on May 2, 2005
This book helps make practical a very nebulous but valuable skill. Let me explain:
About 29 years ago, as a teenager, while roaming the Birminham Public Library, I picked up a worn copy of Victor Frankl's book about man's search for meaning. I vividly remember where I was standing, think I could almost go to the spot on the shelf where I found the book; I think the memory lives clearly because as I scanned through the book, I became haunted with the images that came from its pages and moved by the strength of which it testified. I sat down, read more, took the book home, and never forgot the lesson.
When I worked as a janitor in high school at a local gym, I tried to find meaning by framing my work as helping provide a wholesome environment for children. When I worked as a cook at Hardee's, I was helping keep families together by providing a convenient and affordable place to escape and relax. When I worked alone as a chemist on army contracts, I was helping preserve freedom. When I worked as an ER physician, the value of saving lives was plain but then the challenge was to find meaning in the suffering around me.
These examples (from my work life) show what I strove for; but the practical, every-day accomplishment of finding meaning in the pain, drudgery, and short-term injustice that swirls around me and everyone I know has not always been a task at which I've been successful. Sometimes, I left the gym nasty and tired and just angry at how inconsiderate people can be. Sometimes I left the ER angry and confused that innocent people came to me in pain and disease at no fault of their own: how do you hold responsible a child molested, a young mother killed by a drunk driver, the crying child with sickle cell disease, the gasping child with cystic fibrosis?
You don't hold them responsible. And as you wade through the pain of the ER working with nurses and technicians with their own problems, sometimes it feels as if the world is thick with pain and thin with meaning.
In looking for meaning in suffering, I've found some help in Boethius' book "Consolation of Philosophy," in William James' "Pragmatism," in Oswald Chambers' "The Christian Disciplines," in the scriptures of the Holy Bible and the Bagavad Gita as well as in Frankl's writings. This book by Dr. Pattakos belongs on the shelf with those books as a classic about how to find meaning instead of power or pleasure and then uncover joy in meaning.
I write this reverently with the awareness that I'm immature in these matters--I've looked into the face of a quadraplegic man, bed bound for over 20 years, and heard him talk eloquently about how his accident was good fortune because it brought him closer to GOD; I don't know if I could do that. I've had to tell the mother that her child didn't live and watched her accept the news with strength and peace. I've seen this and more and so know that some do find meaning in situations heavy with pain. This is the skill that this book teaches: the skill of finding peace and meaning and the resultant deep joy.
The model used by Dr. Pattakos is the working life: how to find meaning at work. Like swinging two bats before walking to the plate to swing one, Dr. Pattakos draws from Dr. Frankl's writings about severe pain and unbelievable injustice to develop a pattern for finding meaning in the often painful pathways at work. The exercises make practical the every-day application of finding meaning and so uncovering joy and effectiveness. Simple exercises that take only a few minutes help plant each chapter in the fiber of thought and peel back the dirty details to the core meaning of work. Practical, easy exercises to help develop a valuable skill of mind and soul.
--Charles Runels, MD
Author of "Anytime...for as Long as You Want: Strength, Genius, Libido, & Erection by Integrative Sex Transmutation"
on May 6, 2005
I was looking forward to reading this book when I found that Alex Pattakos had written it. I was not disappointed. I looked forward to reading the book because it was based, at least in part, upon Frankl's classic Man's Search for Meaning. I read and studied Frankl's book 25 years ago at a particularly low spot in my life - my younger brother, Bill, had died suddenly of a heart attack when he was only 40. My father was quite ill with heart disease, and I was about to be diagnosed with cancer. What was the meaning of life? Frankl's answer to that question influenced me in many ways, more than I ever realized until I read Pattakos's book. Since I had not read Frankl in over twenty years, I could now see how his teaching had informed my life.
This is a great book - probably one of the best books on work life yet written. I read the book in one sitting (something I've never done before), marking the book and making numerous notes. I intend to give it to my friends as gifts.
