Literature can have a profound effect on your life. A book or poem that resonates with you long after reading, can change the course of your life.
Have you ever been so touched by a piece of writing that it inspires you to re-think your entire life? I’ve read books that meant little to me after reading it. It’s only when I was in a particular place in my life, and re-read those books, that I grasped its deeper meaning. I think you have to be in a particular frame of mind to receive the messages and meanings in particular works of literature. If you’re doing some soul-searching these three literary works may speak to you.
Literary Work 1: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
Someone gifted me this book in 2008, and I skimmed it. It was interesting, and I thought no further about it. A few years later, I re-read it and recognized parts of me in this story. This book is a fable about John Mantle, a high profile lawyer who leads a frenetic lifestyle. John has a heart attack. His physical health and mental health are both strained by his lifestyle choices, and he looks much older than his age. He reaches a point where there is no joy in what he is doing.
After his heart attack, he disposes of his material possessions and travels to India. He hopes for rest and spiritual rejuvenation. He travels to several villages and meets many people, and he slowly smiles again. He has an encounter with a sage which changes his life. He learns of the 7 Timeless Virtues of Enlightened Living, which would help a person fulfill their dreams.
Timeless Virtue of Enlightened Living: Follow Your PurposeThe Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (Sharma, 1997, P.198)
After reading this book, you will consider your lifestyle choices and whether you have genuine happiness. You will learn the importance of living in the present. You will understand how easy it is to lose yourself and your true purpose when life grades you against achievements. It’s a self-help book rather than a motivational one.
Literary Work 2: The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
I shall be telling this with a sighExtract from the poem, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Frost, R., Untermeyer, L., & Frost, R. (1991). The road not taken: a selection of Robert Frost’s poems. New York: H.
This is one of Robert Frost’s most well-known poems. It speaks to the choices one has to make in life. The speaker in the poem has to decide which road to take, which is a metaphor for the choices one has to make to move forward. He stands before the path and tries to see as far as he can down the road. It’s as if he wants to understand the consequences of his choice before making it.
He takes the less-traveled path. He believes he can take the other path someday. However, he acknowledges that sometimes it’s hard to turn around when you’re already down a particular road. He hopes that one day when he looks back at his life, he can speak fondly of the choices he has made and know that they were the right ones for him.
This poem makes us think of the choices we make with limited information and unknown consequences. If we’re at the stage in our life where we’re reflecting on our journey, this poem can affect the way forward. One of my colleagues upended her entire life after reading this poem. She was already in the middle of reevaluating her life and her choices. This poem made her realize that she had always made safe choices in life, and yet she was still unhappy. She re-evaluated her choice of spouse, career, and home and changed all three within two years!
Literary Work 3: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Santiago is a young traveling shepherd who loves to read and travel and is content with his life. He sleeps under a sycamore tree near the ruins of a sacristy. He has a recurring dream which leads him to a gypsy. He learns about his Personal Legend, which embodies his dreams and life purpose. He’s shown that by continuing to be a shepherd, he’s abandoned his Personal Legend in favor of maintaining his material possessions. After some soul-searching, Santiago sells his sheep and goes on a pilgrimage to Egypt.
Along the way, Santiago works with a crystal merchant, and he becomes rich within a year. He constantly faces the dilemma of returning to his old comfortable life as a shepherd or going forth on his journey to Egypt. This book is about a person’s higher purpose, their Personal Legend. It suggests that if we follow and fulfill our Personal Legend, then it brings us closer to God because we are each given our Personal Legend when we are born.
There are many life lessons in this book. We learn to understand the importance of living in the present and having gratitude. Even if we fail or face obstacles on our journey to fulfill our dreams, we must never give up. When we achieve our Personal Legends, everyone benefits. It’s important to follow your heart. Material possessions can distract you from your life’s purpose. This book shows you the importance of fulfilling your dreams.
Literature provides more than momentary pleasure. Sometimes, literary works make you reflect on your life. We all experience moments where we question our purpose. These books will provide some clarity. Have any literary works ever made you re-think your life? Tell us in the comments.