Amanda Linehan's Reviews > Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
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's review
Jan 24, 2011

it was ok
Read from January 24 to 31, 2011

I really really wanted to like this book and get something out of it, but I just didn't respond to it as much as I hoped. It was given to me as part of a new book club we have going at work, and others have seemed to really enjoy what it had to say. The basic premise is that humans should seek to have "flow" in all they do -- flow being a state of optimal experience, when your mind or body is pushed to its limit and you feel most alive. Examples for me would be riding the Pan Mass Challenge (after, not during the ride!), getting into a focused state of writing, doing yoga, and improvising jazz music on my saxophone. According to the author, the key to achieving flow is to develop what he calls the "autotelic personality," which is a person who can find meaning and depth in any experience, from the most mundane job to the dullest chores.

I did like what the book had to say about encouraging parents to raise autotelic children by fostering unselfconscious individuality, and by encouraging happy children by teaching them to focus on others and not on their own deficiencies.

But I felt a little discouraged by what the book said about consciousness. Basically, it argues that people with attention disorders will never be able to achieve flow (and therefore happiness) because they are not in control of their mind. So...people with ADD are basically screwed? I don't know what the takeaway is supposed to be there! Also, I tend to disagree that the key to happiness is to maintain ultimate control over your mind. I do agree that happiness is a choice, not something that results from outside factors, but I couldn't make the big leap this booked asked me to make.

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