A little while ago I reread the book, “The Alchemist”, which is about a shepherd boy named Santiago who loved his calling to be a shepherd. He was going through life doing what he loved and he thought he knew what he wanted. However, one day he met a king who told him something that totally changed his thinking and what he thought about his purpose, and it ultimately changed the course of his life. What he learned allowed him to truly discover and live out his purpose.
I knew I loved the book, but I forgot why I loved it so much. However, this time was a little different for me. The first time I read it I was an undergrad, but as I have gotten older, learned a lot more, and grown in my relationship with Christ, the book unlocked so many lessons that I missed the first time around. After I finished rereading it, I just sat in total silence and began writing. I had so many thoughts flowing through my mind, probably related to what was going on in my life at the time. At the time I was struggling with whether or not I was on the right track and if I heard God correctly about the purpose and task that He has for me. I was debating going back to work and trading my full-time entrepreneurship journey for full time employment with a stable salary and benefits. I thought that, as a mother and financial educator, it was the right decision to make. Then I read the book and realized that what might seem like a stepping-stone on the path to purpose may end up being a step backwards or even off the path of my purpose. After reading this book, I started to challenge conventional wisdom, challenge my own thoughts and fears, and started to spend time with God to help me to see where I needed to go.
As I went through this process, I wrote these lessons down as a way of gathering my thoughts and applying the lessons I learned with what I had been studying in the Bible. I finally decided to share them in this 3-part blog post in hopes that these lessons may benefit you as well. The timing is so interesting. I put it off because I questioned whether I should share, but lately I have encountered amazing women who are searching for their purpose and some even know that they are being pulled in a direction that is leading to “their more.” Whatever that “more” means will be different for different people. As I listened to these stories, I became excited about the revelations I received while reading this book, and I’m hoping this will provide a starting point or way to think about thoughts you may have in your own life as you are trying to navigate your thoughts about your purpose, how it may impact how you think about your career, and even how you spend your time.
In Part 1, I will share the Lessons 1 through 5, Part 2 will consist of Lessons 6 – 11, and Part 3 will consist of Lessons 12 – 17. I encourage you to read these lessons and then reflect on them and how you may apply them to questions and decisions you need to make in your own life.
Lesson 1: Enjoy the Process.
“The Alchemist” speaks of those who miss their personal legend (their purpose) because they are so focused on the outcome and not the process. This lesson can be a challenging one to understand and actually live because we are conditioned to think about the outcome. From an early age we are taught that grades matter and sometimes this can result in us memorizing a bunch of things to do well on a test, but miss out on the true lesson or growth from the knowledge. In our careers, we can be so focused on that next promotion that we can forget the things we can learn along the way. I know I have been guilty about both of those things. I have been so focused on that next thing that I forget to have appreciation for the things I have now and the lessons I can learn along the way.
If you look at the story of the Exodus, it wasn’t just about getting to the Promised Land, it was also about how the Children of Israel responded during the journey. When the Children of Israel first left Egypt, they danced and cheered. Once they crossed the Red Sea and were saved from Pharaoh’s army they had a great time of celebration. They were excited to march forward to the Promised Land. However, trials came and difficulties arose, and the once burning desire to claim what God had for them went away and was replaced with complaints, disobedience, rebellion, and worship of false idols. They even wanted to return to slavery in Egypt rather than continue moving on to the Promised Land. Eventually, God grew tired of their complaints about the journey and told them they would not enter the Promised Land. However, although that generation of Israelites didn’t make it to the Promised Land, the next generation did. The promise didn’t go away, but rather it went to someone else.
This shows how our response during the journey is as important as, if not more than, the final destination. In Philippians 1:6 (HCSB) Paul says, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” There is a destination in mind, but as we are going through the process we must keep pressing on and keep a good attitude in the process.
Lesson 2: Fear can cause you to miss your blessings.
When fear overtakes us we suffer because we are playing out an outcome and fill our minds with things that aren’t real. For example, fear is oftentimes defined as, “False Evidence Appearing Real” (I’m not sure of the original author of this quote). Fear is a figment of your imagination. One day my previous pastor described fear as this way (and I’m paraphrasing), “Fear can have you be a prisoner in your own mind. You are trapped but yet the door is unlocked and you won’t walk through because you don’t know that the door is unlocked and you have the power to walk free.” A great example of this analogy is on The Walking Dead. Morgan was in cell in Eastman’s cabin, and when Eastman thinks that Morgan is safe to come out of the cell, he tells him to leave. Then he told Morgan that the cell door had been unlocked this entire time and all he needed to do was pull the door. The unfortunate thing is the same thing can happen to many of us. Fear leads to stagnation, being stuck, and eventually leads to a life of regret or even moments of regret when all we needed to do was open the unlocked door to freedom.
