12 steps to fulfillment

When Joseph Campbell, today’s most famous scholar of mythology (and author of the excellent “The Power of Myth”) created the expression “follow your blessing,” he was reflecting an idea that seems to be very appropriate right now. In “The Alchemist,” this same idea is called “Personal Legend.”

Alan Cohen, a therapist who lives in Hawaii, is also working on this theme. He says that in his lectures he asks those who are dissatisfied with their work and seventy-five percent of the audience raise their hands. Cohen has created a system of twelve steps to help people to rediscover their “blessing” (he is a follower of Campbell):

1] Tell yourself the truth:
draw two columns on a sheet of paper and in the left column write down what you would love to do. Then write down on the other side everything you’re doing without any enthusiasm. Write as if nobody were ever going to read what is there, don’t censure or judge your answers.

2] Start slowly, but start: call your travel agent, look for something that fits your budget; go and see the movie that you’ve been putting off; buy the book that you’ve been wanting to buy. Be generous to yourself and you’ll see that even these small steps will make you feel more alive.

3] Stop slowly, but stop:
some things use up all your energy. Do you really need to go that committee meeting? Do you need to help those who do not want to be helped? Does your boss have the right to demand that in addition to your work you have to go to all the same parties that he goes to? When you stop doing what you’re not interested in doing, you’ll realize that you were making more demands of yourself than others were really asking.

4] Discover your small talents: what do your friends tell you that you do well? What do you do with relish, even if it’s not perfectly well done? These small talents are hidden messages of your large occult talents.

5] Begin to choose:
if something gives you pleasure, don’t hesitate. If you’re in doubt, close your eyes, imagine that you’ve made decision A and see all that it will bring you. Now do the same with decision B. The decision that makes you feel more connected to life is the right one – even if it’s not the easiest to make.

6] Don’t base your decisions on financial gain: the gain will come if you really do it with enthusiasm. The same vase, made by a potter who loves what he does and by a man who hates his job, has a soul. It will be quickly sold (in the first case) or will stay on the shelves (in the second case).

7] Follow your intuition: the most interesting work is the one where you allow yourself to be creative. Einstein said: “I did not reach my understanding of the Universe using just mathematics.” Descartes, the father of logic, developed his method based on a dream he had.

8] Don’t be afraid to change your mind: if you put a decision aside and this bothers you, think again about what you chose. Don’t struggle against what gives you pleasure.

9] Learn how to rest: one day a week without thinking about work lets the subconscious help you, and many problems (but not all) are solved without any help from reason.

10] Let things show you a happier path:
if you are struggling too much for something, without any results appearing, be more flexible and follow the paths that life offers. This does not mean giving up the struggle, growing lazy or leaving things in the hands of others – it means understanding that work with love brings us strength, never despair.

11] Read the signs:
this is an individual language joined to intuition that appears at the right moments. Even if the signs point in the opposite direction from what you planned, follow them. Sometimes you can go wrong, but this is the best way to learn this new language.

12] Finally, take risks! the men who have changed the world set out on their paths through an act of faith. Believe in the force of your dreams. God is fair, He wouldn’t put in your heart a desire that couldn’t come true.


  1. […] Legend: In The Alchemist the most important obligation we have is to pursue our Personal Legend. However, the pursuit of our Personal Legend is also a matter of free will, that is, we can choose […]

  2. Harrison says:

    Im currently re reading The alchemist. good work. And good job on arriving with ways to deal with problematic situations that may be blind to a pair of “normal” eyes. Keep up the “what you do”

