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“The OPA! Way” Authors: “The Search For Meaning Is Most Important"

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New Greek TV had the opportunity to interview authors Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon, who recently published The OPA! Way, that centers on "Finding Joy & Meaning in Everyday Life & Work."

As the writers state, "In chasing the 'good life,' many of us sacrifice our relationships, our health and our sanity, but at the end of the day, we still find ourselves with lives and work that bring us little fulfillment. Life isn't about the pursuit of happiness, which is superficial and fleeting. It's about meaning, which helps us realize our full potential, and knowing that our lives and work matter-regardless of circumstance".

The inspirational book has been met with high acclaim from both Greek and global figures. Michael Dukakis hailed The Opa! Way as, "At a time when the world seems to be plunging ahead into a future dominated by information technology, apps, increasing individual isolation in a cyber-environment, and obsessive preoccupation with answering one's emails, The OPA! Way offers something else: a life based on values that go back to ancient Greece; a world in which friends and neighbors spend time together exchanging ideas and experiences; and a future in which service to others offers the richest personal rewards. Is there any doubt that The OPA! Way is by far the better path?"

In our exclusive interview, Pattakos and Dundon discuss the fundamentals behind The OPA! Way, how readers can apply its teachings in modern day society, and their own Greek experiences. Opa!

Maria Athens: What was your initial catalysts for writing The OPA! Way?

Alex Pattakos & Elaine Dundon: Our backgrounds include researching, writing, and teaching about the search for meaning but we too were searching for deeper meaning in our lives and work so we went on a journey, an "odyssey," to Greece.

Besides walking in the footsteps of and gaining insights from the ancient Greek philosophers, like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, we wanted to immerse ourselves in Greek mythology and culture. Throughout our travels, we also visited traditional villages where we found that the people spoke and lived simply but were incredibly wise about life. Despite economic challenges and other issues, they still knew how to live with joy and meaning.

A related, even more personal, "catalyst" that preceded the writing of our book was Alex's passion for reconnecting with and learning more about his Greek heritage. In this regard, he also was authentically committed to honoring his late father and papou and viewed the creation of The OPA! Way paradigm and lifestyle as a manifestation of this meaning-centered commitment.

Maria Athens: Can you tell us about the Meaning Movement?

Alex Pattakos & Elaine Dundon: Many, if not most, of us are on a search for more meaning in our lives and work. Often this quest begins with the acknowledgement that "something is missing," or with feelings of being overwhelmed, lonely, disconnected, unfulfilled, bored, depressed, or just feeling "out of sorts." Often it's not about the big search for the meaning of life that is important but rather the search for meaning in the everyday moments in our lives that is most important to us.

Our personal and professional experiences have revealed that people, in all stages and walks of life, are asking existential, i.e., meaning-focused, questions like: "Is that all there is?" "What really matters in life?" "Why am I here?" "Where am I going?" Such questions are important signals or signs that the search for meaning is a—if not the—primary, intrinsic motivation of human beings.

Other living entities don't have the need to ask themselves such deep, self-reflective questions. Moreover, these individuals recognize that it is the search for meaning, not power or pleasure (e.g., happiness), that drives them in both good and not-so-good times in their lives. In short, we view the human quest for meaning as being a "megatrend" of the 21st century.

However, meaning is different for everyone—there is no one right answer—there is only the answer that is right for you. Our research and experience have shown that, when we understand and act from our "Core of Meaning," a concept that we describe in our book, we become more engaged and resilient, more energetic and healthy, more creative and productive.

Against this backdrop, our goal is to spread the message of Meaning throughout the world through The OPA! Way paradigm and encourage everyone to live and work with meaning. The OPA! Way provides both conceptual and practical guidance on how to find meaning in everyday life and work. And the fact that The OPA! Way is grounded in and based on universal principles (even though they are uniquely inspired by Greek philosophy, mythology, and culture) means that it applies literally to all people.

Maria Athens: What is the theory behind The OPA! Way?

Alex Pattakos & Elaine Dundon: There are several theoretical strands behind The OPA! Way paradigm and lifestyle. For one, The OPA! Way draws upon existential philosophy and psychology, two areas in which we are well-trained and versed. In this regard, Alex's previous book, Prisoners of Our Thoughts (available in 22 languages), is based on the wisdom of his mentor, the world-renowned psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D., who personally urged him to write it. Another, albeit related, strand is human motivation theory as applied in both individual/personal and group/collective contexts.

The latter application pertains to such domains and disciplines as organizational theory, political theory, systems thinking, complexity science, and chaos theory. In short, our respective and combined work in human motivation applications is longstanding and involves both personal and organizational transformation goals and objectives.

