05/20/2011 08:35 am ET Updated Jul 20, 2011

'Opa!' Choosing the Others in Your Life

Dr. Alex Pattakos co-wrote this piece with his partner, Dr. Elaine Dundon.

Last week, we referenced one of Aesop's fables, "The Fox and the Grapes," as a way to call attention to how a very simple-sounding notion can get in the way, frequently on a subconscious level, of our relationships with others (the "O" in The OPA! Way).

(On a side note, you might be surprised to know that our research has shown that most people are unfamiliar with Aesop's fables and are unaware of the life lessons that they offer. As part of our primary and secondary research efforts, we recently conducted some impromptu "jaywalking" interviews similar to those that you've probably seen on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and discovered that Americans seem to know very little about the contributions that Greece has made to our way and quality of life. We'll be posting videos of these interviews on our website and our YouTube channel, and we plan to include some fun, good-spirited samples in our future contributions to HuffPost for their entertainment and educational value.)

This week we'd like to continue our exploration of the "O" in OPA! That is, others. While we hope that all people will have a positive influence on each other in this world, this obviously is not always the case. An important element of all our lives has to do with whom we choose to associate with and whom we choose not to associate with. Although we might not always have the ability to choose the individuals with whom we interact (such as relatives or co-workers), we do have the ultimate freedom to choose whether or not we spend extra time and energy with them (i.e., determine the level of investment that we are willing to make in the interaction and, by implication, in the "relationship").

Take some time to reflect on the people with whom you spend your time, and ask yourself these 10 questions:

  1. Who is supporting my hopes and dreams?
  2. Who seems to increase my energy when I am in their company?
  3. Who knows me well and takes the time to understand what interests me?
  4. Who encourages me to learn more about a subject area that interests me?
  5. Who celebrates my successes and encourages me when I stumble?
  6. Who is not supporting my hopes and dreams (actually blocking my success)?
  7. Who seems to drain my energy?
  8. Who criticizes me more than I think is necessary for my development?
  9. Who ignores my good work but focuses on times when I stumble?
  10. With whom do I not bother sharing my real, authentic self or my dreams?

Your answers to these 10 questions should shed some light on who might or might not be a positive influence in your life. Whether at work, in your family or in your personal relations, it's up to you to decide how much time and effort you will spend with those who are a positive influence in your life and those are (or may be) a negative influence.

The insight here is that your own meaning and fulfillment in life is up to you, but you shouldn't underestimate the impact that others can have on your motivation, emotions, happiness, health, well-being and ultimate success. Be more aware of who is supporting you (and your highest good) and who is or may be hindering your growth.

In addition, and importantly, reflect on whether you are being a positive or negative influence on others. After all, it's not all or just about you! Are you encouraging others to build on their strengths and achieve their full potential, or are you critical of them and focusing on their faults? Living and working The OPA! Way depends on your choice of and relationship with others!

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If you haven't read our introduction to The OPA! Way, we recommend that you read Part 1 and Part 2 of "'Opa!' It's a Lifestyle."

The OPA! Way lifestyle can be viewed as an integration of our meaning and innovation work. It is inspired by and based on Greek culture from ancient times to the present day and is intended to be life-affirming -- focused on making a positive, meaningful difference in people's lives. In addition, because it draws upon Greek philosophical and cultural traditions, The OPA! Way can be viewed as offering a complementary and alternative pathway to personal growth and spiritual development. Besides reading our posts here each week, we of course invite you to join the OPA! Village (it's free and you must join to access certain parts of our website), to learn more about us, including our personal journeys and our work.

For further background to what we are sharing with you on HuffPost about The OPA! Way lifestyle, we suggest that you take a look at our books, "Prisoners of Our Thoughts" and "The Seeds of Innovation." "Prisoners of Our Thoughts," which is in 20 languages, including a soon-to-be-released Greek edition (ΦΥΛΑΚΙΣΜΕΝΟΙ ΣΤΙΣ ΕΚΕΨΕΙΣ ΜΑΣ), will give you an introduction to our meaning-focused work. Written at the personal urging of Alex's mentor, the world-renown psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl (author of the classic bestseller "Man's Search for Meaning"), "Prisoners of Our Thoughts" includes an excellent foreword by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, bestselling author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." Elaine's book, "The Seeds of Innovation," addresses both organizational and personal transformation issues and, importantly, seeks to link innovation theory with practice.

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Dr. Alex Pattakos and his partner, Dr. Elaine Dundon, are meaning experts and the co-founders of The OPA! Way® lifestyle of "Living Your Inner Greece!" which means living all of life to the fullest with enthusiasm and meaning. You can find out more about Dr. Pattakos, author of the international bestselling book "Prisoners of Our Thoughts," and Dr. Dundon, author of the international bestselling book, "The Seeds of Innovation," in their HuffPost bio. You are also invited to follow The OPA! Way on Twitter ( and join the OPA! Village (