Author : paulo coelho
Originally published : 08 march 2011
Santiago is a shepherd. He loves his flock, though he can’t help but notice the limited nature of
the sheep’s existence. Seeking only food and water, they never lift their heads to admire the
green hills or the sunsets.Santiago’s parents have continually struggled for the basics of life and
have smothered their own ambitions accordingly. They live in beautiful Andalucía, which
attracts tourists to its quaint villages and rolling hills, but for them it is not a place of
dreams.Santiago, on the other hand, can read and wants to travel. He goes into town one day to
sell some of his flock and encounters a tramp-king and a gypsy woman. They urge him to
‘follow his omens’ and leave the world he knows. The gypsy points him toward the pyramids of
Egypt, where she says he will find treasure.Crazily, he believes her, sells his flock and sets sail.
A thief in Tangier robs him of his savings. So much hard work and discipline for a little
adventure! But, strangely, Santiago is not devastated, apprehending a greater feeling: the security
of knowing he is on the right path. He is now living a different life, in which every day is new
This belief is a marvellous one, a support for anyone embarking on an important project. But is it
a hope based on nothing? If you think about the energy you put into something once you are
committed to it, probably not. The ‘universe conspiring’ to give you what you want is, more
precisely, a reflection of your determination to make something happen.
The Alchemist (1993) does not get away from the fact that dreams have a price but, as Coelho
has said in interviews, not living your dreams also has a price. For the same money, he said, you
can either buy a horrible jacket that does not fit or one that suits you and looks right. It is better
to have problems that make sense because they are part of what you are trying to achieve.
Santiago’s dilemma is about the conflict between love and personal dreams. Too often we see a
love relationship as the meaning of our life but the obsession with romantic coupling can cut us
off from a life more connected with the rest of the world. Surely the heart has needs? Live your
life around the dream, Coelho says, and there will be more ‘heart’ in your life than you can
comprehend Much of self-help literature is about pursuing our destiny, but dreams do not always
pull us along; they speak persistently but quietly, and it does not take much effort to smother the
inner voices. Who is willing to risk comfort, routine, security and existing relationships to follow
something that to others looks like a mirage? It takes courage, and dog-eared, stained copies of
Coelho’s classic have become the constant companion of people who need to make fearless
decisions daily to keep true to a larger vision.