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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2008
Besides having more vowels in his name than any other researcher in the field of positive psychology, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi is probably best known for his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. So what exactlty is flow and what does it have to do with finding happiness?

There are short and long ways to define the concept of flow. The short way is to tell you that flow is roughly the equivalent to what most people refer to as being "in the zone" or "in the groove". More elaborate definitions might be that it is "the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people do it even at great cost, for the sheer state of doing it."

Being such a desirable state, flow is naturally linked to happiness. The book feels that the path to happiness is a circuitous one that begins with one achieving control over the "contents of our consciousness". I'm taking that to mean that if I learn to find flow experiences, it will lead to greater happiness.

Know from the get-go that "Flow" is NOT a step-by-step book that gives you tips on how to be happy. Instead, the book summarizes years of research, so what you get when all is said and done, are general principles along with examples of how people have used them to transform their lives. The hope, then, is that you will have enough information in the book to make the transition from principles and theory, to actual practice.

In a nutshell, Flow is a unique and interesting book that examines the process of achieving happiness through the control of one's inner life. I didn't find it as easy to read as some books written by academic individuals, such as David Myer's The Pursuit of Happiness: Discovering the Pathway to Fulfillment, Well-Being, and Enduring Personal Joy, but it's definitely a "digestable" read for the general audience.

I'll tell you, though, after reading a lot of positive psychology books, you start to see some common threads. In "Flow", one of the conditions that makes flow occur is that you have a clear goal. And in the book Finding Happiness in a Frustrating World, it reveals that one proven way to increase long-term happiness (according to controlled trials cited in the book) is to set intrinsic/self-concordant goals. With much happiness research coming to similar conclusions, perhaps an important take-home message is this: the kinds of things we choose to spend our time on can have a HUGE impact on how happy we are. Happy trails!
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106 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2004
This book points out something which should be obvious - that in order tohave a happy, fulfilling life you must live your life to have as many"flow" experiences as possible. That is, you must do things that havegoals that you are fully committed to achieving, and that you are highlymotivated to achieve. The human brain has evolved to solve challenges suchas hunting, finding new territory and surviving in inhospitable climates.Having motivating challenges results in a happy and fulfilling life, whilea lack of such factors can lead to depression, fatigue and ill health.
A number of years ago after suffering from suicidal depression, anxietyand chronic illness (CFS/ME), I eventually came to a point where I wasforced to change my lifestyle. Partly by sheer luck, and partly thoughobserving how my lifestyle affected my mental and physical health, Ieventually came to the realisation that having positive goals andmotivation were crucial to maintaining my health, and that a lack of thesefactors lead back down the path of physical and mental deterioration.
In the past few years I have lived my entire life as one long "flow"experience - everything I do is now part of an overall plan for my life,and every day I am working towards short- and long-term goals that I amhighly motivated in. Over the last few years I have completely recoveredfrom CFS/ME and have not suffered from depression, and this is purely downto my change in lifestyle and mental attitude - what Csikszentmihalyidescribes as "flow".
After coming across Csikszentmihalyi's work a few weeks ago, I realisedthat his "flow" concept is exactly the same as the mental attitude andlifestyle factors that have helped me go from chronic ill health anddepression to perfect physical and mental health and living a happy andfulfilling life. If I had read this book 5 years ago, it would have savedme a lot of trouble!
The only minor criticism of the book is it doesn't have any index, butthis doesn't detract much from a very important book that deserves a lotmore recognition.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2008
Besides having more vowels in his name than any other researcher in the field of positive psychology, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi is probably best known for his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. So what exactlty is flow and what does it have to do with finding happiness?

There are short and long ways to define the concept of flow. The short way is to tell you that flow is roughly the equivalent to what most people refer to as being "in the zone" or "in the groove". More elaborate definitions might be that it is "the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people do it even at great cost, for the sheer state of doing it."

Being such a desirable state, flow is naturally linked to happiness. The book feels that the path to happiness is a circuitous one that begins with one achieving control over the "contents of our consciousness". I'm taking that to mean that if I learn to find flow experiences, it will lead to greater happiness.