Pattakos writes in his preface, " This book deals with the human quest for meaning and, therefore, was written with you in mind. It is grounded firmly in the philosophy and approach of the world-renowned psy-chiatrist, Viktor Frankl, author of the classic bestseller, Man's Search far Meaning (named one of the ten most influential books in America by the Library of Congress). Frankl, a sur-vivor of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, is the founder of Logotherapy, a meaning-centered and humanistic approach to psychotherapy. His ideas and experi-ences related to the search for meaning have significantly influenced people around the world. In this book, you will find a conceptual foundation, as well as practical guidance, for examining your own questions about meaning in your work and everyday life.
The goal of this book, moreover, is to bring meaning to work-that is, to do for the domain of work what Frankl, as a psychiatrist, was able to do for psychotherapy. Because I am defining the notion of "work" very broadly, the message in this book applies to a very broad audience as well. In fact, it applies to volunteers as well as to paid workers; to people working in all sectors and industries; to retirees; to individuals beginning a job search or career; and to those in "transition." And, because this book demonstrates how Frankl's principles actually work in a generic context, its message can be applied to everyday living too. In this regard, besides introducing you to Frankl's core ideas about life, the book is filled with examples, stories, exercises, and practical tools that can help guide you on your path to finding meaning at work and in your personal life.
It was in a meeting with Frankl at his home in Vienna, Austria, in August 1996, when I first proposed the idea of writing a book that would apply his core principles and approach explicitly to work and the workplace, to the world of business. Frankl was more than encouraging when, in his typically direct and passionate style, he leaned across his desk, grabbed my arm, and said: "Alex, yours is the book that needs to be written!" As you can imagine, I felt that Frankl's words had been branded into the core of my being, and I was determined, from that moment forward, to make this book idea a reality. And so it is."
We are by nature, creatures of habit. We seek to identify and stay within comfort zones. These comfort zones are patterns of thoughts. As we repeat these patterns of thought over and over again. We begin to believe that life happens to us and limit our own potential. We become prisoners of our own thoughts.
"Viewing life as inherently meaningful and literally unlimited in potential requires a shift in consciousness," writes Pattakos. "It also requires responsible actions on our part for, as Frankl points out, the potential meaning that exists in each moment of life can only be searched for and detected by each of us individually. This responsibility he says is 'to be actualized by each of us at any time, even in the most miserable situations and literally up to the last breath of ourselves.'"
We choose how we respond to life. "...life doesn't happen to us. We happen to life; and we make it meaningful."
Pattakos discusses not only personal transformation, but also the transformation of work itself. "The transformation of work in the twenty-first century is, in many respects, a call for humanity - a new consciousness that suggests more than simply trying to strike a balance between our work and our personal life. It is a call to honor our own individuality and fully engage our human spirit at work - wherever that may be."
"The goal of this book is to bring meaning to work...," writes Pattakos. I believe he does an excellent job in this 187-page book full of wisdom and insights. It is a must read.
The book is divided into eleven chapters - Life Doesn't Just Happen to Us, Viktor Frankl's Lifework and Legacy, Labyrinths of Meaning, Exercise the Freedom to Choose Your Attitude, Realize Your Will to Meaning, Detect the Meaning of Life's Moments, Don't Work Against Yourself, Look at Yourself form a Distance, Shift Your Focus of Attention, Extend Beyond Yourself and Living and Working with Meaning.
Pattakos has synthesized more than just Frankl's Search for Meaning. He has read and studied most of Frankl's work and interviewed Frankl himself. He occupies a unique position to write this book.
"All human beings, Frankl would say, ultimately have both the freedom and responsibility to position themselves along two key dimensions of life," writes Pattakos. These two key dimensions are success-failure and despair-meaning. Where are you right now in this continuum? Are you where you want to be?
