Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
$15.29 $16.99 Save 10% Current price is $15.29, Original price is $16.99. You Save 10%.


Legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's famous investigations of "optimal experience" have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During



Legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's famous investigations of "optimal experience" have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. In this new edition of his groundbreaking classic work, Csikszentmihalyi ("the leading researcher into ‘flow states’" —Newsweek) demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness, unlock our potential, and greatly improve the quality of our lives.

"Explores a happy state of mind called flow, the feeling of complete engagement in a creative or playful activity." Time

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061339202
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/01/2008
Series: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 21,498
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a professor at Claremont Graduate University and former chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. His previous books include The Evolving Self and the national bestseller Flow.

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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
shoyu More than 1 year ago
This is the first "Flow" book and the least expensive. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow through examples instead of direct instruction for most of the book. The book is slow for the first half, but picks up after that. There is a bit of repetition, but that is common in nonfiction. The idea of flow is to open yourself enough to experience an event to its fullest potential, such as when running a marathon or reading a book. You probably don't need to read the whole book to understand the concept, but the rest can serve as reinforcement. One thing I like about this book is it pulls highlights from other books such as "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read Flow once and I've listened to the CD countless times. The author is right on the mark and better than that he backs his information up with research. It's also fun to read and listen because he presents so many stories instead of simply facts. The book has made a real difference in the way I go about accomplishing my goals. I take many more and much smaller steps than I used to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you want to learn about Flow, what it is and its benefits, this is a great place to start. A true scholar, this author gives a great presentation and it is very well written. Highly recommended. Also, to gain a better sense of states like flow, see 'Effortless Wellbeing' because it is more of a how-to book and really helps to experience a flowing state.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading this book has created so much creativity for my clinics. I work extensively with women going through transition who are in search of more'flow' in their lives. This book is filled with so much meaning and substance and can only add more value to the life of the reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cziskszentmihalyi introduces an experiential concept that he calls ¿Flow¿. He suggests that this experiential state is intricately related to our happiness and explores the central factors that are associated with the phenomena. By comparing various examples of moments of ¿Flow¿ and others not of ¿Flow¿, the author provides an in depth investigation into this subjective state of mind. Some of the author¿s scientific research on this topic is also discussed. It is clear that the author is onto something very interesting and important just from the fact that this concept has crept into many books on Psychology in the past few years. The writing is not too technical and is understandable for people who are not experts in the field. Highly recommended! If you are interested in a fascinating book that takes this even one step further and places these experiences in a larger context, I suggest ¿The Ever-Transcending Spirit¿ by Toru Sato. It is an incredible book that explains the connection between consciousness, relationships, life, spirituality, human development and evolution in such a simple way that it will astound you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an excellent demonstration of hot to write the results of psychological research in comprehendible language. As a professor of psychology, I plan to require this book as reading for my students in sport psychology. If you are someone interested in the psychology of optimal experience in sport or other domains of experience, and how to experience it yourself, you must read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You don't see many profound, significant books that are, at the same time, practical. This book is one of the few. The first three chapters take an unflinching look at our human condition and ask the question, 'Given that, how can you enjoy life?' The rest of the book is an answer to that question. And Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-ZENT-me-high) is not being philosophical. He answers the question scientifically. He's done an unusual kind of research for about 35 years, strapping pagers on thousands of people. The pagers go off randomly during the day and the volunteers stop what they're doing and fill out a questionnaire measuring their mood, their level of involvement in what they're doing, etc. He's gotten more than 100,000 of these snapshots of people's lives and discovered a state of mind he calls FLOW. And he tells you what conditions are the most conducive to creating a state of flow. The flow state is not only enjoyable, but a person in flow is at her best. Her mind is concentrated, she's using her capabilities close to the maximum, and she's INCREASING her capabilities the most (people learn fastest and improve the best in a state of flow). It's a fascinating book. I'm the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I'm an expert on what kind of information really makes a difference. This book is in my top five list.