For example, Elaine's previous book, The Seeds of Innovation, addressed these issues from the perspective of integrating creative, strategic, and transformational thinking. Finally, we would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge our metaphysical leanings, which have always guided our empirical and theoretical work.

Maria Athens: What are the main pillars of this book?

Alex Pattakos & Elaine Dundon: The Greek-inspired wisdom that we share in our book is organized along the acronym O+P+A, which is the formula for finding deeper meaning in our lives and work and is uniquely captured by the common Greek word, "OPA!" In this acronym, "O" stands for connecting meaningfully with Others, "P" stands for engaging with deeper Purpose, and "A" stands for embracing all of life with Attitude. Within each section, we offer many insights and how-to examples built around what we refer to as "practices" and "pathways."

Maria Athens: What do you want your readers to gain from reading your latest publication?

Alex Pattakos & Elaine Dundon: We want readers, in all stages and walks of life, to raise their awareness about the importance of meaning in their lives—that the search for meaning is more important than the search for happiness, pleasure, power, or wealth. We then want to share practical wisdom on how to actually find this deeper meaning by following the insights, core lessons, practices, and pathways provided under the OPA! formula described in our response to the previous question. In other words, we want readers to learn, practice, and share The OPA! Way paradigm in their everyday lives and work!

Maria Athens: Dr. Pattakos, can you describe your own Greek-American background?

Alex Pattakos: In brief, I come from a very proud Greek family that is deeply rooted in the soil and soul of Crete. In fact, it was one of the first five families to settle in the Sfakia region of the big island. My great-great-grandfather, Apostolos Pattakos, was a member of the first National Assembly of Crete and the first Cretan representative to the Greek National Parliament.

Although my grandfather and father held dual Greek (from the Village of Monastiraki, Amari Valley, Crete) and American citizenship, my father wanted me, as his eldest son, to join the "melting pot" and become a "good American."

In hindsight, I know that this view was misguided since I lost touch with a large part of my heritage. Hence, I am now on a meaning-focused mission to regain this part of myself and reconnect with my Greek/Cretan roots! Once again, The OPA! Way is one way for me to achieve this mission and realize such a life goal; our intention to live part-time in Greece represents another way to accomplish this meaningful end.

Maria Athens: Ms. Dundon, what initially drew you to the ancient Greek value system?

Elaine Dundon: I was drawn to the Greek culture during a visit to Greece when I was 18 and since then, have returned many times to experience more. It was destiny that I married a Greek (Alex)! I have also studied Greek philosophy and metaphysics which is a unique combination with my extensive background in business and innovation. For me, the Greek value system has much to offer all of us as we search for more meaning in our lives and work.

Maria Athens: How can modern day citizens of the world apply a value-based lifestyle, in today's demand driven society?

Alex Pattakos & Elaine Dundon: If we can do it, anyone can! Seriously, as we write in The OPA! Way book, to the familiar saying, "Where there is a will, there is a way," we add, "Where there is a purpose, there is a will." Helping people identify, articulate, and practice such purpose, that is, the "P" (Engage with Deeper Purpose) in The OPA! Way paradigm and lifestyle, is an integral part of our meaning work and is a key message conveyed in our book.

So, as a point of departure, we recommend that all modern day citizens of the world first read our book! Recognizing that not everyone is "ready" to take leaps (of faith), be proactive, and embrace major change in their lives, the possibility and even inevitability of taking baby steps in the direction of a value-based lifestyle always still exists. Indeed, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear!

In addition to viewing the reading of our book as a baby step in the "right" direction, we offer a wide variety of meaning-centered services to help modern day citizens of the world make the transition to a value-based lifestyle even in the midst of "today's demand driven society."

Maria Athens: What were your experiences in Greece, when conducting research for The OPA! Way?

Alex Pattakos & Elaine Dundon: There are too many experiences to share here as we have travelled to many places, many villages throughout Greece. We wanted to go beyond the common images of Greece to understand the deeper character and spirit of the Greek people, to understand their attitudes toward life, and, of course, to share in their ageless wisdom. We wanted to understand how the Greeks were coping with, surviving, and in some cases thriving during the crisis, and to share these lessons with others who may be facing similar circumstances.

During our travels, we were welcomed in with incredible hospitality. We sat with villagers of all ages and listened to their life stories. We discovered that although our lives may appear to be very different from the people who live in the traditional Greek villages, on a basic human level, they are the same. We are all trying to live the "good" life, or as we prefer to call it, the meaningful life!

Maria Athens: Are there plans for The OPA! Way to be translated into Greek? Is it currently available in Greece and Cyprus?

Alex Pattakos & Elaine Dundon: Yes, we are happy to announce that The OPA! Way will be translated into Greek and published in 2015 by a very well known and respected publisher in Greece, while the English edition (hardcover, digital/ebook, and audiobook formats) is currently available in Greece and Cyprus.