When it comes to beloved stories, at the top of my personal list is the The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, one of the best-selling books of all time.
The story, like all well-crafted allegories, is a simple one: a young shepherd journeys to the desert after having a recurring dream of finding treasure there. The reason I love it: in addition to being a wonderful read, his journey is a metaphorical roadmap to discovering one's purpose in life, and therein true fulfillment.
The story of how The Alchemist came to be one of the most-read self-help books in the world is just as compelling as the book itself, given the fact that upon its first publication, the book didn't sell at all. His then-publisher dropped the book, but Coelho was determined. As he said on Oprah in 2014:
“There is a sentence in the book that says, ‘When you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you,’” Coelho says. “I said, ‘I wrote this. I have to live by these words.’”
Coelho then approached a major publishing house in Brazil and told the publisher that he had a book that had already been published and did not sell, but he was certain that it would. The publisher, much to his own surprise, agreed to re-publish it, and the book went on to sell over 65 million copies and be published in 80 different languages. When later asked why he decided to publish a failed book from an unknown author, the publisher could not explain it. To this day, Coelho sees that moment as "the universe conspiring to help him."
It may seem like the stuff that dreams are made of, but I myself have seen evidence to support Coelho's belief. Magic aside, from a purely psychological perspective, it make sense: if you want something badly enough, you will do everything it takes to achieve your goal. No matter what obstacles are in your path, with a clear goal and a sense of purpose, you have the conviction to push beyond them.
Where it's easy to get sidetracked, however, is when you lose sight of your goal. Maybe that happens because there were too many obstacles; or someone you loved didn't believe in you; or maybe there's a little voice in your head that tells you it's a silly goal anyways, why bother? Or maybe—just maybe—you are afraid of achieving your goal...because what would you strive for if you realized your dreams? (The Alchemist covers all these scenarios, of course.)
This is where the magic kicks in: if you lose your way on the path to your dream, the Universe will give you a second chance...possibly even a third. Because it wants nothing more than for you to follow your bliss. Because following your bliss means you will listen to your heart, speak its language, and fulfill its desire.
"Why does the Universe care if I fulfill my heart's desire?" you ask.
Because: love. In the words of Coelho:
“Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World...It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that’s where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”
I urge you to remember this when next time you falter on the path to your heart's desire. And if you're having trouble remembering: come talk to me.