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Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (Masterminds Series) Paperback – April 6, 1998
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Csikszentmihalyi goes over the nature of what we experience and classifies them according to the level of challenge vs. the skill we can bear upon them. He then discusses how we feel when doing these different types of activities. The two core chapters cover work and leisure. Csikszentmihalyi shows how engagement with ones job and pursuing active hobbies provide more personal satisfaction than passive entertainment and mere lounging. It is this notion that will clash with many people's belief in what makes them happy; happiness being something that Csikszentmihalyi considers a fleeting emotion and different from true contentment. As has been noted by the philosopher A.C. Grayling, if we are after happiness alone, then we can just self-medicate.
Other chapters examine how relationships are better if you engage in them, rather than merely meet material obligations to loved ones, and what kinds of personalities are better suited to achieving flow. There is a chapter, as well as some discussion throughout, on how to increase flow in your own life. This gives the book an additional self-help angle (which is what the back cover is trying to market it as.) The final chapter begins with some light philosophizing and quickly degenerates into an off-topic discussion of religion, lacking a thesis and coming across as the ramblings of a stoned first-year college student. This is unfortunate in that it mars an otherwise very strong treatment of what constitutes a good life.
I like the book because it really takes the study of human happiness seriously, and it has some very interesting things to say about what makes people happy.
I agree with the author that flow states are very satisfying, and I found his understanding of the requirements for achieving flow (especially the diagram on p. 31) to be helpful and interesting. But this is probably because I already have an extremely good method for experiencing flow. Those who do not will probably find his discussion a bit difficult to follow, perhaps even frustrating.
The best way that I've found to experience the state of flow is to pay attention to your breath, breathe fully, rhyhtmically and deeply, and harmonize the rhythm of your breath with the rhythm of your activity. For example, when walking, take 8 steps as you breathe in, 8 steps as you breathe out. For more on how to actually achieve flow, see "Living from the Heart", by Puran Bair (my father).
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