"There is something in us that can rise above and beyond everything we think possible. Our instinct for meaning, at work and in our daily life, is ours right now, at this very moment. As long as we are not a prisoner of our thoughts," concludes Pattakos.
on October 21, 2005
I bought this book because I was impressed by the books of Viktor Frankl and I thought: if this book contains half the wisdom of the Frankl books then it is worth its price. I was disappointed.
I am convinced that the author had the best intentions, but his book simply depends too much on Frankl's work: first the author takes some quotes from Frankl's book, then proceeds to explain this using a contemporary 'business situation' (just a story) and adds some of his own thoughts. If you have read Frankl's book you constantly realise you already know what you are reading. The author's own thoughts make up perhaps 10% of the book. For any book I think the reason to buy it should be that the author makes an original contribution to the subject, and not because the author is capable of explaining other people's ideas who have already done so extensively.
Bottom line: if you are unfamiliar with the work of Frankl, then this book contains a lot of valuable insight. But in that case I would recommend reading Frankl's books first. And if you have already read Frankl's books, then this book has little added value.
on October 8, 2006
Prisoners of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl's Principles at Work
by Dr Alex Pattakos
I have been attracted to this wonderful book because I have been inspired by the life story of Dr Viktor Frankl, particularly the unspeakable horrors of his forced imprisonment at the Auschwitz concentration camps during the Second World War. That horrendous period of his life was captured in his book, 'Man's Search for Meaning', which I have reviewed earlier.
Using the inspirations from Dr Viktor Frankl's work, the author has very artfully drawn from his own personal observations, & experiences, the testimonials & quotations, & other anecdotes to create a thoughtful & powerful corporate guide for breaking free from old patterns of thought & action. In this respect, he has done quite a remarkable job.
Although I have earlier picked up several learning points on my own, based on my own review of Dr Frankl's book, & after watching Joel Barker's 'The Power of Vision' video (which has a vital segment on Dr Frankl's life story), I am very impressed by the author's discovery of many further principles which could be applied in our own lives. In a nut shell, they are:
- exercise the personal freedom to choose our attitude or outlook;
- realise our will to meaning or significance;
- detect the meaning of life's moments & questions;
- don't work against ourself;
- look at ourself from a distance;
- shift our focus of attention or maintain fluidity of perception;
- extend beyond ourself;
Having read (& reviewed) Dr Frankl's 'Man's Search for Meaning' earlier actually facilitates my smooth digestion of Dr Pattakos' unique intellectual contemplations & deliberations as embodied in his wonderful 'Prisoners of Our Thoughts'.
I strongly recommend reading it, especially if you want to expand your own ability to change the quality of your work life as well as personal life.
[Readers who are keen to explore further the work of the author, Dr Alex Pattakos, &/or the work of Dr Viktor Frankl, should visit the globaldialoguecenter website. At the website, you can also view the segment covering Dr Viktor Frankl from Joel Barker's 'The Power of Vision' video.]
