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on 11 February 2000
Many of us have at least sometimes had that exhilarating experience; the distinct feeling of control, satisfaction and harmony that come when we are totally concentrating and toatally committed to whatever purpose-driven activity we are doing. That's what Mihalyi Csikszenmihalyi calls the FLOW-experience and that is what this book is all about. If you have ever had an experience that even remotely fits this description, or if you've just pondered upon the meaning of life in general, read this book. C. talks about how the quality of our lives can be increased if we are able to experience 'flow' in as many situations in life as possible. It can be anything from rock-climbing or making a speech to listening to music or just sitting and watching a nice view. Even stressful and unfomfortable experiences can be transformed into flow-experiences, which the writer shows with the many examples from real life that follow throughout the book. The flow-experience very often has little to do with objective circumstances such as time and place. This is not at all one of those typical self-help books that come with straight-forward answers to complex problems, but more like a sientific study presented in an concentrated, "easy-to-read" way. What gives the book incresing credibility is also the many years of study, interviews and research that C. has put in to find out more about this subject. Althoguh I didn't agree with everything C. suggests (his view I thought was sometimes even overly optimistic and positive) and thought that he over-simplified matters too much at times, this book definately gave me new insights and changed the way at look some things in life. I agree with C. that we are able to get much more out of our lives if we learn how to control our conciuosness better. A book that most readers who are intrested in this subject will find a valuable read, even ifthey don't agree with all of C;s views. I strongly recommend! Even for younger readers like myself (20).
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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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on 14 November 2014
The writer really knows his stuff and I thank him for sharing it, however if you are reading it academically or are trying to learn it quickly, it's a very slow book and you can actually get away with reading the final paragraph of each chapter.

This is because of his writing style, he likes to tease the information while giving history and context, at the end of each chapter he then reinforces what you were reading by summarising and making his point.

If you can read this book pleasurably and without stress then buy it, it's very good, if you wish to have knowledge and nothing else from this book then read the Wikipedia article on Flow (psychology), it is also very good.
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on 13 June 2013
The Psychology of Optimal Human Experience This book is awesome. It looks at how people can get themselves into `the zone,' the flow state. It is the culmination of years of research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Yes that is the author's name). It is not easy going but very rewarding.
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on 9 July 2010
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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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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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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on 27 May 2015
A must read
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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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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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