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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  27,858 Ratings  ·  1,264 Reviews
The world's foremost producer of personal development and motivational audio programs gives you the tools to unleash the secret of peak performance.

Remember the last time that you were so focused, so motivated that you felt at the absolute top of your form -- alert, energized and free of self-consciousness? Chances are you were experiencing flow -- an almost euphoric state
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 1st 1990 by Harper Perennial
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(showing 1-30)
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Andy Mitchell
My notes, including liberal use of direct quotes:

8 elements of enjoyment:

1. confront challenging but completable tasks
2. concentration
3. clear goals
4. immediate feedback
5. deep, effortless involvement (lack of awareness of worries and frustrations)
6. sense of control over actions
7. concern for self disappears (paradoxically awareness of self is heightened immediately after flow)
8. sense of duration of time is altered

5 elements of happy teenagers' growing up:

1. clarity
2. centering: pare
Apr 16, 2010 Meg rated it it was amazing
This is quite possibly the most important book I have ever read. Consider it the official "Handbook on Happiness." Part science and part philosophy, it essentially defines happiness itself, then proceeds to explain in detail how we can attain it every waking moment of our lives (hypothetically at least). Although far from a "light read," I found the intense mental concentration the book demanded to be almost physically pleasurable (yes, I am in fact the very definition of a nerd). When I closed ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

How must you live your life?

Live it in happiness. But how to be happy? When I was a small boy I would often be missing my father for two straight days only to find out that he had been playing mahjong with friends nonstop for 48 or so hours, not getting tired, or sleepy or even hungry (despite the lack of proper meals). The game is played by a group of four, and when my mother would send me to check my father out from wherever part of the neighbourhood they’ve set up their mahjong table to play,
Aug 21, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created the notion of "flow" to describe the experience which we have all had -- but all too rarely for most of us -- of becoming so immersed in and challenged by an experience that we lose track of time, our own self-concsciousness and feel most fully engaged in life. Interestingly, he found, this has little to do with people's most enjoyable leisure activities. Folks love to watch TV and movies, eat dinner with friends and so forth, but rarely does that achieve a state ...more
Nov 20, 2011 Jeff marked it as books-i-didn-t-finish
Given the attention this book has received I had some pretty lofty expectations. Sadly, those expectations weren't met. Part of the problem is that "Flow" is widely cited by the current crop of pop-pscyhology books. For that reason I felt like I got the idea of "flow" long before I even cracked C's book. My "heard it all before" feeling wasn't helped by the redundancy that C builds into his text. Authors and editors take note, one really good example or analogy is usually enough to illustrate a ...more
Jun 10, 2009 Tomio rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poppsych
Flow was a interesting look into the titular state, that of being "in the zone" or the slightly more dated "on fire". Flow is the mental and physical state of being where one is completely absorbed in the task at hand, and so well matched to the task, that everything else disappears from awareness. Csikszentmihaly makes a distinction here between "fun" and "enjoyment", claiming that something does not have to be fun to be enjoyable, and the latter is ultimately preferable to the former. While a ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Zelda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Csikszentmihalyi's seminal work in the field of positive psychology reveals a man with a ridiculously hard to spell last name. I can't be the first person to posit this as the reason why he became so interested in how people overcome mental chaos (psychic entropy as it is called in the book) to achieve harmony and, I almost typed satisfaction but that would be missing the point. Csikszentmihalyi (hereafter referred to as Mr. C) actually prescribes against a state of perpetual satisfaction ...more
Nathan Maharaj
Jul 17, 2014 Nathan Maharaj rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
You know that uncle you have, who doesn't have any kids and loves to talk your ear off every Thanksgiving, and he's a really nice guy, and he seems to know a lot of stuff, but when you look up the stuff he quotes he seems to always have it a bit off, and he never seems to have a book with him so maybe he did all his reading when he was young, but there's no point calling bullshit on him, and you get a sense he's not really listening anyway -- well, this book is written by that guy.

This could ha
Jul 28, 2008 Herbie added it
I read this for a class called "Human Pursuit of Euphoria" during the winter of 2003 at Exeter. That was my senior year, and I was primarily concerned with finding other outlets for my desire to do drugs. Now I am re-reading it. It helps me think about the nitty gritty of everyday self-motivation. I really like this book, even though it seems like a cheesy self-help book. The footnotes in the back and the constant references to psychology research disarm my usual skepticism. At the same time ...more
Jul 01, 2007 Alex rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This book has a sometimes annoying pedantic tone, but is basically an interesting repackaging of Buddhist ideas with a view to providing concrete recommendations for how to enjoy your life more. I don't think the author specifically aligns himself with Buddhism, but the parallels are clear to me.
Apr 15, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Very interesting book. I admit I was skeptical earlier with some pseudo-scientific terminology, but I become more convinced the more I read. Discusses the nature of happiness, by becoming totally focused in an action/thought, and a less of self-consciousness. Very interesting indeed.
This book explains that true happiness is obtained by achieving an optimal state of mind called "Flow".

