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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Paperback – February 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Edition edition (February 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060920432
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060920432
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (334 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You have heard about how a musician loses herself in her music, how a painter becomes one with the process of painting. In work, sport, conversation or hobby, you have experienced, yourself, the suspension of time, the freedom of complete absorption in activity. This is "flow," an experience that is at once demanding and rewarding--an experience that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates is one of the most enjoyable and valuable experiences a person can have. The exhaustive case studies, controlled experiments and innumerable references to historical figures, philosophers and scientists through the ages prove Csikszentmihalyi's point that flow is a singularly productive and desirable state. But the implications for its application to society are what make the book revolutionary.

From Library Journal

Aristotle observed 2300 years ago that more than anything men and women seek happiness. Csikszentmihalyi (psychology, Univ. of Chicago) has for 25 years made similar observations regarding "flow," a field of behavioral science examining connections between satisfaction and daily activities. A flow state ensues when one is engaged in self-controlled, goal-related, meaningful actions. Data regarding flow were collected on thousands of individuals, from mountain climbers to chess players. This thoroughly researched study is an intriguing look at the age-old problem of the pursuit of happiness and how, through conscious effort, we may more easily attain it. Recommended for general readers.
- Terry McMaster, Utica Coll. of Syracuse Univ. Lib., N.Y .
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a professor at Claremont Graduate University and former chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. His previous books include The Evolving Self and the national bestseller Flow.

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written and has a good message, but is so ponderous.
Josh
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has spent decades researching and developing a theory of happiness called "Flow". "Flow" is "optimal experience."
Barbara S. Reeves
I'm taking that to mean that if I learn to find flow experiences, it will lead to greater happiness.
a reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

320 of 331 people found the following review helpful By a reader on February 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
Besides having more vowels in his name than any other researcher in the field of positive psychology, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi is probably best known for his book "Flow". So what exactly is flow?

Well, there are short and long ways to define the concept of flow. The short way is to tell you that flow is roughly the equivalent to what most people refer to as being "in the zone" or "in the groove". More elaborate definitions might be that it is "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 do it even at great cost, for the sheer state of doing it."

Being such a desirable state, flow is naturally linked to happiness. The book feels that the path to happiness is a circuitous one that begins with one achieving control over the "contents of our consciousness". I'm taking that to mean that if I learn to find flow experiences, it will lead to greater happiness.

Know from the get-go that "Flow" is NOT a step-by-step book that gives you tips on how to be happy. Instead, the book summarizes years of research, so what you get when all is said and done, are general principles along with examples of how people have used them to transform their lives. The hope, then, is that you will have enough information in the book to make the transition from principles and theory, to actual practice.

In a nutshell, "Flow" is a unique and interesting book that examines the process of achieving happiness through the control of one's inner life and is a classic in it's field. Other positive psychology books I liked include "Finding Happiness in a Frustrating World".
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293 of 310 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on June 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
If anyone is seeking a "recipe" for "optimal experience" do not read this book. This book is not a step-by-step self-help guide. Neither is it a pedantic overview of psychological studies replete with statistical analyses, i.e., hard data, proving "flow" exists. The simplest way to summarize this book is, it describes how different people create meaning in life with full intention and focus and thereby achieve an ongoing state of satisfaction and sense of fulfillment.

The book begins with an overview of how people define and achieve happiness. Essentially, the author contends, most people are not happy because the universe was not created to make us happy but on the contrary, it serves to frustrate us and help us grow ... The primary focus of this book is to show us that "flow" states happen to people despite the challenges of the universe, it happens to people from all walks of life, from all cultures, throughout the world.

Flow is a state of consciousness which can be achieved on an individual path. It also has common elements which anyone who is experiencing the state can identify. The author examines the common experiences which people who are in a state of "flow" describe. It seems people who are in "flow" achieve a state of consciousness that is in harmony with their surroundings and feelings. They do not make distinctions between work and play ... people in "flow" create an inner state of being that brings them peace and fulfillment that is separate from their external environment. They are focused, what they do is meaningful and has purpose, they are absorbed in their activities and they have a sense of connection to their inner self and and also with others. The state called "flow" pertains to enjoyment and satisfaction with one's quality of life.
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119 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mullins on January 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
Flow are those inexplicable moments of indescribable happiness that we experience at rare intervals, when we are "surprised by joy." These precious moments seem to be gifts, almost accidental peak experiences in which life seems rich with meaning, joy and wonder. When and why do these magic episodes intrude upon our humdrum existences? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's answer may surprise you: "Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments of our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times ... The best moments of our lives usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to the limits in a voluntary moment to achieve something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen ... For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves."

Csikszentmihalyi's theme is happiness. This philosopher-psychologist points out the Aristotelian concept that all other things we seek, riches, fame, power, etc. are valued only because we believe they will make us happy. Based upon decades of research on the mystery of happiness, Csikszentmihalyi defines it as moments of self-forgetfulness when we are totally absorbed in the process of life ... intervals of peak creativity and self-expression. He expands upon the research of Abraham Maslow and agrees that peak experiences are within the reach of us all. The theme of this book is the introduction of techniques to make this glad to be alive feeling occur more often. It may be stated that this book is no self-help step-by-step program, nor could it be. Each of us is plowing new snow, creating a path that no one else has traveled. The guidelines and the principles are here, but the journey into the sublime uncertainty of our destiny is individual and precious. Flow is one of several extraordinary contributions by this great mind.
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