49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Solid, fascinating, work, 4 Jun. 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:
<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
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".