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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"
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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...
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on November 13, 2008
All those who have been enlightened by Viktor Frankl's great book, Man's Search for Meaning, will be profoundly grateful to Alex Pattakos for bringing Frankl's principles alive again in our own search for meaning in our everyday personal and working lives.

Pattakos calls meaning the megatrend of the 21st century and I hope he's right. Most people are disgusted with corporate greed, golden parachutes and assorted scandals on Wall Street and other financial markets around the world. Most people are tired of our own everyday race through work and looking for something to enrich our daily jobs.

In Prisoner's of Our Thoughts, Pattakos gives us both reminders and important new ideas, as well as exercises with which to discover and apply meaning to our work. Ideas don't merely float by on the page. He encourages us as readers to work interactively with his basic principles to cement them in truly practical ways in our lives.

Pattakos also give us rich examples of people who work with meaning in all kinds of jobs. There's Vita, the mail carrier, who whistles as she delivers the mail, even in bad weather, because she sees her job as connecting people and building a community. There's Tom, the CEO who invites his employees to share in a meaning-based bottom line, encouraging volunteerism and giving 10% of his profits to local and global concerns. And there is Nelson Mandela. For many of us Mandela epitomizes a life's work filled with meaning. Pattakos brings us a step further in Mandela's experience to the moment he is released. For the briefest moment he feels anger over having lost twenty-seven years of his life to prison, then realizing that this was not the time to become imprisoned again in his mind.

"It almost seems as though meaning holds forgiveness at its core," Pattakos tells us, "when we forgive ourselves and others, we are no longer prisoners of our thoughts."

In my own work as a documentary filmmaker, I have tried to bring a breath and depth of meaning to the content and the making of my films. In The Cola Conquest, I interviewed a man who was part of a group of shareholders concerned with the social responsibility of their companies - an uncommon concept back in the late 90's. They pressured Coca Cola to intervene in the murder of worker who wanted to unionize the Coca Cola bottling plant in Guatemala. After 12 deaths, the shareholders spoke up, Coke spoke up in turn, the murders finally stopped.

More recently, in Black Coffee, I explored the search for meaning through the historical and contemporary story of coffee. The three-hour series ends with the search for the "perfect cup" - the cup we enjoy best as consumers because it tastes great, it's great for the farmer who grows it, and for the environment in which it grows.

But my most meaningful film I will ever make is Dark Lullabies, about the reverberations of the Holocaust on the children of survivors and the next generations of Germans. It was this film that brought me to Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the concentration camps like my parents, who also lived and worked with meaning and humanity throughout their imprisonment and throughout their lives.

I am grateful to Pattakos for giving new meaning and application to Frankl's work, and have already begun the fulfilling task of enriching my own work with Pattakos' suggestions and ideas.
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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.
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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.
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on July 10, 2010
We live in fragile times where we are bombarded with bad news from so many fronts. Americans fear unemployment, loss of their homes, and the lack of funds for retirement. They also worry about loved ones serving in a war on two fronts. It is easy to see why people are asking, "Why me?" and "Why now?"

Alex Pattakos' new edition of Prisoner's of Our Thoughts could not have been published at a better time. While not a panacea, it does provide an excellent guide to finding meaning even in these troubled times. Using Viktor Frankls' life-changing work, Pattakos provides practical advice on how to actually find meaning through our work and in our lives. He offers timely examples of how these techniques make a difference in all types of work and life situations.

We are all busy. However, I urge you to find time in your schedule to read the second edition of Prisoner's of Our Thoughts and try his suggestions. Your life will be more meaningfilled if you do.
Eileen E. Morrison, EdD, MPH, LPC
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on August 5, 2014
I was frankly disappointed by this book. I read few excerpts and I really liked it, but the book gave me almost nothing. I read many more other books that indeed brought some insight and I felt I learned something. The only thing I like was that no matter what we do we can do it in such a way that it is always great because we do it for ourselves. The author meant work. I had a problem with that, I understand the idea behind this because we make ourselves happy, but I thik that putting so much energy into something not always worth my attention is a waste of energy. I had nothing against Dr. Frankl, I think his ideas are great, but I did not like the way Alex Pattakos wrote the book.
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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.
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on February 10, 2017
Excellent read..insightful. will give it as a gift !
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on March 25, 2017
brand new excellent condition. thank you
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