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How to Embrace and Follow Your Personal Legend

In Paulo Coelho's novel, The Alchemist , the main character, Santiago, learns through a series of intricately planned lessons to the true meaning of life, as well as learning about the Soul and Language of the World. After following these steps, you should be able to fulfill your Personal Legends.


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    Understand What a Personal Legend Is...
    • When Santiago meets the old King of Salem, Melchizedek, he teaches the boy for the first time what a Personal Legend is. He says that a Personal Legend is "what you have always wanted to accomplish" (21).
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    Acknowledge your Personal Legend
    • The language of the world will attempt to reveal your personal legend to you in many different ways, whether it be through omens, mentors or signs. Whichever way you come to know your personal legend it is important that you acknowledge it and take action to make your dreams a reality. After all, "when you really want something, the universe always conspires in your favour" (36). It is easiest for people to realize their legend when they are young because "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 life. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend" (21). This is why Santiago is the ideal candidate, because he has not become jaded over time. That being said, you are able to pursue your Personal Legend at ANY time in your life!
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    Have a Clear Goal
    • Create for yourself a goal in which you will be able to realize when you have completed your Legend. Without a clear, explicit goal, or Personal Legend, it is impossible to ever achieve it. The King said that "you must always know what it is that you want" (56). Santiago's goal was to find the treasure awaiting him in Egypt.
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    Do not be a Sheep
    • Coelho uses Santiago's sheep to illustrate a life of someone who has ignored the call to their Personal Legend. They live a mundane life, where "all they think about is food and water" (11). While these are important things, there is so much more to life than just the necessities. Money and greed corrupt some people so that all they think about is how to get more, which is similar to how the sheep are focused only on one thing at a time. The sheep "don't even realize that they're walking a new road every day," (11) very similar to the way some people get so caught up in the day-to-day that they forget to stop and smell the roses.
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    Appreciate the Simple Things
    • The gypsy tells Santiago that "It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them" (15).
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    When You Feel Like Giving Up, Don't
    • Sometime during your quest, you will feel as if the universe is not conspiring to help you achieve your Legend. At this point, the King will "always appear in one form or another. Sometimes [he] appears in the form of a solution, or a good idea. At other times, at a crucial moment, [he] makes it easier for things to happen" (23). He goes on to say that often times he does other little things, but people rarely notice them. Santiago experiences this when he first arrives in Tangiers and is robbed. He thinks to himself that he's "too insignificant to conquer the world" (39), and is really down on himself, but that is when he remembers the stones the King gave him. This omen tells him to continue on his journey! Remember the old proverb, "It is said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn"
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    Let Go of Your Fears and Doubts
    • Santiago realizes after hearing about the baker's ignorance to his Personal Legend that "there [is] nothing to hold him back except himself" (28). The main reason why the average person, including the baker and the crystal merchant, will fail to seek out their Personal Legend is safety. People are more concerned with making a name for themselves and being comfortable that they choose to settle for an average life. When Santiago meets the camel driver, he reveals to Santiago that people "are always afraid of losing what [they] have, whether it's [their] life, or possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when [they] understand that [their] life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand" (76). By trusting in fate, you are able to free yourself from these fears. The alchemist teaches Santiago this as well when he says " Don't give into your fears... If you do, you won't be able to follow your heart... There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure" (141). Without fearing failure, you are free to pursue any path you like.
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    Follow the Omens!!
    • I can't stress the importance of this step enough! Omens help guide Santiago in his quest and the King reiterates this lesson over again before he leaves, so that Santiago will not forget it, saying, "Don't forget the language of omens" (30). The crystal merchant asks Santiago at one point, "Why ask more out of life?" and Santiago replies, "Because we have to respond to omens" (52). It's clear that the merchant has not responded to the omens, and that is why he has a hard time understanding Santiago's constant quest for greatness.
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    Change your Outlook and Learn from Every Obstacle
    • Like the old saying "You cannot change the direction of the wind, you can only adjust your sails," Santiago realizes that when he thinks positively about his situation he is much closer to his legend. After receiving the omen from the King in Tangiers, he thought to himself that "this wasn't a strange place, it was a new one" (41). Also, when facing the vast desert Santiago has to cross to reach Egypt, he recalls "[he's] learned things from the sheep, and [he's] learned things from crystal... [He] can learn something from the desert, too" (73). Even though Santiago is not thrilled with the long walk ahead of him, he knows that if he looks positively towards his obstacle, he'll be able to learn valuable lessons from it.
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    Carpe Diem!
    • "I can always go back to being a shepherd, the boy thought... But maybe I'll never have another chance to get to the Pyramids in Egypt.... The hills of Andalusia were only two hours away, but there was an entire desert between him and the Pyramids. Yet the boy felt that there was another way to regard his situation: he was actually two hours closer to his treasure" (64). Santiago knows that his old life is always waiting for him, but if he doesn't pursue his Personal Legend now, he may never be able to do it again. The camel driver also says to him, "If you can concentrate always on the present, you'll be a happy man" (85). Since this is such an important message, it comes up again when the topic of the seer comes up. The seer says "The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better... Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity" (103). Seize the day, and don't be distracted by the past, or future.
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    Go with your Gut
    • Santiago begins to understand that "intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life... where we are able to know everything" (74). Our heart knows how to interpret the omens, and therefore knows the right decision when our conscious mind is not able to decide on its own. Santiago later realizes that he "and his heart had become friends, and neither now was capable of betraying each other" (134). When you really get to know your heart, you are able to listen to the soul of the world. The Alchemist tells Santiago, "You already know what you need to know. I am only going to point you in the direction of your treasure" (115). This quote illustrates how the power to find your Personal Legend within you, otherwise it wouldn't be your Legend! Your mentors will only give you the nudge in the right direction that you may need from time to time.Trust that you and your heart can always make the right decision.
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    Realize When You've Arrived at your Personal Legend
    • Since you have defined a goal early on, you should be able to realize when you have completed your Personal Legend. After this, you may find that you discover another, and another yet. Whatever you do, whether you are content where you are, or you strive for more, do not forget the lessons you have learned in your journey. After all, it is not necessarily they goal you must pursue, instead savour the time it takes you to get there!


  • Don't lose the Oil in the Spoon, while enjoying the Marvels of the Castle
  • It is not necessary to follow these steps in exact order, each of us should find their Personal Legend in their own way. This is simply an outline that worked for Santiago.
  • Focus on the journey, not the destination! Don't forget to stop and smell the roses!


  • "Wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure"
  • If you are able to effectively turn yourself into the wind, be very careful and do not damage anything.

Sources and Citations

  • Coelho, Paulo.The Alchemist. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Article Info

Categories: Personal Care and Style | Personal Development