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Opa! It’s a Lifestyle and Workstyle, Part 2

The following is Part 2 of this 2-part article. To read Part 1 go to the Related Articles box under this piece. To post comments, login or create a free registered reader account. If you have questions or would like to submit an article to PA TIMES Online email Editor Christine Jewett McCrehin at [email protected]

Elaine Dundon and Alex Pattakos

Opa! Indeed, it is much more than simply a word; it is a lifestyle and a workstyle! Against this backdrop, let’s review briefly each element of this inspirational philosophy of living and working:

Others
Most of us are striving to connect in more meaningful ways to build stronger relationships with family member, friends, coworkers, customers, and other members of society. Our research focused on the interconnectedness of life in the traditional Greek villages. The lessons from this research are applicable to how we interact and build authentic relationships in both our personal and work lives. The focus of life in the village is on the collective “we”; caring for and sharing with others for the collective good. How many of us can truly say we treat our workplaces like traditional village communities? But how many of us would like to live and work in OPA!-style village organizations and communities? How many of us treat work as a transaction versus truly caring for and “honoring” (an important concept that is rooted in the notion of Greek hospitality from ancient times to the present-day) the needs of our co-workers, customers, and constituencies? How many of our leaders of both organizations and communities truly understand the full impact of their activities on Others (coworkers, customers, society, and the environment)?

Purpose
When we ask people in North America about living “the good life,” most of the conversations revolve around the pursuit of financial/material wealth but in Greece, the focus on accumulating financial wealth and “material things” is overshadowed by the express need to live life with a purpose. This purpose usually involves sharing special moments in meaningful engagement with others; extending beyond oneself to connect with and be of service to others; and an authentic commitment to values and goals that truly matter and help make a life, not just a living.

Above the entrance to the Oracle at Delphi is inscribed the famous Greek saying, “Know Thyself.” In spite of being inscribed thousands of years ago, this saying is still applicable to us today. In fact, it lies at the very heart of our personal growth industry! Knowing oneself, knowing others, and knowing one’s world are all basic elements needed to engage meaningfully with the deeper purpose of our personal and work lives, and ultimately, to live a better, more fulfilled, and more meaningful life.

Leaders will be much more effective in inspiring engagement, collaboration, innovation, and success in the workplace if they too help co-workers to “know themselves.” By simplifying the excessive activities at work, leaders could have more time to help employees understand the purpose of the work and how it fits with the employee’s own purpose. Leaders can also help inspire others by focusing on the real priorities of the work (extending beyond oneself in service to others—co-workers, customers, and society).

Attitude
Change is inevitable yet so many people seem to be seeking the Holy Grail of “work/life balance.” Based on our research in the Greek villages, such a balance is an illusion and may not even be the desirable goal. Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher who was a contemporary of the Buddha and Lao Tzu, is famous for his philosophy about change; “you never step into the same river twice” and “everything is in flux.” The river, like life, is always flowing and changing, and we really do not have any control over the river or life. Many of the villagers with whom we spoke in Greece, in one way or another, suggested to us that resilience is a more admirable and achievable goal than “balance” per se. They showed us that building resilience-­the ability to recover from or adjust easily to change­-was more valuable and effective at reducing stress than trying to control life’s activities or events. They told us that we don’t have control over life’s events but we do have control over our reaction or response to them.

Heraclitus also taught us that the unity of the world was the unity of the diverse and conflicting opposites. In other words, opposites are beneficial. For example, when there is no sun, we can see the evening stars. When we know hunger, we can appreciate food. When we know death, we can appreciate life. Socrates also taught us that we need to accept death in order to live our best life. When we slow down long enough to appreciate life and give gratitude for our lives, we notice the value of our lives. We are no longer living on autopilot or cruise control, taking things for granted. We can reevaluate our priorities and begin to appreciate life more fully by focusing on what really matters.

And, of course, while in Greece we also researched and learned a lot about the villagers’ attitude toward food and overall health, and its contribution to one’s ability to truly embrace and live the fullness of life. One’s choice of attitude, we discovered, was a significant determinant of health and wellness, resilience, and overall quality of life. Moreover, this attitude, the “A” in OPA!, proved to be a important linchpin between mind, body, and spirit.

The OPA! Way is a new lifestyle that is really focused on “Living Your Inner Greece!,” which means living all of life to the fullest with Enthusiasm and Meaning. In many respects, this lifestyle is similar to the notion of “full catastrophe” living made famous in the novel, Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis that became an Academy Award-winning movie. “Living Your Inner Greece!,” then, is akin to unleashing your “Inner” Zorba the Greek! It is a human potential that exists within and for all of us; however, it is something that can only be achieved if we are conscious and personally liable for its unfolding in both our everyday lives and in our work. The OPA! Way, in this connection, is beneficial not only for personal transformation but also for building a new model of transformational leadership that results in stronger, more inspired and engaged people and stronger, more inspired and engaged organizations. OPA! Again, it is more than simply a word; it is both a lifestyle and a workstyle!

Elaine Dundon and Alex Pattakos are the co-founders of The OPA! Way, new lifestyle inspired by and based on Greek culture (www.theopaway.com).

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