4 Meaningful Life Lessons from the OPA! Way
Find meaning in the simple things.
Posted Sep 04, 2019
Sometimes you just have to simplify things. Unfortunately, many of us miss this simple wisdom, as we are busy rushing from one task to another, living in a world awash with activities, things, and of course, constant interference from our technology. It’s no wonder that many of us feel we are drowning in information, obligations, and financial bills and targets. Life is supposed to be an adventure to be embraced and experienced to the fullest, yet many of us feel we are living someone else’s life, not the life we imagined for ourselves.
So, in pursuit of some time away from my busy life, I went to Greece with the goal of walking in nature, eating healthy meals by the seaside, and talking with the residents in the tiny villages that dot the countryside. What I discovered changed my life. I returned with a new perspective on what it means to live “the good life,” or as I now refer to it, “the meaningful life.”
Throughout my travels, I found that the people in the traditional Greek villages spoke and lived simply and were incredibly wise about life. They knew how to build community, treat each other well, and connect in authentic ways. They knew what was important in their lives—focusing on the necessities and only occasionally indulging in luxuries. They knew how to cope with and even thrive in the face of life’s many challenges. In short, they knew how to live with joy and meaning.
Alex Pattakos and I captured these insights in our book, The OPA! Way: Finding Joy and Meaning in Everyday Life and Work. In this short post, I want to share four lessons from the book:
1. Take timeouts.
Take time to relax and reflect—either short timeouts throughout your day or longer timeouts such as vacations or sabbaticals to slow down, walk in nature, and hear yourself think. The slower lifestyle in Greece allowed me to resonate with my natural biorhythms, allowing me more time for deep reflection and to focus on the art of living.
2. Take time for deeper conversations.
Take time to connect authentically with others. Forget the superficial conversation openers, such as “how are you today?” and “what do you do?”, and opt instead to find out more about the other person—where are their roots, what they are interested in, what ideas do they have to improve a particular situation, and so forth. I found that my conversations in Greece went to the very soul of the people involved. We talked about things that really mattered to us, establishing deeper human connections through mutual respect.
3. Take time to embrace all of life.
Embrace the fullness of life—the good and the bad, the joys and the difficulties. As the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis advised us: Embrace the "full catastrophe" of life, for there is beauty in all the chaos of life. Appreciate the days your feet hurt, the days you enjoy a wonderful feast, the days the rains come, the days you hear from a long-lost friend, the days you receive your health test results back, the days you feel lonely — there is life and there is meaning in all of these events.
4. Take time to explore a different route.
Some days, it may be enough to just celebrate getting out of bed, washing your face, and making a meal, depending on your physical and mental state. Some days, you may have to follow a routine because of work or personal obligations. But on other days, give yourself permission to deviate from your set path. Be open to new opportunities. You never know what you will learn about the world and yourself when you explore new routes on the path to becoming a better version of yourself.
Life is to be lived to the fullest, not rushed through. Take time for reflection and to silence your mind. Take time to engage in deeper conversations with others. Take time to embrace all of life, and take time to explore a different route. These are all important aspects of the art of “living the good life, the meaningful life.”