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Book Review: Life Lessons from Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist"

Updated on August 7, 2015
sriparna profile image

Sriparna is a passionate science educator, loves children and strongly believes and works towards inculcating 'mindful learning' in schools.

The Alchemist: an overview

The Alchemist is a magical fable about following your dream, written by Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian story-teller. It narrates a simple journey of a young shepherd boy, Santiago from his home country, Spain to the Egyptian Pyramids in search of hidden treasure. While the narrator uses simplistic, everyday language to describe the sequence of seemingly insignificant events, he conveys profound, timeless messages for all of us .

I highly recommend everyone to read this book at least once, though you'll feel like going through it again and again because every character of the story and every conversation will make you think deeply and change the ways of your looking at life.

There must be many reviews of this bestseller, hence I wouldn't repeat. In this hub, I will summarize the take-home messages and the life's essential lessons that I got from this unique classical tale.

An unforgettable journey!
An unforgettable journey!

#1. Principle of Favorability

The author emphasizes that there exists a principle of favorability, i.e. when you really want something earnestly, that desire is embedded somewhere in the soul of the universe and the whole universe conspires to help you achieve that. What a powerful message! When we're determined to get something, nothing can stop us from getting it provided we remain focused and pointed to that direction. Never give up and get distracted by short-term achievements.

#2. Appreciate the possibilities

Life is full of immense possibilities and as the author says that the possibility of having a dream come true makes life interesting . At times, our frustrations, depressions and not achieving what we desire overrides our mental peace and happiness and we feel that's the end of life. But this line in plain English beautifully translates that we need to appreciate the possibilities that are awaiting us, possibilities of achieving what we deserve, possibilities of finding peace, which we often ignore. If we can train our minds to welcome the potential of a dream coming true, we can remain excited in our everyday lives.

Read Paul Coelho's works

#3. The language of the world

There is a language of the world, which has no words and if we can learn this language, we can understand our life better. This is the language which the shepherd boy used to communicate with the sheep, the desert, the camels, the wind, the sun and even his heart. In reality, we can survive in a foreign country, speaking a different language from ours, we can interpret what our beloved pets want to say, we can understand positive and negative vibes, we can decipher body language and tones. So in our everyday lives, we do often use the language without words - the language of humanity. Understanding this language more and more will sharpen our intuitive thinking and make us more compassionate to other beings.

#4. Stay connected to the source of emergence

The author has been emphatic on an Arabic word, "Maktub", meaning everything is written. Everything in the universe is happening with a purpose and they're written by the same hands. In Dr. Wayne Dyer's books I have read that he also mentions about a single source of energy from which we and everything else around us emerge. If we delve into scientific explanation, we know that the birth of universe is believed to happen through the Big Bang Theory, the creation of matter. Hence all of these are correlated and very true, all that we do - choose a subject major to study, choose our career, choose our spouse and every decision we make has a purpose and are connected in one string. How amazing - the power of natural forces explained so lucidly!

If we can stay connected with our life's purpose, never allow ourselves to get distracted, then success and excellence will be ours. We need to be open-minded and respectful to the people from different cultures, different races and different abilities as we all emerge from the same fountain of energy.

Paulo Coelho's books

#5. The truth of realizing destinies

A very strong advice is laid in the storytelling regarding following your heart and realizing your goals. You may set out to realize your destiny, i.e. achieve what you want, but be prepared to be tested at every stage. You not only reach your goals, you should be courageous to live out your goals and overcome all possible hurdles on your way because they are designed to ensure that you master all the necessary lessons. There are so many inspiring examples of people achieving unbelievable and incredible heights, and we can relate that it is possible only if you stay focused throughout.

In another instance, the author says through the alchemist's character, "where your heart is, there you will find your treasure" - so vivid way of reiterating that your goals are lying right there where your heart's desires are! If you are clear about what you want from life, understand your heart's language, then you will find what you want right where your heart takes you.

#6. How to be a great teacher?

The character of the alchemist in the fable teaches great lessons of being a teacher who would instil life-long learning capabilities in the learner. Whether we are parents, educators or running companies we are playing the role of mentor at some stage of life or the other, the alchemist teaches how to be a great mentor. He never encouraged spoon-feeding or gave out the answer to the problems, he constantly challenged the boy, directed him, gave intellectual hints, believed in his abilities and the boy eventually knew the answer to the toughest of the problems. This should inspire teachers and policy makers to change the whole idea of education, to give more freedom and challenging tasks to the children, who would succeed to learn and discover on their own.

#7. Multiple interpretations of life

The story talks about interpreting the omens all the way. The shepherd boy experientially learns to interpret the omens on his way to realize his destiny. There are also instances of interpreting recurrent dreams. The inner meaning of these interpretations are - life's incidents can be looked at from various angles, it can be interpreted in multiple ways and it's up to you to decide whether a bad thing or a good thing happened and how you will deal with it, positively or negatively.

When anything happens, like an argument, we hardly try to see the viewpoint of our opponent and insist that we're right. But life would be more rewarding if we seek the view from the flip side and interpret the situation in a reasonable manner.

I am moved and touched by the book and would suggest all of you to lay your hands on it if you haven't already. I read the book from our school library, but planning to get one for my bookshelf, such inspiring books are a life-long asset.


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    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      I have this on my Kindle, and am looking forward to reading it. It sounds a little like the Celestine Prophecies here, but with a better plotline to get the ideas across. Can't wait!

    • sriparna profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New Delhi

      @HP: Thanks, I'm glad that you visited this hub. When you read the book, I'm sure with your experience and expertise, you'll unfold many more lessons which were portrayed by the author, I'll need to read the book many more times to get it all.

      @ravenblueu: Thanks, sure please read it and share your thoughts, this book can have several interpretations.

      @MichelleA2011: You did a great job by reading to your students. I have felt the same thing when I first read the book, that I should recommend my students to read and write what they learnt from the book, it's an excellent story which can be analysed and interpreted in multiple ways.

    • MichelleA2011 profile image


      7 years ago from Connecticut

      I had heard about this book and had picked it up last summer and instantly fell in love with it. Then in September of 2010 I taught it to my reading class of 7th-9th graders. Although there were some components they might not have fully grasped, they did like the book and in their own ways got the messages being conveyed.

      By the time I taught it I had read it three times and will always adore and treasure it.

    • ravenblueu profile image


      7 years ago from Somewhere Tropical

      This is one book I know most of friends love but I always skip on reading it for another book. Anyways your list got me convinced that this is a must read.

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      7 years ago from Guwahati, India

      I will be fortunate one if I could look to the book.Yes, best learning rests on the discovery of his own.

    • sriparna profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New Delhi

      @Happyboomernurse: I read your interview in the hubpages weekly, lucky to have you here and thanks for your kind comments.

      @Cristopher James: Hope you find it soon and like it, thanks for the follow and stopping by!

    • Christopher James profile image

      Christopher James 

      7 years ago from Australia

      I'll have to look for this book

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Great, thought-provoking hub, with many life lessons in it. You have certainly inspired me to read this book. Thanks for the interesting review. The lesson I agreed with most was, "If you are clear about what you want from life, understand your heart's language, then you will find what you want right where your heart takes you."

    • sriparna profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks platinumOwl4 for stopping by and leaving your comments.

    • platinumOwl4 profile image


      7 years ago

      I have a copy of this book and I love it. I recommend it as a put on your next book to read. I was watching someone Interview Will Smith and he had read and recommended it. Based on his description of the book I purchased it immediately.


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