This state of mind can be best described as one where the participant's consciousness is so involved in its activity that self-consciousness disappears, in a way similar to meditation.

This state is most commonly achieved in situations where a goal that participant(s) feel skilled to achieve is set clearly, and for which constant feedback on how close participants are getting. Such Flow experien
Apr 25, 2008 Layla rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-improvement
This book is filled with insight. The author explains the personality type possessed by those who experience flow often, the "autotelic" personality. He says that these individuals interpret their negative circumstances in a positive way, continually challenge and enrich themselves, and take ownership of their choices making them more dedicated to their goals. He discusses how to experience flow - that one must become immersed in the activity and perform it for its own sake, in a manner that is ...more
Feb 07, 2010 Will rated it did not like it
It took months to finish this book because there's only so much of Mihaly's BS that I can take at a time. The last chapter is a real piece of work, containing (a) an apology for Adolf Eichmann and (b) a call to eugenics as a foundation for a new religion: "The reality of complexification [sic:] is both an *is* and an *ought*: it has happened...but it might not continue unless we wish it to go on. The future of evolution is now in our hands." Is Csikszentmihalyi an insidious repressed Nazi or ...more
Karan Bajaj
Feb 01, 2016 Karan Bajaj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has a lot of parallels with Eastern mysticism which I've studied for some years. I love the fundamental thesis: your only true moments of transcendental happiness in life are when the "I"--the mind-intellect-ego complex--is completely dissolved. You're so absorbed in an activity that you forget yourself. This is consistent with Eastern thought where the complete dissolution of the self is the goal of human endeavor. I was very impressed with how well researched and how clearly ...more
Aug 01, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while I read a book that I think some people I know might like or should read, and other times I read a book that I think everyone should read. This is one of those books. It can profoundly change or fortify the way you look at life and happiness…in a good way! I am SO impressed. I wasn’t two chapters in when I was buying a copy for my wife, starting a weekly video-chat with my brother as we read through it together, and telling other friends about it. It did not disappoint. I ...more
Apr 20, 2011 Grant rated it did not like it
I love the idea of Flow - I was introduced to it as a college student performing in a large auditioned choir, and while I feel that the idea of flow is very real, I am completely put off by the way in which the author chose to discuss it.

He spends way too much time belittling other groups opinions of how to achieve happiness. If Dr. Csikszentmihalyi's method is so scientifically superior, then he should have the confidence to let his methods and viewpoints stand on their own merit. The whole of
Feb 28, 2011 King rated it it was ok
Flow is the state where all mental energies are concentrated on an event which results in the person attaining "optimal experience," which is basically happiness. C(I refuse to spell this authors insane surname), states that to be happy we need to lessen our mental chaos by providing/creating a structure for our mental energies to play in. He identifies certain conditions required to achieve flow:

1. The person must be engaged in an activity that requires skill.
2. There is a convergence of Acti
Aug 13, 2016 Amir rated it it was amazing
Wow, an essential book for anyone who seeks a stress-free, productive, meaningful life and eager to achieve extreme levels of mastery.

This book introduces a vitally important concept: "Flow" in which one finds her/himself happy, away from all anxieties and worries, full of enjoyment which if recruited systematically leads to development of self.

This holy state of flow can be achieved in any situation and I think this is the very essence of the book since it has the potential to turn any situat
Sergey Khomyuk
Jan 02, 2016 Sergey Khomyuk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-development
Поток. Психология оптимального переживания (Михай Чиксентмихайи)
Тема: саморазвитие (психология)
Оценка: 5+

Попробуйте пару-тройку минут ничего не делать и абсолютно ни о чем не думать. Непростая задача, да? Наш мозг просто на дух не переносит пустоту и всячески пытается заполнить его какими-то хаотическими мыслями в попытке зацепиться хоть за что-нибудь. Примерно такая же ситуация возникает, когда мы беремся за сильно простую или слишком сложную для нас задачу. Нам становится сложно контролировать
Jay Kamaladasa
Aug 18, 2013 Jay Kamaladasa rated it it was amazing
Five stars because it broadened my perspective on life.

This is not a full review of the book, but a glimpse of what the author has to say. What the book describes is far more important to be buried down a criticism of literature.