on March 19, 2005
"Alex, yours is the book that needs to be written." These words were uttered by an aging Dr. Viktor Frankl as Dr. Alex Pattakos sat at with him in his study discussing the concept for Prisoners of Our Thoughts. I have been effected deeply enough by Prisoners of Our Thoughts that I feel compelled to echo that thought in my own words by saying "Dr. Pattakos, thank God that you did write your book." After 30 years as a "Corporate" engineer I suddenly found myself leaving a position I loved and moving to an area with literally no work for me. Suddenly my life had no "meaning", in any sense that I at the time understood. After suffering through months of "Oh Poor Me" thoughts, that did literally hold me prisoner, I was fortunate enough to acquire a copy of Dr. Pattakos' recently completed Prisoners of Our Thoughts. Applying the core principles; for me personally particularly Principle #1 - "Exercise the freedom to choose your attitude", I began to look at my situation as an opportunity rather than a problem. As I read further into the text I came to recognize what a powerful tool this practical application of Viktor Frankl's work would be to me personally as I began to re-invent myself to accommodate a new set of life circumstances that I could not change. I began to more fully develop an understanding that I could change how I perceived and reacted to these new and, at the time, discomforting circumstances. Gradually I began to put the principles and insights woven so skillfully throughout Prisoners of Our Thoughts into practice. As my attitude improved so did my disposition, my outlook and my progress toward what for me was a completely new and different type of contentment and success. Along with these immediate changes came new reflection upon my "past" life. I came to see that throughout my "Corporate" working career the great majority of successful resolutions of many of my most challenging and frustrating situations; those times that I look back upon as "My best moments", had unknowingly and unconsciously applied piecemeal some of the principles so creatively and appropriately intertwined to become a whole by Dr. Pattakos. Since completing Prisoners of Our Thoughts I have recommended it to others, including those fortunate (or could that be unfortunate?) enough to still in the "Corporate" environment. Their reaction was similar to mine. They have been able to respond and resolve daily challenges with more clarity, accommodate pressures, reduce stress and realize greater serenity than before. Also like myself, they can recall a situation here or there where they too had naturally stumbled upon and applied one or another of the principles or techniques in Prisoners of Our Thoughts without realizing what they were doing; or how valuable the integrated whole could be to them. I was extremely fortunate that this book was written at just the point in my life when I needed it most. Given the multiple pressures and stresses faced by us all I would say that it's been written at just the right time for all of us.
on November 23, 2004
"We are free to choose our responses to everything that happens in our lives, including those things that happen through our work," writes author Alex Pattakos. His anecdotes, and exercises demonstrate how to find meaning in our personal lives as well as in the workplace where we spend so much of our time indulging in the negative habit of chronic complaining. "Prisoners of our Thoughts" offers insight into taking control of our lives, breaking destructive habits, and creating opportunities for contentment and success. Remember Norman Vincent Peale's "POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING?". Alex Patakos takes that concept to the next level, gives indepth practical tools, and expands on our own ability to change the quality of our lives. It's really is in our hands. We don't have to dwell in the perpetual, "boo- hoo poor me, victim consciousness." Well written and insightful
on October 31, 2004
Reading Prisoners of Our Thoughts offers the reader the opportunity to illuminate and explore the meaning of 'work' and 'career'as if in a coaching session with Viktor Frankl and Alex Pattakos serving as facilitators. Throughout the book my conscience was gently and insistently reminded that my 'suffering' belongs to me, a product of my choices. The book's power comes from the transformational message of the author Pattakos and his mentor, Viktor Frankl: Even in seemingly inconsequential work-a-day difficulties lie meaning cues that can illuminate the authentic direction of our lives & career path. Ultimately, Prisoners of Our Thoughts brought me face to face with my own inner 'concentration camp' allowing me to frame and begin to explore the questions, what is the sacred path of my career,how am I creating my own 'prison'. The book's exercises provide excellent tools to determine a strategy to plan my 'escape'to a more meaningful career. This is an excellent book at both the personal and professional levels.
on October 31, 2004
Alex Pattakos' clear and efficient revival of the key principles found in Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" gives the contemporary reader a fresh walk through Frankl's time-honored pathways for finding meaning in life. And, in the process, gaining ways out of our individual "prisons of our thoughts" that self-limit us.
Dr. Frankl, one of the world's most noted psychiatrists, survived several Nazi concentration camps and derived these principles from his deepest will to live during those times. Recognizing the meaning in his life was his salvation.
The book is comparatively sized in dimension and length to Frankl's slim impactful book, making Prisoners of Our Thoughts an easily digestible and timely read. The Library of Congress has named "Man's Search for Meaning" as one of the most important books written -- Prisoners of Our Thoughts reverberates its best qualities again for you.
Additionally, many book-forwards miss the power that Stephen Covey articulates in his opening for this important work. Covey delivers a great tribute to the influence of Frankl's lifework and gives a strong endorsement for readers of Prisoners of Our Thoughts.
