before the dawn, comes the darkest hour,” so if we persevere, we will find our treasure.

It’s such a significant book, important to anyone who is examining their life and their way of living.

Image of novel courtesy of Goodreads.


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