1.) We overcompensate our efforts in work, and under-compensate our efforts in our leisure lives.
2.) If you fine tune your life's challenges so that they are sufficient to keep you from being bored, and not limited to ensure minimal stress and anxiety, you are ready t
Jul 31, 2007 D rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: just about anyone
this book makes a lot of sense. it's about happiness, consciousness, work, relationships, and purpose--and basically, the thesis is that people are happiest when they have clear goals and well-defined perimeters to work within to achieve those goals.

sounds a little dry, but I found it both interesting and relevant. as someone who is still working out what my "ideal" career or life model looks like, I enjoyed seeing my typical questions examined by a research psychologist, and applied to a large
Armine Mamikonian
May 22, 2013 Armine Mamikonian rated it really liked it
Поток М. Чиксентмихаи решила прочитать по рекомендации Рубена Варданаяна (Список рекомендаций Р. Варданяна можер найти здесь). Для меня книга была интересна тем, что автор структурировал очень правильные и важные мысли, c которыми тяжело не согласится. В то же время в книге я не нашла ответов на вопросы, которые больше всего меня интересовали Как прийти к состоянию потока? «Как контролировать сознание? Как упорядочивать его, чтобы получить радость? Как наполнить жизнь смыслом?»… Еще один ...more
S Kasm
Mar 24, 2007 S Kasm rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Inspiration
Flow is that "zone" that we all strive to achieve in any exercise that we undertake. In a state of "Flow," your creativity is un-inhibited and you are completely enraptured in the "here and now" -- with notions of time and space completely being altered in your consciousness. For example, if you're an artist, classical musician, a novelist, a worl-class surgeon, or even a sports-enthusiast of any kind -- then you'll appreciate Flow and will relate to the theories advanced in this incredibly ...more
Iiro Korhonen
Aug 28, 2016 Iiro Korhonen rated it liked it
Hyvä kirja! Sisältää kattavaa ja melko perusteellista tarkastelua Csikszenmihalyin tutkimasta flow-ilmiöstä, eli tietoisuuden tilasta, jossa voidaan saavuttaa nk. "optimaalinen kokemus". Kirjan ehdottomana plussana koin asiantuntevan, tieteellisen otteen, joka heijasti mielestäni hyvin Csikszentmihalyin laajaa asiantuntemusta ilmiöön. Itselläni kirja herätti paljon ajatuksia mm. siitä miten flow:ta voidaan soveltaa yhteiskunnassa tai organisaatioissa työnteon ja elämän mielekkyyden kokemusten ...more
Aug 13, 2013 Cristina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Fantastic book. I liked that he gives many examples of types of experiences that can constitute flow, as well as what is necessary for it: a match between complexity and skill. I would argue that even experiences that do not add complexity to the self can be flow experiences. Being fully present with one's surroundings, for example, can constitute a flow experience, although no special skills are being used and there isn't a great deal of complexity being explored (or is there?). Perhaps most ...more
Mahmoud Shehata
Sep 18, 2013 Mahmoud Shehata rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rate this book five stars and a half. Actually it makes me want to go back and unrate every other book I gave 5 stars to. Throughout the book I felt Dr. Mihaly was talking about me. It explained a lot to me why I do certain things in certain ways and why I think this way.
Dr Mihaly is very deep and very analytical keeping in mind every single detail and what might be going through the readers' mind as well. The book is well written, yet better than all the thoughts and concepts in the book left
Oct 10, 2012 Sergey rated it really liked it
Довольно подробное (читай чрезмерно :)) описание принципа достижения состояния счастья.

1. В результате прочтения, появились новые вполне конкретные цели, которые предстоит достичь;
2. Общие ожидания от жизни стали четче;
2. Сегодня утром, по пути на любимую работу, вдыхая свежий воздух и наблюдая родной город, только что обнявшись с женой и детьми, слушая приятный забой, прочитав пару комментариев на свои фото - почувствовал себя абсолютно счастливым :)

Так что - рекомендую.
Matthew Hartman
Jun 26, 2009 Matthew Hartman rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
what can i say? i didn't get very far before putting this down and never picking it up again. a book my mom bought for me when i was feeling down. stuck me as an overly complicated way of saying you should do what you want in life. duh.
Jordan Kinsey
Jan 14, 2015 Jordan Kinsey rated it it was amazing
Yep. One of the top five books I've ever read, up there with Steinbeck's East of Eden and M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled. It's one of those books that will have a palpable day-to-day impact on my life.

Here are some notable quotes:

"Yet we cannot reach happiness by consciously searching for it. 'Ask yourself if you are happy,' said J.S. Mill, 'and you cease to be so.' It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness, not by trying t
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A Hungarian psychology professor, who emigrated to the United States at the age of 22. Now at Claremont Graduate University, he is the former head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago and of the department of sociology and anthropology at Lake Forest College.

He is noted for both his work in the study of happiness and creativity and also for his notoriously difficult name, i
More about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi...

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“Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.” 100 likes
“To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances.” 79 likes
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