Prisoner of Our Thoughts distills Frankl's powerful messages for thriving in life into seven key principles:
1. Exercise the freedom to choose your attitude
2. Realize your will to meaning
3. Detect the meaning of life's moments
4. Don't work against yourself
5. Look at yourself from a distance
6. Shift your focus of attention
7. Extend beyond yourself
Pattakos' book devotes a chapter to each of these principles and gives rich examples and narrative to describe the what, who, when, where, and how a person or organization can implement these values. Each chapter ends with practical actions the reader can practice to understand and master the power of meaning from the specific principle, towards building a meaning-based life or organization. More info can be found at prisonersofourthoughts-dot-com
In today's highly competitive environment, Prisoners of Our Thoughts provides the reader with sound workable ways to ensure that meaning in life is found, not lost.
Viktor Frankl is quoted in the book advising Pattakos that this book must be written. As a reader, I attest that Prisoners of Our Thoughts is a book that must be read.
on November 7, 2008
The author paints a very deceptive portrait of his "beloved" uncle Mr. Stylianos Pattakos and even dares to compare him to Nelson Mandela (see beginning of chapter 4). Addressing an unsuspecting (at most) American audience he largely manages to get away with it.
Unfortunately for him, some of us still remember the greek military junta, the thousands of people that got killed and tortured, the thousands that were sent to exile, and the great tragedy of Cyprus for which the junta was largely responsible. Mr. Pattakos as Nelson Mandela? Better try Hitler. How ironic indeed that Mr. Alex Pattakos writes and capitalizes on a book inspired by Viktor Frankl a Nazi camp survivor...
Judge for yourself if you can trust the writings of a person who idolizes one of the cruelest dictators of recent history. You should be ashamed sir for what your uncle did to Greece and to the Greek people. Yet you are proud. I am disgusted. Also for the record, your uncle did not get out of prison in 1995 because "his role in history was reconsidered and because there was enough support for him as a person" but because of his grave health condition. You see, a democracy can have mercy even for the ultimate traitors.
I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Alex Pattakos abandoned Greece for the USA circa 1973-74 when democracy was restored, probably because he was feeling that the too much "love" that the repressed people of Greece felt for his "patriot" uncle could kill him...
on January 4, 2006
I met Alex Pattakos last year and we quickly became friends, and I recently finished his book Prisoners of Our Thoughts.
I consider Dr. Pattakos to be one of the brightest, most compassionate people I know, and someone who cares deeply about what I call "the emotional bankruptcy" of so many contemporary workers, with which we are all too familiar. He therefore took the time to write a little guidebook on how to find joy and success in the workplace, and, for that matter, in life in general. His secret? To take Viktor Frankl's timeless principles of Logotherapy and synthesize them into seven practical steps for obtaining spiritual growth and emotional freedom in the office, the factory, the restaurant, or wherever we find ourselves making a living, or caring for others, in the moment.
For those who have never read Frankl, this book is a great introduction; and for those who are already familiar with Frankl's philosophy, it is a great refresher. Pattakos' book reminds us, once again, of the beauty of a life which embraces, and consciously surrenders to the process of finding spiritual meaning in the workplace, where we in the industrialized world spend most of our waking hours. This remarkable little book is chock full of personal anecdotes and philosophical wit and wisdom about success at making a life, and not just a living. There are some helpful personal and group exercises which are designed to help us re-focus our energies on our highest calling as human beings, so that even during our dreariest days we can remember that the practice of love and self-detachment, through our "successes" and "failures", is key to our emotional freedom and our ability to stay enchanted with life -- no matter on what path our work takes us.
Dr. Pattakos reminds us that whether we are in the cubicle, or on the factory floor, we can and do make a difference in others' lives, and thereby enrich our own -- and that it is the spirit of the journey, and not the destination, that really matters when we look over our shoulders at the end of the trail.