Fear can also lead to us settling for good instead of great because we fear losing things if we pursue our dream. However, what we must begin to understand is if it is really meant for us then it’ll be there when we return. There is a great example of this in “The Alchemist.” Santiago met a young woman while he was on his purpose journey, and he fell in love with her and wanted to get married. When it was time for him to leave and go on the next stage of his journey to find his treasure, he was willing to stay with the woman and forgo the treasure. He felt he had enough already and he didn’t want to miss out on true love. He was willing to trade in his dreams for her. However, the Alchemist warned him that if he did that he would be happy for a moment, but he would grow resentful. The status and respect the elders had for him would go away, and he would ultimately lose everything he gave up his dreams to achieve. I think that is a good lesson for us as well.
One thing my mom said her dad used to tell her was to be careful about holding on to things too tight, because when you do it’s like holding onto soap. Eventually what you are holding onto will pop out of your hand. Look at the things in your life to see if you may be trying to hold on too tight. Maybe this is an area you may have fear. Go to God in prayer about this very thing to see if this is something you need to loosen your grip on and give to God. Remember, what is meant for you will be for you.
Lesson 3: Listen to your heart (your gut/spiritual discernment).
“The Alchemist” describes our heart as being connected to the soul of the world, which is connected to God. The Bible describes this as the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us, because He is within us. 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NIV) says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?…” This means that God resides in us as the Holy Spirit and that He also speaks to us. This also means that with God and through God, we are limitless.
“The Alchemist” shares the story of the boy tapping into that soul of the world to turn himself into wind. It seemed impossible, but he was able to channel that power and turn himself into wind. While I’m not saying that we can turn ourselves into wind, what I am saying is through God we are powerful beyond what our human minds can comprehend. We have wisdom and discernment to help us and guide us along our paths, but too often we don’t listen. We don’t listen to what we commonly refer to as our “gut.” When we ignore our gut we can be led astray. Trusting our gut isn’t just limited to being alerted to danger or people who may not have the best intentions. We also need to listen to our gut in all aspects of our life – career, raising children, finances, friendships, dating, and even the small things that we think that we can handle on our own. We need to listen to God for ALL things, for He has made a way to help us to navigate all situations and circumstances.
Lesson 4: Setbacks sometimes are just a way to get us on the right path.
In “The Alchemist”, Santiago’s money was stolen on the first day of his journey. He trusted the wrong person and got conned out of his money. Initially, he thought this was a sign he was on the wrong path, and decided he was going to give up on his dreams and focus on earning enough money to get back home and buy a new herd of sheep. However, instead of the money loss being a sign he was on the wrong path, it actually taught him that he didn’t need to depend on his own resources and plans, but rather he should trust God was guiding him. That setback led him to a crystal shop and through that experience he learned how to thrive in his new land, create new opportunities, gain a deeper connection to God, and hear God more clearly, and he more than doubled his wealth. It led him on more journeys – completing his personal legend and finding true love. In addition to that, he was able to bless many other people along his path.
Isaiah 55:9 (NIV) tells us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” It is easy to look at this verse and know this with head knowledge, but making this heart knowledge and being able to truly rest on this is a lot harder. We know this to be true but yet we trust our own ways and don’t turn to God to make our path straight.
I know this from personal experience because prior to becoming a mom of twins I was distracted. I was more focused on the affections of a man and not pursuing my purpose like I should have. I pretended like I was working hard, but I wasn’t because it wasn’t a priority for me anymore. I was settling and I was moving off the path of my purpose. When I got pregnant, I thought my world was crashing down and that I was losing the dreams I worked so hard for. However, in reality it eventually got me back on the right path, further deepened my relationship with God, and energized me even more for the work I am doing. In fact, it energized me so much that I changed my focus from working with single women to single mothers.
This week we discussed the first 4 lessons that were revealed to me when I reread “The Alchemist.” I encourage you to take these lessons and meditate on them to see how you can apply them or even grow them in your own life. Don’t try everything at once, but rather pick one thing you want to start working on immediately. My hope is that these lessons will help you to develop a deeper relationship with God. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week where I will share Lessons 5 – 11 of what I learned from rereading “The Alchemist.”
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Aisha Taylor is a single mom of twins, personal financial coach, work from home entrepreneur, and #1 Amazon Best Selling Author of the book “5+5 FNPhenomenal Ways to Save $100 This Week Without Killing Your Lifestyle.” Aisha has been featured in ESSENCE, Jet Magazine, and Black Enterprise. She is also the Founder of FNPhenomenal (Frugal –n- Phenomenal), a movement designed to help single moms create a vision for their lives, craft a financial strategy to support that vision, and show them that phenomenal living is possible. It’s time for you to be Financially Phenomenal!
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