Know from the get-go that "Flow" is NOT a step-by-step book that gives you tips on how to be happy. Instead, the book summarizes years of research, so what you get when all is said and done, are general principles along with examples of how people have used them to transform their lives. The hope, then, is that you will have enough information in the book to make the transition from principles and theory, to actual practice.

In a nutshell, Flow is a unique and interesting book that examines the process of achieving happiness through the control of one's inner life. I didn't find it as easy to read as some books written by academic individuals, such as David Myer's The Pursuit of Happiness: Discovering the Pathway to Fulfillment, Well-Being, and Enduring Personal Joy, but it's definitely a "digestable" read for the general audience.

I'll tell you, though, after reading a lot of positive psychology books, you start to see some common threads. In "Flow", one of the conditions that makes flow occur is that you have a clear goal. And in the book Finding Happiness in a Frustrating World, it reveals that one proven way to increase long-term happiness (according to controlled trials cited in the book) is to set intrinsic/self-concordant goals. With much happiness research coming to similar conclusions, perhaps an important take-home message is this: the kinds of things we choose to spend our time on can have a HUGE impact on how happy we are. Happy trails!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2010
I don't usually give more than four stars to a book - five stars seems to indicate a non-discriminatory fanboy mentality to me - but this book gets five. If I look behind me i can see about six feet of bookshelf filled up with psychology, philosophy, popular science and self-help books that I've bought over the last five years. Flow is the only book of the whole lot that has made an actual practical difference to my life. It's not a 'get happy in 24 hours' instant solution to what ever is bothering you (assuming that you are bothered by something missing in your life). Instead, it takes a good hard look at what exactly happiness is. The key to its success is really simple: it's a lot easier to find something if you know what it is you are looking for. Once you really understand what happiness is - and Flow's definition rings true to the bone for me - then you can go out and find it.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2006
I read Flow partically as a self-improvement book, and partially because several people involved in game design (particularly "Theory of Fun") recommended it.

It's really interesting. Solidly researched stuff by a proper psychologist looking into what makes people happier. And it's the same thing as makes a big difference to me at the end of a day by myself - if I've set myself clear goals of what to do, and I know whether or not I've met them, I feel a lot happier with myself than if I just potter around, even if I accomplish exactly the same thing.

Csikszentmihalyi (Chick-sent-mi-hal-yi)'s theory is that what makes people happy isn't simple pleasure, but the "flow" state they attain if:

<ul>

<li> You're doing something they might succeed at

<li> You can concentrate on it

<li> You've got clear goals

<li> You know immediately whether you've won or lost

</ul>

This state might not be immensely pleasurable at the time, but it makes you forget all your worries, and gives you a great sense of control.

And somehow, this managed to cover a 300-page paperback book saying this, and yet very little of it was wasted. It goes into great detail about how many different activities might produce this feeling (not least games, which are designed specifically to produce it). A real insight - and it explains why most of us want jobs which challenge and stretch us.

He only really goes off the boil at the end, when he suggests that in order to give life meaning (as a materialist, he does not believe it has one already) you choose something which gives you meaningful goals with clear feedback for your entire life. But preferably without choosing the goal of racial purity (or something similarly destructive). The worrying point is that it's just as possible to achieve flow doing something harmful as it is doing something good. He tries to follow Viktor Frankl ("There is no single meaning of life. The meaning of life is found moment by moment") but ends up with "There's only one way of life, and that's your own".
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56 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2010
Be warned - this book is very heavy going. It is clearly well researched, but you have to read it slowly. More like an academic thesis than light reading.

In fact, as I think a previous reviewer has said, it isn't your typical self help book. In fact, if you are looking for a book which will give you practical tips on how to improve your life, or your outlook on life, I doubt that this is the book for you.

The book really has only one central message - participation in "flow" activities tends to make you happy. These are activities that are goal orientated and challenging enough to absorb all your attention such that, when engaged in them, you cease to notice the passage of time. For me, it is playing the violin. For others it may, for example, be art or a challenging sport. They tend to be active rather than passive activities - i.e. producing a painting as opposed to visiting a gallery, making music as opposed to listening to it.

