FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Author: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Conference/Journal: Book. Harper and Row.
Date published: 1990
Other: Word Count: 258

Each year hundreds of books are published with advice on how to
stay trim, how to grow rich, or how to develop self-confidence.
While these self-help books may help a reader in the short term,
they are likely to be unsatisfying, for they do little to enhance the
quality of the experience. But what really does make people glad
to be alive. What are the inner experiences that make life
The author has been studying for over 20 years the states of
optimal experience--those times when people report feelings of
concentration and deep enjoyment. These investigations have
revealed that what makes experience genuinely satisfying is a
state of consciousness called flow--a state of concentration so
focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity.
Everyone experiences flow from time to time and will recognize its
characteristics: people typically feel strong, alert, in effortless
control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities. Both a
sense of time and emotional problems seem to disappear, and
there is an exhilarating feeling of transcendence. Flow: The
Psychology of Optimal Experience describes how this pleasurable
state can be controlled, and not just left to chance, by setting
ourselves challenges--tasks that are neither too difficult nor too
simple for our abilities. With such goals, we learn to order the
information that enters consciousness and thereby improve the
quality of our lives.

Happiness does not depend on outside events, but rather on how
we interpret them