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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Paperback – July 1, 2008
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Elegantly written...it is more relevant than ever" * The Times * "Mr Csikszentmihalyi illuminates the accuracy of what philosophers have been saying for centuries: that the way to happiness lies not in mindless hedonism but in mindful challenge" * The New York Times * --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The basic gist of the book is that when we are in our 'flow' states, we're happy. In the flow state, you know what needs to be done, your mind is completely committed to the task at hand without normal worldly concerns or stress, and the work itself is enjoyable.
The premise and the basic message make sense, and I have no issue with the main argument the author makes. Unfortunately the rest of the book is just filled with random anecdotes of people the author thinks may be in flow. I say 'thinks' because his definition of flow is broad enough, with no true acceptance criteria for really quantifying or describing flow, that just about anyone and everyone is in a flow state.
My largest gripe is that the book is *heavy* on generalities and little on specifics. He'll describe how the Navajo achieve flow state while hunting and fishing over the centuries... really? how do you know that?
The entire amount of useful content of the book could have been very concisely summarized in a 10 page essay.
The little I've taken away from the book, is that quality of life is key to happiness and it is important to savor experiences.
Perhaps a fifth of the book was citations and annotations. Worth a read for anyone interesting in the topic but be prepared to slog through a lot of superfluous content.
After reading this book, I hardly got more than the above points. I was looking for a "how to" book about creating the flow experience. However, this book is really a life philosophy book, which uses "flow" as a paradigm to describe various aspects of life. The general point is very good: we need to create order in mind. And the way is to have a goal and an "autotelic mindset", manly, focus on the effort, not on external reward or punishment. Such mindset can be applied to physical, mental and social activities.
Overall, the book does provide valuable insights. But it is quite verbose and repeating. If you just read the subtitles, you will get about 60% of what is talked about.
Many books claiming to help us understand ourselves better and find ways of improving our lives have limited usefulness because they are written from a single perspective - but people learn and experience in many, many different ways, so what works for the author is likely to work for only a small percentage of readers. Csikszentmihalyi avoids this problem brilliantly and simply, because he presents the concept of flow from many different perspectives - physical and mental, solitary and in groups, and so on. Thus, there is something here for everyone - different learning styles, different behavioral preferences, different life experiences.
It's a wonderful book that has already affected my life and my coaching work. I'm sure I will reread it often - and find new treasures every time!