Have you ever read a quote or a book that transformed your life?

If you have you know that some transformations can happen in an instant. Old neural pathways can turn from three lane motorways into overgrown forgotten passages pretty much over night.

If you haven’t, let me share the experience that turned this obedient young Swiss woman into an adventurer.


Suppressed longings

It was during my work at Shell International in Switzerland that I got sent to our London office on a short term assignment. They were looking for a new team member and had invited three of us to experience the role. Thus far I had not put my name in the game though. After all I was 26 years old, single and could not afford to take an assignment abroad at this stage. I needed to find my future husband first.

One Sunday morning I found myself on my way home. I had a 45 minute train ride ahead of me, and realizing I had left my book at my friend’s house, I went into WHSmith at Waterloo Station and searched for a book. It had to be fairly short because I was keen to continue the other book I had started. My fingers wandered across the colourful backs towards the thinnest one on the bestselling book shelf. My train was leaving shortly so I just grabbed it, paid for it and hopped on the train.

Once I sat down I took a closer look. The author was Paulo Coehlo and the book’s title was ‘’The Alchemist’’.

On the back of the book it said ‘’Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist is such a book. With over 27 million copies sold worldwide, The Alchemist has already achieved the status of a modern classic.’’

Now then. That sounded like I was in for a treat.


The story of Santiago was my story

The story of Santiago, the Andalusian shepherd with his planned out life, reminded me of myself. Him unquestioningly following the expectations of his culture and preparing for the ‘’good life’’ felt very familiar. And the fact that he was trying to silence the voice of his heart through ignoring or belittling its subtle hints and longings, was my story too.

In my most daring moments there was a part of me that wanted to apply for the role in London. That felt free, adventurous, courageous. But then there was this conditioned part in me that until then always had gotten the upper hand. And as this voice had always sounded so sure and righteous, I had never questioned its integrity. Until now. At the same time Santiago was starting to question his thoughts and actions, so did I.

The moment he decided to follow his heart and embark on his adventure. So did I.

I finally put my name down for the role too and just as the book assured Santiago that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it’’ I got the job.


Identity Evolution

So what made this transformation faster than others? It’s the concept of Identity Evolution.

Somewhere along reading the book I started to see myself in a different way. Instead of ‘’I need to find a husband, i.e. stability’’ I started thinking ”I want to live a full life and follow my heart. I want to be an adventurer”. Instead of ‘’I will do what’s expected” my focus shifted to ”I will pay attention to my inner voice’’.

And I started modelling people who already had this kind of identity. In their company the new habits and mindsets feel easier, more compelling, more possible to practice. And the good news is, you don’t even necessarily need to know them – as in the case of Santiago.


How can you become the person YOU long to be?

Step 1: Keep reading, learning, growing. Expand your thinking, your beliefs, your actions.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since those early days in London, it’s that there are a million ways to approach any-thing. Research the topic you’re stuck in. Look in alternative places for solutions. You might find the answer on your relationship issues in the mindfulness section and the solution to your career dilemma in a book on gardening.

Step 2: Pay attention to your curiosity, the desires of your heart, the longings of your soul, the whispers of your heroine’s calling.

There is something deeply fulfilling, daring and right about following your intrinsic knowing.

Step 3: Take action

Take action within 72h. After that your mind will have talked you out of your idea again or life has distracted you. Take a small step. A first step. Speak to someone about your idea. Research some information. Arrange for a visit. Anything that will keep the momentum going. In my case – apply for the job.

Step 4: Keep going through the inspiration, support and power of others a few steps ahead of you.

Reach out, google, connect to people who will keep you motivated, brave and aligned. These could be family members, friends, colleagues or anybody you can learn from off- or online. Or sign up to our Gentle Ambition programme and tick off all four steps in one.


There’s a Santiago, an adventurer, in all of us. When is the last time you let yours come out to play?


Every great journey starts with a single step!

Manuela Damant
Visionary Collective Leader at Azkua

At Azkua we are on a mission to turn businesses and organisations into a force for good. And we believe that it is professional women who will be at the forefront of this transformation. Purpose driven, caring, grounded and influential women like YOU!