Concentrating on the Present as a Source of Happiness
In Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, the dilemma of looking back and being held by the past and moving forward and being motivated by what lies ahead emerges. In the contemporary world, many people find themselves tied by their past actions, and they fail to move on because of them. Additionally, since there are many challenges in life, people may become discouraged and almost give up. Instead of moving forward, they think of the pleasures they left in their past. Other people do not notice their present and think of what will be in the future. However, people will be happy only if they concentrate on the present.
In the book, Santiago was aware that his past life was always waiting for him. In that life, he had survived and could easily maneuver through the challenges that would show up. He knew that he could live freely in that life. In addition, he knew well that if he failed to pursue his dreams at that time, then he would fail to ever pursue them again. Santiago wanted to establish his personal legend. Seeing how his past kept haunting him, a camel driver told him, "If you can concentrate on the present, you will be a happy man" (Coelho, 1993). The camel driver could see Santiago was distressed and was giving up; hence, he tried to encourage him. Santiago’s ordeal is similar to what happens to many people. They try to chase their future and think about their past, but to be happy, they have to focus on the present.
As people struggle with their current challenges, others may encourage them not to lose hope. In Coelho’s book, a seer tells Santiago, "The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better" (Coelho, 1993). The seer knows that the future holds better things for any person. According to him, one’s life tomorrow will be better than their life today if one concentrates on the present.
The camel driver encourages Santiago to focus on the present and forget about the past, and then he will be happy, and his future will be bright. According to the seer, however, it is not a guarantee that the future will be bright. If an individual remains inactive and passive, then they will live the same life in the future that they are living today. However, the seer tells Santiago that if he pays attention to the present, he will improve it. From the seer’s point of view, the future can be progressively bright if one concentrates on the present.
Other than motivation and encouragement, one’s perspective on their future is the key to happiness. If individuals change their perspective on how they see the present, then they will easily achieve their goals. In his book, Paulo Coelho says, "The hills of Andalusia were only two hours away, but there was an entire desert between him and the pyramids. The boy felt that there was another way to regard his situation: he actually was two hours closer to his treasure" (Coelho, 1993). Santiago could have thought in the perspective that there was a desert that he needed to cross. From that kind of thinking, he would be demotivated. However, Santiago decided to change his perspective and to think that in two hours’ time he would have reached his treasure. Thus, the way one views their present determines their motivation. Therefore, if one concentrates on the present, works hard, and holds a positive perspective towards the future, then they will enjoy life, be happy, and achieve their goals.
Coelho, P. (1993). The Alchemist. Sacramento, CA: HarperOne.