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If you have ever taken a self-improvement seminar or read a self-help book, you have probably encountered one or more quotes from Dr. Viktor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning, in which he describes what he learned through being in Nazi concentration camps as a persecuted Jew. The book is the foundation for a school of thought that is a spiritual counterpoint to seeing humans as driven by desire (Freud) and power (Adler). Frankl's examples are compelling because they are born of such intense suffering and achieve beautiful transcendence.
If you reverse the title and subtitle of this book, you get a better sense of the book's contents.
Dr. Pattakos in the book and Dr. Covey in the foreword briefly recount the meetings with Dr. Frankl and his influence on their lives and practices. Dr. Pattakos writes briefly about seven principles he has distilled from Dr. Frankl's work.
These principles are:
1. Freedom to choose our reaction and attitude towards things that affect us (we can see negative things in positive ways as Dr. Frankl did in viewing his time in Nazi concentration camps);
2. We can focus consciously on positive, meaningful values and goals (look to improve, rather than complain);
3. We can find meaning in everything that happens (a setback is an opportunity to learn how to improve);
4. We can learn how to stop our self-sabotage (get out of funks, rather than deepening them);
5. We can see ourselves objectively and with humor (and gain from these perspectives);
6. We can choose our focus when dealing with challenges in ways that will reward us (count your blessings when you have a problem);
7. We can influence the world in positive ways.
If all you want to know are the principles, you don't need to read the book. The content's examples don't really add very much to the list except in a few places where exercises are added within the chapter.
Although each chapter ends in an exercise (meaning moments and questions), I didn't find these exercises to be particularly helpful. They seemed to be slightly different facets of the same point: Living with integrity in the context of work.
My favorite exercise within a chapter in the book was in finding ten great things about any problem you have. Now, that has to change your mood!
This subject needs to be addressed by someone who knows a lot more about work environments. Dr. Pattakos doesn't seem well connected into the realities of today's companies, government workplaces and non-profit organizations. With a focus on examples that demonstrate the principles, this would have been a much better book. As it is, the book comes across from a 50,000 foot perspective that isn't engaging enough for me.
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on 8 November 2004
Prisoners of our Thoughts brings to life one of the most important principles that Viktor Frankl awakened in many of us - and that is that "everything can be taken from a man but...the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of cirucumstances, to choose one's way". Given what I have learned from this one quote, I feel a responsibility to recommend Prisoners of Our Thoughts to others.
Dr Pattakos both captures the experience and teachings of Frankl (and himself) in an accessible and captivating manner and also opens them up to help the reader to do something with them. He shows us that any of us can break out of the prisons of our thoughts by choosing to shift how we experience the most frustrating and disappointing situations at work, The exercises boost the value to the reader if he or she takes the time and energy to authentically address the straightforward, yet thought-provoking questions. And one might even be surprised with some of the answers that emerge. I was!
Dr Pattakos uses examples that each of us can relate to and that demonstrate the power of looking at our work through a new lens - that is, creating a bigger context that elevates the meaningful(l)ness of anything we do if we `choose' to. I loved the story of Winston the bus driver who brought joy and connectedness to all his passengers. As a dear colleague once said to me, you have three ways to live your life: as a victim where it happens to you and you have no control, reactively where you automatically respond, or from a place of creation where it is up to you to choose. If you do want to live from a place where you create your life and work, then you will greatly enjoy Prisoners of our Thoughts and find it personally and professionally relevant.
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on 8 November 2004
Prisoners of our Thoughts brings to life one of the most important principles that Viktor Frankl awakened in many of us - and that is that "everything can be taken from a man but...the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of cirucumstances, to choose one's way". Given what I have learned from this one quote, I feel a responsibility to recommend Prisoners of Our Thoughts to others.
Dr Pattakos both captures the experience and teachings of Frankl (and himself) in an accessible and captivating manner and also opens them up to help the reader to do something with them. He shows us that any of us can break out of the prisons of our thoughts by choosing to shift how we experience the most frustrating and disappointing situations at work, The exercises boost the value to the reader if he or she takes the time and energy to authentically address the straightforward, yet thought-provoking questions. And one might even be surprised with some of the answers that emerge. I was!
Dr Pattakos uses examples that each of us can relate to and that demonstrate the power of looking at our work through a new lens - that is, creating a bigger context that elevates the meaningful(l)ness of anything we do if we `choose' to. I loved the story of Winston the bus driver who brought joy and connectedness to all his passengers. As a dear colleague once said to me, you have three ways to live your life: as a victim where it happens to you and you have no control, reactively where you automatically respond, or from a place of creation where it is up to you to choose. If you do want to live from a place where you create your life and work, then you will greatly enjoy Prisoners of our Thoughts and find it personally and professionally relevant.
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on 10 March 2005
Author Alex Pattakos draws on his own experiences, TV sitcoms and, primarily, "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl to convey the idea that it is up to you to find meaning in your life and work. Pattakos includes exercises from his own coaching practice and some other widely used techniques (such as writing your own obituary) to help readers focus on the most meaningful elements of their lives. His book brings Frankl's ideas to bear at the office, through such concepts as imbue your work with meaning, chose your own attitude and reach beyond yourself. While this may remind you of supportive guidance you have heard before (perhaps better stated), we find that it may provide tools for seeking purpose in your daily life. Pattakos' book is useful, supportive and readable. If nothing else, it might encourage those who are unfamiliar with Viktor Frankl to read his work. He is the philosophical parent of this and many other such books.
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on 17 July 2008
Based on Viktor Frankl's 'Man's Search for Meaning', this book seeks to explore Dr Frankl's 7 key principles, which basically revolve around us recognizing and appreciating that irrespective of external events, situations or environments, we can all choose to live a full purposeful, meaningful and ultimately happy life. One which values the importance of other and the interwoven nature of our relationships.

It runs as a much welcome counterweight to the prevailing and deeply dis-empowering societal view that individual emotional health & well-being is entirely dependent on our upbringing and material circumstances. I found it very easy to read and could relate to many of the scenarios conveyed within.
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on 26 June 2012
Excellent and thought provoking book. It is well worth reading through and then reading again to put the words into practice.
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on 3 February 2013
oh no - how is it possible to destroy such a good concept. Lots of cut and past from Frankl's book. And a lot of examples from the business world witch is too old news and doesn't help you anywhere! Too many repetitions...... What a waste - just by Frank's books - they are dense and useful!
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on 27 November 2015
Heavy read but enspiring
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on 29 August 2012
Excellent for anybody who wants to ponder what can fulfill his/her life. Given today's pressurized life style, it is important to reflect what is important and how we react to life's demands.
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on 29 September 2015
Probably one of the most enlightening books relating to thought processes I have read to date and that's quite a lot!
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