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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990)

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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4,322662,192 (3.99)37
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's famous investigations of "optimal experience" have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. In this new edition of his groundbreaking classic work, Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.… (more)
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English (59)  Spanish (3)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Today was a Saturday. I spent most of the day worrying about what to make for dinner, watching my toddler, and doing miscellaneous stuff. But I determined, in the late afternoon, to replace the flush valve in the bathroom. Even though I had put it off for a week, and wasn't looking forward to getting that up close and personal with my toilet, it was the quickest, most enjoyable hour of my day. What happened? Flow.

I've heard Csikszentmihalyi's work summarized multiple times(he's a big thing in the business world)*, but that doesn't mean that I heard it all. In fact, the summarization of his definition of "Flow" is just the beginning of what ends up being a powerful argument for meaning, accountability, and growth.

I, being me, would love a Chicago style of notes but the notes are definitely there in my non-preferred style. His chapters on others were really interesting. He would be an interesting soul to chat with.

*Simon Sinek has a lovely pronunciation guide of his name in one of his books. :) ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
This book taught me a lot. ( )
  KittyCatrinCat | Aug 29, 2021 |
Written in 1990, "Flow" is one of the many many books which explicitly warned us of the danger to society when power is seized by "unscrupulous and demented people". [231] Not one word of this academic work could be described as "political diatribe" -- this is simply the explanation of various ebbs and flows in the processes of life and enlivenment. The book summarizes joy, creativity, and the "process" of life he calls flow. Nature not only abhors a vacuum, but dictators as well.

Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi (born 1934, Croatia) is a Psychologist who taught at Chicago and Claremont Graduate University, and has studied happiness and creativity. Here he presents numerous studies, many of which are his own, of the highly-focused optimal mental state when the fiction of "self" is lost to consciousness itself.

FLOW is an example of positive psychology, applied and expressed as what he calls an autotelic virtue--intrinsic motivation. He shares principles derived from the research, along with concrete examples. This is a guide to living a Meaningful life. The data itself is fascinating, and well-stated. For example:

"We do not understand what happiness is any better than Aristotle did, and as for learning how to attain that blessed condition, once could argue that we have made no progress at all." [1]

"What I discovered is that happiness is not something that happens....It is not depend on outside events, but rather, on how we interpret them...People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy." [2] He cites Victor Frankl, "Man's Search for Meaning", and concurs with the conclusion that happiness is an unintended side-effect of personal dedication to a course "greater than oneself". This work also ties in closely to Process Theology -- the idea that our lives are moving targets.

"Chaos is one of the oldest concepts in myth and religion." [9] "Traditionally, the problem of existence has been most directly confronted through religion...but religions are only temporarily successful attempts to cope with the lack of meaning in life; they are not permanent answers." [14] He reminds us that a "vital new religion may one day arise again", and concludes the work with criteria for one: "The most promising faith for the future might be based on the realization that the entire universe is a system related by common laws and that it makes no sense to impose our dreams and desires on nature without taking them into account. Recognizing the limitations of human will, accepting a cooperative rather than a ruling role in the universe", we could finally journey home, where the "problem of meaning will then be resolved as the individual's purpose merges with the universal flow". [240]

Csikszentmihalyi provides a fascinating account of the process of learning differentiation which produced Science. And he shows that our task is now to learn Interpretation--to reunite without losing uniqueness. [239-40] ( )
  keylawk | Jun 9, 2021 |
“When all of a person’s relevant skills are needed to cope with the challenges of a situation, that person’s attention is completely absorbed by the activity.”
“enjoyment derives not from the danger itself, but from their ability to minimize it"
“A painting is not just a picture, but a ‘thought machine’”
“if goals are well chosen, and if we have the courage to abide by them despite opposition, we shall be so focused on the actions and events around us that we won’t have the time to be unhappy.”
( )
  bowendwelle | Apr 19, 2021 |
Great fundamental premise, but once I got that, it wasn't worth the effort to read the rest of the book. It's VERY dry.
  arthur_lewis | Jan 16, 2021 |
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Twenty-three hundred years ago Aristotle concluded that, more than anything else, men and women seek happiness.
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Weber claimed, after this science [of capitalism] was perfected, it developed its own goals, based on the logic of production and consumption and not that of human happiness. At that point economic behavior ceases to be rational, because it is no longer guided by the goal that originally justified it....Weber himself complained that capitalism which originated as a religious vocation, had in time become a mere "sport" for entrepreneurs--and an "iron cage" for everyone else. [275-276 notes]
When a person's psychic energy coalesces into a life theme, consciousness achieves harmony. [230]
[In Dante's Divina Commedia -- used in seminar on the pitfalls of midlife--ambition, lust, and greed, or in Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, the desire for power, sex and money] Virgil tries to reassure Dante--the good news is that there is a way out of the dark forest. The bad news is that the way leads through hell." [235]
The Inferno is informed by a deep religious ethic, and it is very clear to anyone who reads it that Dante's Christianity is not an accepted but a discovered belief. The religious life he created was made up of insights he combined from Christianity, with the best of Greek philosophy and Islamic wisdom.
To extract meaning from a system of beliefs a person must first compare the information contained in it with his or her concrete experience, retain what makes sense, and then reject the rest. [238]
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Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's famous investigations of "optimal experience" have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. In this new edition of his groundbreaking classic work, Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.

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