“We observed that there is a basic human need to be engaged in meaningful relationships with others – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, even acquaintances – and to feel that life has a purpose, that it really matters,” write Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon.
In their book, The OPA! Way: Finding Joy & Meaning in Everyday Life & Work, Pattakos and Dundon take readers on an exploration of meaning. Their investigation is anchored in timeless Greek wisdom to uncover that meaning can be found in the everyday relationships we have, the values we hold, and the attitudes we embrace.
Even surrounded be perceived opulence, many people lack meaning.
“Despite being able to choose amongst so many consumer goods, people are actually feeling overwhelmed with all the choices that are available,” write Pattakos and Dundon.
When we feel that our lives lack meaning, the result is often addiction, depression, anxiety, and astounding rates of prescriptions written for anti-depression medications.
Yet in many ways we’ve been conditioned to expect happiness to come as swiftly as we swipe our credit cards.
“In other words we are driven by instant gratification – and justify it with thoughts like just put it on credit, there’s no need to earn the money today, and pay for it later,” write Pattakos and Dundon.
We become like the Greek hero Sisyphus, forever pushing the big rock up a hill toward happiness, only to see it crash back down, forcing us to start all over again.
The crisis manifests itself in economic terms as well.
“The real crisis behind our current economic crisis is the crisis of meaning, which affects all aspect of our lives: We’ve lost the authentic connection with others,” write Pattakos and Dundon.
However, as moments of crisis often do, a crisis of meaning forces us to ask a powerful question: How can we live more meaningful lives?
It is a question that Greeks are now asking themselves.
“Greece is undergoing tremendous change right now—economically, socially, politically, and psychologically. Like other countries, Greece borrowed too much and spent too much, leading to high and unsustainable debt. This over-spending, combined with a lack oversight for public funds and also corruption and tax evasion was a signal that the Greeks had drifted away from their traditional core values,” write Pattakos and Dundon.
Life is not simply about the pursuit of more, a one-sided definition of happiness that includes only positive emotions, or the illusion that happiness can absolve all bad feelings. For Greeks the word that describes this concept is OPA!
While OPA! Is traditionally understood to convey enthusiasm for life, express joy, excitement and inspiration, it also communicates a resilient spirit that embraces all of life – both the ups and the downs.
“When used as an expression, it reinforces the belief that no matter how challenging the situation, we always have the freedom to choose our attitude – and exclaiming OPA! Helps us choose a positive, resilient attitude,” write Pattakos and Dundon.
A core component of the word, and the resilience of the Greeks during their economic crisis, is their connection with others, deeply rooted in their sense of belonging to a village, and cultivated daily through their interactions.
“Survival in the village depends on collective strength of the villagers, not the strength of one individual,” write Pattakos and Dundon.
Connecting with others is also expressed through a sense of generosity. Pattakos and Dundon describe a sign that symbolizes the Greek’s approach to life: We welcome you. We want to take care of you. We have plenty to share with you. We live in abundance!
Authentic connections, for Greeks, also hinge upon compassion, especially for those who are different from us or may have harmed us.
“When we understand what issues, including fears, others are facing, conflict becomes less threatening to us and we have the capacity to focus on what’s right with a person rather than what’s wrong,” write Pattakos and Dundon.
It is the examined life – a willingness to see ourselves, and others unmasked, as they really are.
“Socrates believed that man was responsible for examining and understanding his own life, a basic tenet behind his philosophical argument to ‘know thyself’,” write Pattakos and Dundon.
Often what we want isn’t material. Inner prosperity, for Greeks, is about always finding new ways to express creativity, rejoice in what we have, not what we have lost, and always making time for coffee with friends.
“As our cousin Alexandros said to us, ‘We will worry about work tomorrow but not now – now we eat and drink. We will deal with tomorrow, tomorrow,’” write Pattakos and Dundon.
There comes a point in all of our lives that we must begin living from the inside out, embracing life fully, drawing strength through adversity, joy through connection, and fulfillment through meaning. It all begins with one simple word, OPA!
An extraordinary book based on a simple elegant concept – stop chasing happiness (and life) as you want it to be, and start embracing life as it is – The OPA! Way is a timeless prescription for a live worth living, and something that should be read by all.
The OPA! Way: Finding Joy & Meaning in Everyday Life & Work
Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon
Hardcover, 248 Pages