Derek Sivers said, “Don’t be on your deathbed someday having squandered your one chance at life, full of regret because you pursued little distractions instead of big dreams.”
Those big dreams are what Paulo Coelho called “Personal Legends” in The Alchemist. It’s comparable to your life purpose.
When you live your Personal Legend, you tend to experience synchronicities, live life in flow and are well on your way to self-actualization. That’s the path to soul-level fulfillment.
Deep down, every human longs for a sense of purpose and meaning in life. The problem is that we often seek those in the wrong places. Fulfillment doesn’t come from grandiose accomplishments, prestige, or doing what others expect of us; it comes from living our Personal Legends.
When we ignore the inner call to pursue that particular path, we go through life with a nagging feeling that something is missing. We also risk ending up with regrets in the future. However, that’s totally avoidable; there’s still time to pursue your Personal Legend.
Here’s how you can do it.
1. Follow the Breadcrumbs
To live your Personal Legend, you must follow your heart—your heart-centered dreams and desires. Those are the things that make you feel alive, inspired, excited, and energized and that spark curiosity within you.
Too many people discard their dreams because they’ve convinced themselves that they aren’t “reasonable.” But your heart-centered desires aren’t just childish fantasies; they are breadcrumbs guiding you to your most authentic and fulfilling life.
Plus, as Paulo Coelho wrote, “You will never be able to escape from your heart, so it’s better to listen to what it has to say.”
2. Don’t Fall for the Ego’s “Wants” or the “Shoulds” of Society
One of the main difficulties in living our Personal Legends is differentiating our heart’s desires from the “wants” of our egos or the “shoulds” of conditioning.
The ego’s “wants” are rooted in fear, need, and feelings of lack. For example, when I was a teenager, I dreamed of becoming a famous actress and living in Hollywood. I was doing theater and enjoyed acting, but wanting to be famous wasn’t a heart-centered desire; it was just my ego. My ego craved recognition and praise. It wanted to feel important.
As for the desires that come from conditioning, those are the things our education and society taught us we “should” do. For example, I went to university because I was told growing up that intelligent people get college degrees (which, of course, is untrue). I wasn’t particularly excited about going to university, and it ended up being a waste of time and money.
To differentiate your heart-centered dreams and desires from those of your ego or conditioning, write down what you want. Next, for each thing, write down why you want it. Ask yourself “why” five times to go deeper. Then, look at the reasons you want each item on your list. Is it to receive praise, obtain a certain social status, or feel superior to others? That’s the ego. Is it because you were told it’s what you should do? That’s conditioning. Is it because it makes you feel alive, vibrant, and inspired? That’s your heart.
3. Commit to Pursuing Your Personal Legend
Pursuing our Personal Legends requires commitment, even devotion. If we keep putting our dreams on the back burner, we’re not committed and probably won’t achieve them.
To commit to your dreams, you can start by writing them down and reading them daily. You can also create a vision board and even visualize them. Most importantly, make room for them in your life. If you feel curious about salsa dancing, take a class. If you love animals, why not volunteer at a shelter once a week? If you feel drawn to deserts, plan a trip to visit one.
My mom has always felt drawn to deserts. She asked for a travel book with beautiful images of deserts around the world for Christmas, collects silk scarfs, and has photos of Northern Africa all over her office’s wall. But she never went on a trip to see one with her own eyes. “It’s too complicated,” she’d explain. “It’s too far.” A portion of her Personal Legend will die within her, and it’s a bit sad.
4. Rely On Your Inner Knowing
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “The quickest way to kill a dream is to tell a small-minded person about it.” Until you’re entirely confident in your ability to make your dream come true, it’s best to keep it to yourself or, at least, only share it with those you know will support you.
Especially don’t share your dream just to seek validation. When you seek validation, you aren’t entirely confident in yourself, and it’s in those moments that your vision is the most at risk of being crushed by “small-minded people” or people who don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish.
Plus, no one knows what your Personal Legend is better than you, so their opinion should hold very little value. Learn to trust your own inner knowing and not rely on external validation.
5. Feel the Fear and Go for It Anyway
Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, “Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to follow your heart. […] There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
When you set out to live your Personal Legend, you inevitably encounter resistance—fears, doubts, and insecurities—that can sabotage your progress and success. That’s because living your Personal Legend requires you to step into the unknown, which your ego sees as risky. Your ego’s job is to keep you safe, meaning within the confines of what’s known and habitual. You need to be stronger than your ego. Feel the fear, take a deep breath, smile, and go for it.
Here’s an effective way to remove the resistance caused by fear: visualize yourself having achieved your goal. Because your subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate what’s real from what you vividly imagine, you’ll trick it into believing that you’ve already done it. And, since you’re still alive, your ego will also think that it’s safe for you to pursue that dream, and it won’t cause as much resistance.
Your heart-centered dreams aren’t childish fantasies; they are guiding you to living your Personal Legend, your life purpose. Dare to pursue them! You’ll thank yourself for it when you get to the end of your life.