Commitment to a goal and to the rules it entails is much easier when the choices are few and clear.
This book examines the ways in which people derive meaning from their lives. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s conclusion is delightfully ambiguous: that it doesn’t matter what we do that makes a particular activity fulfilling, but rather how we do it. He calls this state of concentration flow–the sweet spot between anxiety and competence wherein a person confronts a challenge that tests the limits of their abilities. A similar intensity of focus can be seen among the most successful practitioners of a whole range of disciplines, from poets and scientists to rock climbers and surgeons.
In Mihaly’s estimation, A flow experience requires nine components in order to be rewarding: 1.) There are clear goals every step of the way. 2.) There is immediate feedback to one’s actions; 3.) There is a balance between challenges and skills; 4.) Action and awareness are merged; 5.) Distractions are excluded from consciousness; 6.) There is no worry of failure; 7.) Self-consciousness disappears; 8.) The sense of time becomes distorted; and 9.) The activity becomes autotelic (Done for the joy of the experience they provide rather than for the final outcome.)
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has over 50 years experience as a professor and research psychologist. His writing is both well in formed and thoughtful–his insights flow breezily off the page and his wisdom is easily apparent. For example, here’s an extraordinarily insightful quote from him on his Wikipedia page: “Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason.”
A good video introduction to the author and his life work.
The author’s TED talk on flow.
What the professionals are saying: The LA Times Review
Quotes and Anecdotes: The Autotelic Personality, The Effects of Family on the Autotelic Personality, How to Keep Love Fresh, The Difficulties of Solitude, and Wasting Time.
Buy on Amazon: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
Stuff of Interest:
flow–“the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
optimal experience–“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”
Phenomenology–the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.
epiphenomen—is a secondary phenomenon that occurs alongside or in parallel to a primary phenomenon. Closely related to ’cause and effect’.
dialectal–relating to the logical discussion of ideas and opinions.
invidious–likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others.
anomie–lack of the usual social or ethical standards in an individual or group.
Diogenes looking for an honest man with his lamp
Ignatius of Loyola
Kubla Kahn, Samuel Coleridge
Altius, citius, fortius (higher, faster, stronger)
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” –Thomas Jefferson