So I guess you can read the book and take away this one nugget of information, or you could take my word for it and spend the time you would have spent reading the book engaging in your favourite "flow" activity instead!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2014
Too many conjectures and too much of poetic license for my taste. Tabloid feel to it . Or internet blog.

Very "liberal" and lose use of statistics throughout the book. Like: "The three to fourfold increase in social pathology over the last generation holds true in an astonishing number of areas". Followed supporting numbers and inferences are neither convincing nor supporting, especially when "astonishing" is used.
One can argue that I need to examine referenced sources. But the author stated: "In order to make the book as direct and user-friendly as possible, I have avoided footnotes, references, and other tools scholars usually employ in their technical writing. I have tried to present the results of psychological research, and the ideas derived from the interpretation of such research, in a way that any educated reader can evaluate and apply to his or her own life..." - I am not convinced that author's personal interpretations of research are what the actual findings/deriving ideas are. However, I might not be the type of reader this book is intended for. Don't know.

I was also put off by logical fallacies and views unfit for society that strives for equality. Examples (very early in the book):
"...And in our sexual lives, by shedding the shackles of "hypocritical" morality, we have unleashed destructive viruses upon one another.." - morality and hygiene/safe sex are not the same thing and deadly viruses were devastating humanity long before we shed "the shackles of "hypocritical" morality".
Note the double quotation marks around "hypocritical" in "..."hypocritical" morality...". The type of bygone morality the author is alluding to was and is indeed hypocritical and quite damaging as it's built on lies, denial, domestic violence and control of some people over others.

My other issues with this book are the use of language and "free style" conclusions: like term "unwed mothers" or suggestion that people outside of [religious] faith usually (!) in danger of drug abuse and other ills. I broke into laugh at that point. The list goes on. My interest in this book was decimated by all that.

However, other readers might transcend what bothered me in this book and find some wisdom, which I struggled to see.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I read 'Flow' in 1993 and it had a great impact on the way I approached life. But this is not a self-help book nor is it a quick fix to Happiness. Nor is it an easy read. It is a scientific investigation by a well-known, respected psychologist.

What this book reveals is a fascinating two decades worth of dedicated investigation into what in human experience seems to bring happiness - i.e. a state of deep concentration and absorption, creativity and total involvement in life which takes us out of ourselves. The author provides some fascinating examples of moments of flow.

These moments of flow are when one feels joy, feels totally in control, transcending the mundane. This can happen at any moment e.g. listening to music, doing something one loves, seeing something beautiful in nature or communing with a person you love and many many more situations where you are totally in the present moment - a total state of flow. All of us have at one time or another experienced moments of flow in our lives but can we sustain it? The question is, how can we stay in that state more often?

We can train ourselves to be in the state of flow more regularly by training the mind/consciousness. All you need is the mind and a willingness to learn to concentrate.

Read the book and you will understand a little more about what makes people happy. Then experiment ...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2015
This book is absolutely amazing I would highly recommend it as it covers so many if not nearly all aspects of the happiness flow. I really like the way it examines existential studies and how it observes flow is incorporated within it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2008
The self-help genre rightly attracts a lot of criticism; there are a lot of charlatans out there. 'Flow', however is a book which clearly stands out. Csikszentmihalyi speaks with tremendous authority, and his education clearly extends well beyond psychology. But most importantly the book isn't about providing false hope by offering miraculous quick fixes which don't work. The book is just about educating the reader, so they they may make their own informed decisions about how to improve their lives.

The author speaks to you with a very sympathetic tone. He presents a secular, liberal acccount, but what may come as a surprise is that there is quite a lot of moralising in the book. He seems to mention on what seems like every page how much of a waste of time it is to watch television. What he arrives at is hence an unapalogetic, scientifically proven 'elitism'. Studies show that people who spend their time contructively really do find more enjoyment in their lives than people who just drink and watch soap operas.

If you disagree with this sentiment, you would be advised to stay away from this book. Otherwise, this is a must read. The main theme of the book is the paradox of the increasing difficulty finding enjoyment and meaning in an increasingly wealthy and liberated society. As we go further and further in this direction, it's a book which will only get more and more relevant.
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