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book to me, and before reading it I was not sure if I would understand the psychological writtings of what 'flow' is. I was incorrect in my assuption. Mihaly's writting is very understandable and insightful. I was amazed at the extensive data collection from hundreds of thousands of different people where they similarly described what 'flow' experiences meant to them. Where their everyday lives became more satisfying. If you enjoyed this book another book you might like is called 'WORKING ON YOURSELF DOESN'T WORK' by Ariel and Shya Kane. Eventhough I wasn't not sure what 'flow' meant before reading Mihaly's book, after reading it I can honestly say I have many 'flow' experiences in my life and that is a direct result of reading the Kanes' book, listening to their audio tapes (check out the PRINCIPLES OF TRANSFORMATION-it's great) and attending their seminars. For me the Kanes' book is a practical guide to living in the moment where life has become miraculous and satisfying on a day in day out basis.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Good ideas. Flow is good. Really it is about living your life with totality. Sometimes a bit over-intellectual. Also - read a book about Living in the NOW( read 'Flow') by two masters of teaching people how to do it, Ariel & Shya Kane. Great book. Really teaches you HOW TO LIVE IN FLOW, Practically as opposed to conceptually...
GShuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Worth reading as a refresher. I like that its Short, however there is nothing that new(others have copied it) It is what has been said many times, do whatever it is you do well and that in itself is the reward.
bodhisattva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a two-hour discussion by the author on "flow", as discussed in his book. It is produced by Nightingale-Conant, and is very much in the "self-help" genre. The author discusses the behavioral steps necessary to attain "flow" and states how acquiring these "habits" will enhance one's inner life. The reverse may be closer to the truth: those who have the inner state of "flow" exhibit the traits the author discusses. It is not certain that the inner state is achieved by developing these traits. "Flow" is more than a "self-help" instruction!
Diotrik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent study of psychology, happiness, and successful enjoyment of life.Together with Leonard's "Mastery" this is an excellent guide to enjoying existence.A practical and easily applied method which is easily customizable to any lifestyle or desires.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A friend who reads as much as I do was visiting last week. After an evening of drinking beer and catching up, I started to complain about being "off the path." "I've got two books you have to read," he said. "Flow and The Alchemist." He was right. I needed to read those two books.Flow describes exactly what I feel missing from my life for the past year, and what I definitely felt for the previous 15. When work is not work because you are so involved in it that time passes without being aware of it. I liked the notion of controlling our consciousness and deciding what to do with sensory input. I've been in one of those negative spaces where I think the dishes stacked up on the counter and the sink are a conspiracy by my family to ruin my life. I decided change my attitude a couple of weeks ago, and to keep the kitchen clean just because I like it that way. Whenever I pass though, I pick up anything on the counter and put it away, load the dishwasher, etc. I don't think I am spending any more time doing anything, but the counters are clean, I am happy, and I even think some of it is starting to rub off on the rest of the family. But even if it isn't, this is the road to true bliss. I think I am finding my way back to the path.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. Imagine that. The psychology of optimal experience. What a revelation this book was to me when I first read it way back in 1990. Imagine looking at what makes people happy and engaged rather than sad and depressed. I¿ve always wanted to reread it and now I have. It was just as engaging and powerful this time as it was twenty years ago. I feel happy just thinking about times I¿ve been in that experience of flow, when I was engaged in a task that I had the ability to solve but that required the devotion of my entire self to accomplish the job. A must-read for anyone interested in happiness.
TurtleBoy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not yet finished reading this book, so my feelings regarding it are as yet incomplete. I have to say I'm a little disappointed so far; I think that disappointment stems from my expectations that the book would have a little more "meat" to it. I realize now that this isn't a fair assessment, since this is not meant to be a strictly academic work (but rather a popular distillation of decades of work on the topic of optimal experience).Simply put, according to Csikszentmihalyi "flow" is the state in which one's skills are matched well with the challenges one is meant to face when armed with those skills, and both skills and challenges are high. If one's skills are inadequate to meet the challenges one is met with, one will tend to feel anxious, overwhelmed, terrified. If one's skills overmaster one's challenges, one will instead feel bored and stultified. If skills and challenges match but are of a low order, one may feel eager to raise the stakes and proceed to a higher "flow" state. Csikszentmihalyi's thesis is that in order to perform this increase in stakes, one must become adept at focusing one's attention consciously in rule-bound, goal-oriented activities that require a high degree of skill and result in a "complexification" of the individual self as one gains greater, more well-refined skills.Read for what it is, the book is solid and provides good insight into the ways in which one can train oneself to get more out of life. Moreover, the book has already given me a number of pointers to more specific (and more academic) references I may be able to use to hone my pedagogy. For instance, the references on pp. 88-89 to Kevin Rathunde's work with optimal experience in the context of the family should lead to concrete measures for constructing a classroom environment conducive to "flow" experiences. I'll check back in once I've finished this book, and once we've had discussions on it in the faculty learning circle of which I'm a part this summer.
