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12 Powerful Life Lessons

Photo by Lucia Holm
Follow your dreams and transform your life ~Paulo Coelho

As my wife and I were planning our last vacation, one of the first things we did was get out a map and plan our route. Whether it was online maps or old fashioned paper maps – they all helped guide us to our destination. As I was looking at the maps spread across our dining room table, I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if there was a map of life” that could guide you along your life’s journey?

A personal motivation map giving you those life lessons that one typically learns way too late in life. Does such a “map of life” exist? It was then that I stumbled upon a tattered copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho in the bottom of my closet.

Paulo Coelho in his wildly popular book (65 million copies sold in 67 languages) tells the story of a shepherd boy and his quest to live his dream. Along the way, the boy meets an alchemist who has the power to inspire personal transformation. This Alchemist gives the boy a number of life’s lessons – lessons that are as fresh and applicable today as they were hundreds of years ago. The lessons by themselves are interesting, but it’s only when they are applied, that the power of personal transformation can be unleashed.

So what can Paulo teach us about life and pursing dreams in the face of obstaclesthat caused 65 million people to buy his book?


1. It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.

I believe this to be true and have experienced this with my own family. When I think of the times where we laughed the most or had the most fun – it was when we were doing the simplest things. Swimming in a pool, combing a beach for shells, playing a board game, or sharing a delicious meal – all simple things making up the best times we’ve had as a family.

Question: What were some of the happiest memories from your past? What were you doing?


2. Support your children in pursuit of their dreams.

In the beginning of the story the shepherd boy (named Santiago) tells his father he wants to travel and see the world. The father explains he wants his son to stay in the village and become a priest. But Santiago persists – being a priest is not his dream. What does his father do? He gives Santiago the small amount of money he had been saving for the boy and wished him well.

How many of us had parents who have – in not-so-subtle-ways – influenced us to take careers that were not in-line with our dreams? Be honest now, did you pick your current career because you’re passionate about the work or were you trying to make your parents proud? How do you feel about your career now?

As a parent, it’s difficult to accept when your child wants to take a path other than the one you had hoped and planned for them. But, it’s ok. Like my wife keeps telling me “give them roots and give them wings”. Give them a solid foundation of love, but give them the freedom to follow their dreams.

Question: What were some of your dreams as a child?


3. There is nothing to hold you back, except yourself.

There is only one question to ask yourself here: “What would you do if you were not afraid?” Think about it.

4. There is only one way to learn, and that is through action.

Trying to learn without doing is like trying to lose weight by watching someone else exercise. It’s just not going to work. We are all fundamentally hands-on learners.

Question: What would you like to learn? What next action step can you take?


5. Trust your gut (or Learn to recognize omens, and follow them.)

Many times our subconscious has already made a decision before we’ve caught up and made the same decision. Sometimes we don’t make the same decision and then ‘something does not feel right’ or there is a persistent naggingthat bothers us. Malcolm Gladwell wrote extensively about this phenomenon in his book titled Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Trust your gut – it may be more accurate than you think.


6. Follow your dreams.

There are many of us who dream our dreams without ever actually realizing any of them. For whatever reason we get locked in a “dream state” and never take action. We analyze too much and our dreams turn into giant mountains in our imagination that seem impossible to climb. As a result, we never learned that foreign language we’ve always wanted to learn, or traveled, or started that business, or written that book. Just think of the many bestsellers that would have been, but were never written.

The time is now, to awake from dreamland, to live the life we want and to achieve the extraordinary potential within us all.

Question: What are some dreams you’d like to realize now? Write them down on a piece of paper and make sure the success of their attainment is measurable.


7. Know what you want.

Set goals and make a plan to achieve them. It’s like the saying, “a goal that is never written down is nothing but a New Year’s resolution” – and we all know what happens to New Year’s resolutions.


8. Make a decision and dive in with massive action.

The river of life will take you to places that you have never imagined. Once you make a decision, take action. You’ll be surprised to find where it will lead.


9. Move on – always look forward.

It’s ok to look back once and a while, but don’t live in the past. You can visit “pity city” for a short time, but after a while you have to leave it all behind and walk on.


10. You will encounter obstacles and take detours while realizing your dreams.

As you strive to achieve your dreams, you can count on there being some setbacks and disappointments. Don’t get discouraged, the road to your dreams may not be an easy one. Think of these challenges as tests of persistence and courage that life throws at you during your quest. They were necessary and were meant to help you grow as a person.

Learn to adjust the sails of your life to unpredictable winds, while keeping your focus clear on your destination.


11. Don’t fear the unknown.

As long as you’re resourceful and have a few skills, you’ll be able to provide for yourself (and your family). Have confidence in yourselfat all times.


12. Learn to understand the universal language – the language without words.

There is so much more said from a person than just words alone. You can read the expression on someone’s face, sense their body language, or hear the tone in their voice – these thingsare all part of the unspoken language. The more conscious we become at noticing them, the better we become at interpreting them.

Question: What are some subtle unspoken gestures from the language of love?


The Alchemist BookThe Alchemist is a deeply moving, yet simple fable about a shepherd boy living his dreams. Now that Paulo Coelho has taught us his lessons, can we, like an alchemist, change our lives from one of dreaming about our dreams to one of living our dreams? It’s up to us to take action…today!

What are some of your dreams? What are some dreams you’ve achieved, and how did you achieve them? Share your stories and thoughts with us in the comment section. See you there!

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76 thoughts on 12 Powerful Life Lessons

  1. I love the Alchemist. I read and write about many personal development books. The Alchemist is different because it’s a fun read for any layman, while still getting it’s message across about how to lead a better life.

