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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1934–2021)

Author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

40+ Works 9,071 Members 118 Reviews 11 Favorited

About the Author

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "ME-high CHICK-sent-me-high-ee) is a professor and former chairman of the Department of English at the University of Chicago. His writings have focused on models of enjoyment and how various people access their creative potential. The idea of creative potential, show more which Csikszentmihalyi terms "flow" has become increasingly popular in the public sector. His 1993 book, Flow, inspired Jimmy Johnson then coach of the World Champion Dallas Cowboys, and was the subject of a feature story during that year's Super Bowl television broadcast. His ideas have also been touted by President Clinton, who called Csikszentmihalyi one of his favorite authors, Newt Gingrich, who put his work on the reading list for a political planning committee, and corporations and cultural institutions, such as Volvo in Sweden and the Chicago Park District. He has published articles in a variety of magazines, including Psychology Today, The New York Times, Omni, and Wired and has made appearances on television in the U.S. and Europe. Csikszentmihalyi currently serves on boards and commissions for the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, and the Social Science Research Council. He has held visiting professorships at universities in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Italy, and Finland. He received the1990 NRPA National Research (Roosevelt) Award, in addition to two Senior Fulbright Fellowships. Besides Flow, he has also written Beyond Boredom and Anxiety and Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, in which he applies his "flow" theory to various inventors, scientists, and artists to determine how and why they achieve "flow." (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990) 4,983 copies, 72 reviews
Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet (2001) — Author — 207 copies, 2 reviews
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience [Abridged Audiobook] (1994) — Author & Narrator — 39 copies, 4 reviews
Running Flow (2017) 19 copies, 1 review
Akış: Mutluluk Bilimi (2000) 8 copies
Flow im Sport (2000) 6 copies
On Flow 1 copy, 1 review

Associated Works

What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable (1914) — Contributor — 633 copies, 8 reviews
The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century (2002) — Contributor — 387 copies, 9 reviews
Speculations: The Reality Club (1988) — Contributor — 74 copies
The Idea of Design (1996) — Contributor — 66 copies
Handbook of Positive Psychology (2001) — Contributor — 52 copies
Creativity and Development (2003) — Contributor — 15 copies


Common Knowledge



I have long know that the book says that there is an optimal state when the task is challenging, but not too challenging. In that state, it becomes effortless and highly satisfying. This book is really about complexity.

There is a lot more to the book that just defining flow and how to achieve. Flow is concerned with strategies for making life richer, more complex. He states that increasing levels of complexity are necessary for an activity to remain satisfying. He sees similarities between religion, great thinkers, yoga and other activities which create conditions suitable for flow. I enjoyed this book much more than I had imagined I would. I thought I knew what the book was about from the soundbites that I'd heard about it. No, it is a lot more complex than that. It is interesting, fascinating, and delightful.

I don't need to summarize his book or life because others have already created nice summaries.
Wikipedia article on the book: Flow
Wikipedia article on the author
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bread2u | 71 other reviews | May 15, 2024 |
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was studying and writing articles and books about flow in the 1970’s, so the notes in this 1990 publication (I read the 2008 version—I assume they share the same notes section.) have many references to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s earlier works on this and related topics. Known as a Positive Psychology topic, flow is about deriving joy from losing oneself in an activity—losing the sense of individual self while being carried along in the process of that activity, which some questionnaire respondents likened to floating down a river. (Per Wikipedia, this is the origin of the term, as noted in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975) “Beyond boredom and anxiety”) This interesting book reports on studies, and responses to the questionnaire comprised of descriptions of the joy of being submerged in an activity, and draws conclusions on how this state of mind can be more commonly attained.
This is the current West Los Angeles College (WLAC) "one book", that librarians and professors incorporate into studies.
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TraSea | 71 other reviews | Apr 29, 2024 |
A fundamental psychological text which introduces one of the central pieces to shape game design and performance.

Flow still remains a mysterious factor but ever growing in socio economic relevance. If society “flowed” might we forget many other problems?
yates9 | 71 other reviews | Feb 28, 2024 |
This is an empowering read for someone who is not considered excellent in their field, and may not even seek notoriety, but wants to engage more creatively in their work and life.

The huge problem I have with this book is Csikszentmihalyi's focus on the domain and background of the individual. While he sent his survey out to many people, the respondents come from a fairly narrow background-university educated and from the United States. He ignores that there is a great deal of creativity coming out of other communities around the world and in North America and, instead, concludes that one must come from wealth and privilege if they are to develop natural talent. This conclusion colours all his other conclusions.

Still, his advice at the end on developing a more creative lifestyle is sound, if not a bit repetitive of other works and, again, assumes quite a lot of privilege.
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chailatte | 15 other reviews | Feb 5, 2024 |


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