  3. Vora says:

    Respected Sir,
    I have a doubt. Say, for example, that I. as a college student, discovered that some activity X (or some things in life, X) make me really happy and enthusiastic about life and consequently, I decide I want to base my career on that path.
    Now, it IS possible that after some finite amount of time, I realize I’m losing interest in that activity X (which I had already started building my career on). This leads to a problem of “misunderstanding your Personal Legend”, which, I think is a risky situation because it might lead to people making big decisions in life based on a momentary attraction towards some “Personal Legend”, which ultimately, doesn’t turn out to be “the thing.”
    I am really in love and I’m a true believer in the concepts explained in ‘The Alchemist’ but this “misunderstanding/miscalculating your Personal Legend” problem is something that has been on my mind. I tried to formulate some ideas by myself and even had one or two discussions with friends but I would be very happy if I got to know something from this blog.
    Thank you very very much!
    Yours truly

  4. Ian Robins says:

    Dear Paulo,

    Thank you so much for “The Alchemist”. I have spent the last six years teaching your novel in a First Nations cyber school. I love the story and, having read it so many times, still gain fresh perspectives from it.

    As a Christian, I would have to say that my personal legend can only be bound up with the Holy Spirit. Unlike some of your readers, I believe that the voice of the universe and the language of the heart is absolute. As Robert Frost once wrote, “We dance around in a ring and suppose, but the truth sits in the middle and knows.” Perhaps before I die, this will become clearer – Melchizedek may pay me a visit! :-) I know that I love my Lord and His best for me is more than enough.

    Thanks once again for a wonderful, heart warming story. I haven’t had a student yet who didn’t like it.

    Blessings, Ian.

  5. sanjay says:

    One day I will write….

  6. Anneliese Flores Clar says:

    Thank you so much Paulo!!! this is exactly what I needed to know!!!

    1. Paulo Coelho says:

      Why!!! So!!! Many!!! Exclamation!!! Points!!??!

  7. Marie-Christine says:

    I love statistics, something re-assuring about them I guess.

  8. FMAdriven says:

    hey, ever since i started reading the alchemist, it excited me to see that others thought as physiological as i do, since i refrain myself from talking to people in such detail I dont know anyone tat would understand. But i have a question. Is it possible to complete ones personal legend?…or are you bound to it til death.

  9. abc says:

    I love Einstein 's warped sense of humour. I am not into theory – everything is relative –
    he likes lentils too….

  10. elisabeth delage says:

    i read here there is enthusiasm about this "recipe",how to find our personnal legend,this works also with équilibrium!about choices,well..i didn't choose money,and real comfort and security,or social place,or great job,i chose to have more time to share with my son,for me it's a luxury difficult to get in our societies,i always tried to get it as i could,no regret to take this time for love,because i am rich now! by the way,i was wondering yesterday night about your blog,well that should better if we could answer just after letters..so good surprise this morning to see that,you've changed your blog,and we can let "post reply" now!

  11. kathyponce says:

    This list just confirmed that I am heading the right direction. :) I realized today that what hindered me from following my own path is negativity. And I realized today that what counters negativity is HOPE. Somewhere in a letter of the Pope called Spe Salvi he says that, "The one who hopes lives differently." I believe that by living out your personal legend, you come to know and learn what REAL HOPE is. :) Thank you for this Sir Paulo. :)

  12. […] because he posted a video about it on his blog.  so i then clicked on his blog link and found this entry which i’m going to post here to remind me of what to do when i get in a […]

  13. luce says:

    Dear Paulo,


    Dear Jessica, you said it all, I'll learn this all by heart and in meantime print it and put it on the mirror and re-read it first thing in the morning, and next mornimg and on, and on ….. as long as it needs until it becomes part of me !


  14. carsie says:

    i hope that struggles along the way will not stop my heart on dreaming…sometimes things become so complicated that makes me stop and think not to fight anymore.but there is no other way but to try..prove that you can make it :)

  15. Fernanda Signato Marques says:

    Quero agradecer pela magnífica teoria que você compartilhou conosco nesse texto!
    Recentemente, pedi demissão e estou fazendo tudo o que eu gostaria de fazer: aula de dança de salão, musculação, leitura de vparios livros que sempre quis ler, idas ao cinema, teatro, praia, parques, museus, tudo o que sempre quis fazer e nunca deu tempo por causa da correria… Me identifiquei muito com essa teoria de Cohen!

