The most important message to emerge from this book concerns the individual pursuit of one's Personal Legend, which is what we are born to do. The governing message of the book is that our own personal dreams and desires are to be dismissed at our peril, and in fact are the only way in which we can engage with the mystical nature of our existence and of life itself. This message is captured in one of the first exchanges Santiago has with Melchizedek towards the beginning of the book:
..whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth.
The rest of the book develops this theme as Santiago journeys through several situations and locations, learning much about himself. The final lesson Santiago has to learn is that pursuing one's Personal Legend is not just about reaching the goal, but also learning through action. The title refers to the legendary alchemists, who, the book states, actually forgot how to turn base metals into gold because they became too focused on the gold itself. If the Personal Legend, our dream and hope, becomes an end in itself, this prevents us from being open to development and growth. This is why, ironically, Santiago, after much journeying and so many experiences, finds his own Personal Legend back in the home he left at the beginning of the story. His transformation could not have occurred without the many rich experiences he underwent. Sometimes, the book argues, our Personal Legend can only be reached or gained through experiences that can be immensely challenging.