04/26/2015 11:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Secret To A Meaningful Life In Just 7 Words

Eva Carollo Photography via Getty Images

Sometimes, it's the most fantastical, fictional characters that do the best job of teaching us about reality.

New York Times bestselling author T.A. Barron spent decades creating the magical image of Merlin the wizard and sharing his wisdom with children and young adults through the beloved 12-book Merlin Saga series. Now, he's bringing back his recognized (and revered) character to answer a question anyone experiencing a dramatic change in his or her life wants, on some level, to ask.

"I have written so many books about Merlin that sometimes, I feel like I've actually met the great wizard -- and who knows, maybe I have," said Barron in one of his YouTube videos. "If I met Merlin in his crystal cave, I'd ask him just one question: What is the meaning of life? And if there is any meaning, how can I find it?"

This thought exercise inspired a celebrated speech at Oxford University in 2013, which in turn inspired a new book, The Wisdom of Merlin: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life. Inside, Barron uses Merlin's voice to explain how each person can find and travel along his or her own unique path in life. He reveals how magic surrounds and lives within each and every person -- we just have to be willing to search for it.

Based on excerpts from Barron's book, here are seven moving words that hold the key to a meaningful life -- plus one more that empowers them all.



To be wholly alive is to be grateful -- for every breath we take, every song we sing, every person we love, every day we discover. Just being grateful helps us to notice and appreciate all the blessings and opportunities around us.

Each day, take a moment to just be. To love a person, a place, or an idea that has touched your heart. Cherish those blessings through all the seasons of a year -- and all the seasons of your life.
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron (Philomel Books)



You see, life can have great meaning -- but only if we discover that meaning for ourselves. Meaning can't be bought at any store. And it can't be handed down like a coat that someone tells you will fit perfectly before you've even tried it on. Meaning must be sought and earned and made one's own. All of which requires courage.

Be bold with your life! Live vigorously and gently, mindfully and sensuously. Explore whatever calls to you. Love fully and freely. Run as fast as you can; walk as slow as you can.
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron (Philomel Books)


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Knowledge, surprising as it sounds, begins with the unknown. With accepting how little you know. A few drops of humility, I've learned, can save me from an ocean of arrogance! Then, with a touch of curiosity... a person can learn and grow endlessly.

There are two universes to explore -- one inside yourself and one outside. And here's the best part: How far you travel in each, and what you discover, is entirely up to you.
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron (Philomel Books)



Follow your faith, as a river flows to the sea -- and you will find yourself lapped by the gentle waves of the spiritual ocean that surrounds us all. To swim in that sea is to join with a greater power, a deeper awareness, a higher truth. And also... a quiet, enduring joy.

Just remember: For your belief to be right, the beliefs of others need not be wrong! If you are truly secure in your own faith, truly touched by its wisdom and strength -- then you don't need to convert anyone else.
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron (Philomel Books)



Wonder is the elemental wisdom of a child, a wisdom that is wide open to awe. For children see the world afresh, in all its beauty and strangeness, mystery and delight.

To wonder is to open the doorway to imagination. And that leads to other doorways -- appreciation, creativity, and fulfillment.

At the core of wonder is openness -- being present, with all your senses alive. If you set out on a mission seeking wonder, you won't find it. Instead, take off your shoes, walk barefoot in the world... and allow it to happen.
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron (Philomel Books)



Generosity is not giving others what they want. Rather, it's giving away what you yourself want. Sharing requires empathy. So the physical act of making a gift is only part of what happens. It's the visible result of an earlier, invisible gift from the heart.

Plant some generous seeds in the soil of your life. Yes -- seeds that could grow into trees you may never see, in whose shade will gather people and creatures you may never meet. They will find joy and safety and solace under those boughs... and they will thank the person who made it possible.
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron (Philomel Books)


showring gratitude

Hope requires courage. Especially in our troubled world, with so much darkened by the shadow of despair, hope can seem elusive. Or even impossible. Yet hope can return, on silent wings, when most needed.

Cynicism is the enemy of hope, always doubting that improvement (or even virtue) is possible. But fresh thinking is the ally of hope, reminding us of ways we can do better.

Blow on the embers of hope in yourself. Strengthen them into flames, For those are the fires where new worlds are born.
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron (Philomel Books)



Love is an invitation, not a command. But if you truly open yourself to its power, you will be swept away as if you had plunged into a mighty river. Where that river may carry you, no one can predict.

The paradox of love is that it beckons us to go deep within ourselves to find a soul-level understanding of another person. But once that understanding is found -- we are bonded with that person so that we expand far beyond ourselves. We are, at once, deeper within and further without.
Excerpted from The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron (Philomel Books)

For the complete collection of life wisdom from Merlin and his creator, check out The Wisdom of Merlin by T.A. Barron.



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