  16. Fernanda Signato Marques says:

    …E tbém criei o hábito de dar uma olhadinha diária no seu blog, que é algo que me faz muito bem (pois aqui, as pessoas sempre tratam de temas interessantes, além de ser muito bom saber o que seus leitores do mundo inteiro estão pensando).
    Simplesmente relaxei e parei com a correria e com as neuroses, obsessões e complusões que acabam com nossa paz… E sabe que tudo tem fluido muito bem? Estou em ótima frequência com minha família, com meus amigos, enfim, com tudo!Muito amor,

  17. Fernanda Signato Marques says:

    Olá Paulo,
    Agradeço a você por compatilhar conosco essa teoria magnífica de Cohen. Recentemente, não faz nem uma semana, eu pedi demissão, pq não aguentava mais, que coincidiu com o término da faculdade (5 anos de pura correria, estresse, trabalhos e provas mil), daí tenho mais tempo livre e estou fazendo aula de dança de salão (que sempre quis, mas nunca dava tempo), musculação, hidroginástica, comprei os livros que sempre quis ler (inclusive os seus que faltavam para minha coleção, rs), vou sempre ao cinema, a praia (quando dá) e ao teatro… Se falta grana, vou a algum parque, à casa de amigos, procurar coisas simples pra fazer, que são as mais gostosas… Estou dando um tempo PRA CUIDAR DE MIM!

  18. tinni t. says:

    dearst paulo!
    we are so thankful for your pieces on your blog… and simultaneously a bit sorry for some comments of us…


    thank you thelma

  19. Heart says:

    I have a bit the same attitude as Thelma. My society always make big plans, and expect everybody to be goal oriented. Some Native American tribes don’t believe in planning. Just take one day at a time.

    It reminds me of a story I heard about the European who meets a Brazilian sitting under a palm, with a small table in front of him, where he offered some things up for sale. The European sat and considered the circumstance while enjoying a banana. He friendly suggests the Brazilian should get a stand, so he could sell his products on a wider scale. ‘Ok’ says the Brazilian, ‘then what?’
    ‘Well, so you will make more money, and after working for a while, and saving up some, you could buy a small car, and get to even more customers.’
    ‘And so?’
    ‘Well, then you could open a small shop, and build a house for yourself and your family, and still have some money in the bank.’
    ‘And then what?’.
    ‘And then when everything is going well, you can retire and just enjoy life.’

    ‘But, that is exactly what I’m doing now’, the Brazilian answered, and doesn’t understand the point in going the long way to get there!

  20. Alexandra says:

    Thanksssss.I have to copy that list?for sure,but do I have the right.I am afraid is long and I will forget it.I like the list.

  21. elisabeth delage says:

    that’s true sometimes we are hurry, it’s difficult to wait the signs,and we don’t must to wait for them,but it’s true they come as they want..this is a so good help,thank you sir paulo!!

  22. henriqueta sampaio says:

    muito obrigado paulo por seus livros,por sua sabedoria,quando me questiono com algumas lutas diarias e leio um livro seu acaba sempre por me ajudar de alguma forma.e tenho quase todos seus livros!sao incriveis.deus o ilumine todos os dias de sua vida!
    tenho uma grande admiraí§ao por voce!

  23. Anneliese Flores Clar says:

    Thank you so much Paulo!!! this is exactly what I needed to know!!!

  24. Eloise says:

    Yes, a lot of us are afraid. but we have to take bold steps if we want big change to happen.

  25. THELMA says:

    I will let the … Youth speak and plan their ‘legend’.
    I will just sit back and enjoy the … Cyprus’ gray afternoon!!

  26. […] 14. Will I feel guilty for succeeding in my personal legend? […]

  27. ruel basiliote says:

    thank you for the emails that you sent me…i like the stories told in the last cardinal virtue, equilibrium.. i like it a lot..more power