    I like your point number 3. Besides ourselves, there are no real boundaries.

  2. This was an enjoyable article with many good reminders.

    “What would you do if you were not afraid?”

    The above sentiment is very true. We must be aware of our fears and realize that often they hold no water. Just do it as Nike says. Life is short.

    The part about moving on, I totally agree with that one. The past can sometimes grip us to no end. But, we can let go if we choose.

  3. What an excellent summary of some of life’s most important lessons. I have read The Alchemist… it is one of my favorites. It is right up there with Ishmael for me. I encourage you all to check it out!

    I need to trust my gut more. I usually go with my logic and it ends up blowing up in my face down the road. We are animals… we must trust our instincts.

    Of the twelve, the one that I struggle with the most is the “Know what you want” lesson. This is easier said than done. I have so many passions and so many paths I could take in life. Committing to one is so scary and difficult. What if I get tired of it? What if I get burnt out on it? What if I end up hitting a roadblock with and can’t get past a certain skill level? All these things frighten me.

    This was a great article. It has inspired me to write a similar post on my blog. Thanks! I dig the picture at the top too. It’s rad.

    – Jack Rugile
    Simple Sapien

  4. Very good article. At first it seems like everything written is plain points, but just like the author points out, it’s the really simple things that are extraordinary and most people forget that, even my self at times.

    I think I know what to put above my door now.

    Great site, keep up the awesome work.

  5. #8 – being decisive is one of the biggest challengers in life!

    #11- Don’t fear the unknown… very true..
    “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually fear that you will make one.” ~ Ellen Hubbard

    Great life nuggets.

  6. Sounds like a very inspirational book with a lovely storyline! However, its this post that I’m gonna rave about here.

    I was about to point out a few points and say how I’m going to move myself in the remaining two months of this year based on the few points that I liked, but after reading it through again I find that everything is linked and will only serve to help us grow and live our dreams. :)

    Surely a great list of 12 powerful life lessons!

    Thanks Tina!

  7. On the point don’t fear the unknown, I believe that fear is a feeling that can inhibits our action. Taking a step out of our comfort zone is such an important step but if we stop because of fear, I think we are missing out a lot of better things in our life.

    Personal Development Blogger

  8. #6 – Follow your dreams. Living with regret for not taking the actions required to achieve your dreams is something I fear. You are right, your really have to go for it.

    Great list.

  9. For me, the most powerful lesson of The Alchemist is that life doesn’t happen in straight lines. Sure, the shepherd eventually achieves his dream, but he had to take many detours along the way.

    It’s only upon looking back that we can see that each step – no matter how far off the straight path – helped him get where he needed to go.

  10. Tom

    There are 3 things I’ve observed about this list.
    1. It is repetitive.
    2. It says the same few things over and over, slightly differently.
    3. It repeats itself.

  11. Ahh. I read The Alchemist right as we entered the new millennium, and it helped me commit to my dreams and to steadily act on them. One of the outcomes has been what I call the Diamond-Cut Life (which I explain at

  12. Love the simplicity of the post and the book references complete the thoughts while luring you to keep the flow moving forward –

  13. Earlier this week I opened a fortune cookie that gave me the best advice. It said:


    That is something I’ve had trouble with in recent months…but I was brave enough to leave my job and start a new one. I agree with the life lessons you have posted here…but I would say my little fortune cookie lesson this week would make a good #13. :)

  14. Can you please correct the author’s name? It’s Paulo COelho. Thank you and cheers from Brazil.

  15. By the way, I don’t know if you written about this before, but I’d like to read something about “how to know what you want”, because that’s one of my main troubles: I never know what I want.

  16. I can never hear these life lessons enough! Because I listened to my inner voice and started to move forward, I am writing a book. It is my passion, though obstacles get in my way.

    Your post reminds me to keep going – to learn and take another step forward!

    Thank you, Leigh

  17. Number 7 rules all. You must know what you want!

    Great list Tina. Stumbled. ;-)

  18. This is a great post! I haven’t read The Alchemist yet, but I have to say that it has just made its way to the top of my list. Recently, I’ve been struggling with minimizing the consumerism and desire for things in my life, and I feel like this list sort of encapsulates all of the “stuff” that I feel should be really important to me, but more often than not falls by the wayside. That said, the very first thing on the list is the one that is the biggest challenge for me. Go figure!

  19. gotta buy this book asap

    thanx for sharing

    take care

  20. I’ve not read the book but must say that it sounds very interesting, according to your review. At tip#2, I stopped and reflected for a moment. Oh yes….I am going to support the dreams of my children. One of my daughters has already expressed her wish to do art as a career. By her intricate drawings and the time she spend drawing every day, I know it is not a mere wish. There is desire and passion. And I hope to support that!!

  21. I just can’t resist reading about lesson in life :) Thanks Tina for the excellent highlight

    Personally, fear of the unknown is one of the many things that can hold me back. I once afraid to make the leap into a decision, even though it is a good idea. I’m not saying there is no more fear, I just think that it is better controlled now.

  22. 8. Make a decision and dive in with massive action.

    Lots of us make decisions about how we want to live our lives, but it’s in the execution where it makes the difference.

    great article and i am so happy that i read it today. just what i needed to hear. Thanks!

  23. Fantastic post. It’s always great to be reminded about how the simple things in life are the most extraordinary and how it is possible for us to all live our dreams.


  24. I love the book The Alchemist. I got one powerful quote from the book, “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself” That really encourages me to follow my dream. Here is one article I’d like to share, about our dream and our heart…

    Your heart, your fight, your dream

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