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Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (Masterminds Series) Paperback – April 6, 1998
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Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Csikszentmihalyi argues that a life filled with `flow activities' is more worth living than one spent consuming passive entertainment. He says, the point is to be happy while doing things that stretch your goals and skills that help you grow and fulfil your potential. In other words: the content of your experiences over a lifetime determines the quality of your life. Then what exactly ìs `flow'? Is it just some vague new New Age concept? Not at all! It is precisely defined and well-researched. The experience if flow is the sense of effortless action we feel in moments that we see as the best in our lives. In order to have flow experiences you need clear goals/demands, immediate and relevant feedback and a balance between your skills and the demands. Then your attention becomes ordered and fully invested. Because of the total demand on you psychic energy you become completely focused, your self-consciousness disappears, as does your sense of time, yet you feel strong and competent. When in flow, you are not exactly happy, because you are not focused on your inner states (that would take away your attention from the task at hand). But looking back you are happy. Having flow experiences leads to growth and learning and improving your life becomes a question of making flow as much as possible a constant part of your everyday experience.
Csikszentmihalyi describes how you can find flow in several important life domains. One domain is work. Often we short-sightedly spend a lot of energy to take the easy way and cut corners, trying to do as little as possible in our jobs. If we would spend the same amount of energy trying to accomplish more we would probably enjoy our work more and be more successful as well. To improve your work you can try to take the whole context of your job into account. Doing this you can better understand your contribution to the whole and understand and value your role more. This enables you to invest more energy and withdraw more meaning from your work. Further, to use flow at work you can try to establish a situation in which your job (an other people's jobs) provides clear goals, unambiguous feedback, a sense of control, few distractions and challenges that match your skills. Just as much as in work you can create flow in your family and other relationships according to Csikszentmihalyi. He says it is particularly important to give attention to building harmony between participant's goals and to find ways to balance the meaningfulness of the rewards you get from work and relationships.
This book is definitely worth reading. Csikszentmihalyi's answer to the question `What is a good life?' is practical and convincing.
FINDING FLOW is not a sappy, vacuous self-help book for the masses--it reminds us intelligently, without cheerleading or condescension, that complaining about a lack of time is a common excuse for not taking control of our lives. It also tells us something we have often heard, but love to forget: flow comes when we have goals, not because achieving them is necessarily important, but because a lack of goals leads to a struggle to concentrate and avoid distractions. This passage reminded me of what my favorite classics professor once told us: "Without Ithaka, there is no Odyssey."
Many great thinkers of the past (Homer, Carlyle, Dr. Seuss) have one way or another said what Csikszentmihalyi says; few have focused on happiness as happiness so successfully, and in so few pages. Find your flow!
The book touches upon a variety of interesting and important topics. Of all the topics discussed in the book, the one I that I like best is the chapter on Risks and Rewards of Leisure. As Mihaly points out, we are some how supposed to possess skills required for the effective use of leisure. As the ESM based research indicates, people feel good when they do things they want to do or do things that they have to do. People feel at their worst when they do certain things because there is nothing else to do - mostly in their leisure. It turns out that we are not really all that skilled in using leisure effectively. Mihaly then goes on to show how the people who have been successful in leading a meaningful life use their leisure.
What sets this book apart from the league of self help books is the presentation of scientifically collected data in conjunction with the insights of a brilliant psychologist.
The book provides a great value for what it costs in dollars.