What do I mean by a person’s Personal Legend? Why does that have any meaning to me?
Well, Joseph Campbell’s quote of “Follow your bliss” has been heard and seen almost everywhere. Some people interpret it to mean that you just need to do whatever makes you happy. I’ve heard people use the saying as they go off to the bar or on a date which, to be fair, may indeed be their bliss. For the moment.
For me the saying ties in with the idea of the Personal Legend. I first came across this idea in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, a book that changed and enhanced my life, as it’s done for many others. The Alchemist is the story of the journey of a boy named Santiago as he travels from Spain to the Middle East. Santiago’s journey is not comprised of just the outward travelling but is also internal, into himself, and perhaps through himself as well, from one kind of consciousness into another. One of the main concepts is that of the Personal Legend. I can’t possibly explain this better than Coelho himself, so here is a quote from his site that comes from a conversation with his master:
It is your blessing, the path God has chosen for you here on Earth. Whenever a man does that which gives him enthusiasm, he is following his Legend.
It also comes with an admonition:
However, not everyone has the courage to face up to his own dreams.
This isn’t simply about dreams of becoming rich or having a big house. Your Personal Legend is about the bliss of your heart. That certain something in this life that you feel, above all, you were meant to be doing. Ask yourself these questions:
What is the bliss of your heart?
What is the truth of your soul?
Don’t be afraid. Just ask. For some of us the real answers to these questions are wrapped in layers of fear and doubt. If you’ve never walked in the murky glades of self-destruction, never cried out within a dark night of the soul, be very grateful for you are blessed. However, if you ask these questions and the answers seems dark and negative, I can tell you that this is not the true answer. Gently unwrap that fear, unwind the doubt and the truth of your Self shines out. No matter where we are in our life, we can find the way to our Personal Legend. I have walked on a dark, dark path and somehow I came back. If you’re on one of those roads, you can come back too. I was shocked to find that my life had a purpose, I was born for a reason – a very good reason. To be me. To love and be loved. To be here. And to sing in the universe.
If you want to fully realize your Personal legend, you will have to summon your courage. Coelho outlines four obstacles that we must all face:
- The first is uncovering the dream. Like an archaeologist brushing away the detritus to find a shard of history, you may need to dig before you unearth your Legend. There may be painful, even shameful, things for you to get through, but that shard of truth is there.
- Once you’ve done this, you’ll face quite an unlikely hurdle. You’ll find you love the people around too much to embark on your adventure. The dream of your heart, your own Legend will look selfish to you. You’ll think that by living it, you will hurt those around you. As Coelho says: He does not understand that love is an additional impulse, not something which hinders one from going forward. Just remember that the people who really love you only want what is best for you. They are longing for your happiness, wholeness and fulfillment every bit as much as you are. You can transform this obstacle into a powerful force driving you to embrace your Legend.
- Now, you’ve uncovered your dream and realized that love is your great ally, so what could possibly get in your way? Ahh, the old demon that whispers in every ear. Failure. What if you reach out for this dream, soar so impossibly high, and crash to the earth in spectacular ruin? In my own limited experience, this is where people become disillusioned with phrases like “Live your dream” or “Follow your bliss.” They believe that these phrases, if they adopt them like mantras, act like a “Get out of Jail” card when failure or disappointment comes calling. Gentle friend, none of us can escape failure. All of us will taste the bitterness of disappointment again and again.
It is beautifully human to reach and strive. We cannot achieve any goal without missing the mark along the way. There is so much wisdom to be learned in the face of defeat and sorrow. There is so much more confidence and strength to be gained by trying again and again. My defeats have shaped me ever so much more than my triumphs. When I look back on my life, the milestones I see are the places where Life knocked me down and I got back up. I barely even notice the times I soared to sky or earned accolades. Those are wonderful moments, but not defining ones.
And the greatest single harvest from all these long defeats is patience. I understand at 40 what I could not understand at 17. Patience and temperance will see you through heartbreak more surely than any friend. You learn that you will indeed survive the storms and tempests in your life, and like a weathered sailor, you’ll be able to call them by their names, diminish your fear of them and their power over you, and navigate your way through.
- The final obstacle is a huge one. It is the fear of actualizing the dream. It’s not the fear of failing, because by this time you’ll understand there really isn’t any such thing. It is being on the doorstep of your bliss and questioning your right to be there. Seeing the promise shimmering there before you, one step away and feeling that you are not worthy to take that step. Love, trials, lessons learned – none of these will help you at this stage. You will need to drop the veneer of ego, to immerse yourself in gratitude and simply believe that you are worthy, child of the universe. Because you are.
Living your Personal Legend is no joke. It’s much more than a bohemian idea accompanied by sandals and organic yogourt. You have to embody courage, nobility, and humility. You need to be as open as a child, as prepared as a warrior. When life seems to collapse around you, you’ll need to find the moment of peace and gratitude in the middle of it all. It’s a wonderful, daring pursuit, an adventure all your own that’s worthy of an epic tale. It’s all for you so dare to dream, to embrace and to live.
The Personal Legend on Paulo Coelho’s blog