jpsnow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Csikszentmihalyi explains, better than anyone else has done to date, what factors contribute to meaning and enjoyment in life. His findings are based on solid research and show that all situations provide opportunities for individuals to cultivate flow for themselves. These autotelic people do so by having goals, discovering purpose, engaging in relevant pursuits, keeping challenge in their life, and being fully involved in the resulting experiences. Pity the soul who never discovers their own source and experience of flow.
bordercollie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unique theory of chaos, control of the mind, enjoyment, finite capacity of the mind, alienation of teenagers, and more. I wish I'd read this 15 years ago.
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's not a self help book. But it is a very humane science book that takes concepts and discoveries and relates it back to what it is we care about the most: our own happiness. It seems like a rather ambitious goal for a scientist to tackle (I would think philosophy or religion would have been an easier angle) but this book is surprisingly interesting and insightful. It doesn't give you step by step instructions on improving your life, but if you understand the concepts behind what makes us happy, then there's nothing stopping you from increasing the likelihood of finding it yourself. Except, of course, that carrying out these ideas in your life may be harder than it sounds, but isn't that the way it's supposed to be?The only chapters I didn't care too much about were the ones on The Body and The Mind... which basically just lists examples of achieving flow using the body and the mind. I kind of skimmed it.I'll write a short summary of what I learned. This is mostly for my memory, you should read the actual book because he really brings these concepts to life. Just reading this will probably not do anything for you unless you've read the book:- happiness results not from consuming pleasure but through investing the self in activities that create a fuller picture of the self -- and stimulate growth- often these activities require full attention: state of flow- enjoyment is subjective and while still at the mercy of extrinsic factors, can be controlled by the mind- activities create flow when one is between the states of boredom (task is too easy) and anxiety (task is too hard)- enjoyment is achieved when the purpose of the task is to enjoy the task itself, instead of other motives like money, fame, recognition, or results- ability to focus attention is single most important skill in achieving flow- therefore, those who are selfish and those who are self conscious (2 extremes of the spectrum) have a harder time achieving flow (the ego gets in the way of attention)- many people are able to achieve flow in their lives by constantly introducing new challenges to the task with a head to master the situation (and the self)- when one is able (and has the skills) to control the self and the situation, it gives pleasure & self understanding- (work hard, play hard?)- many people achieve flow at work (& thus enjoyment) more than at home & leisure. This is b/c work provides clear goals & structure and feedback, which is ideal situation of flow- we need to learn how to structure our free time w/ rewarding activity rather than passive entertainment- choice is very important - choose what matters to you in order to create flow (because it is a subjective experience)- as with most things, flow can be used for good or evil i.e. most criminals experience flow when committing crimes- also certain flow activities can become an addiction i.e. video games- purpose, resolution, and harmony unify life and give it meaning by transforming it into a seamless flow experience- autotelic personality - people who have this personality naturally approach problems and crisis as a challenge... and an opportunity to meet the challenge (rather than the other reactions: cynicism or helplessness). these people make every situation into an opportunity for creating flow.- some people who go through huge tragedies like losing a limb say that it has changed their lives for the better. Before, they did not have as much purpose, concrete goals, constant feedback, and difficult challenges (all ingredients for creating flow).- for life to have meaning requires more than a string of random, perhaps contradictory flow activities. one must find an overarching purpose so that all other flow activities will contribute to it.- "the meaning of life is meaning: whatever it is, wherever it comes from, a unified purpose is what gives meaning to life"- modern man has so many options to choose from that it makes finding one unified purpose very
sameer007 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Much of this book may have been condensed into a short 3-page paper and the readers given back their valuable time. The books agenda is to deconstruct the pursuit of human happiness and what makes one happy. While the author maintains a rational and scientific tone throughout, none of the said scientific methods are explained satisfactorily or convincingly. Random polling of a population of subjects multiple times a day, with questions relating to happiness, while laudable, hardly seems the basis of forming a thesis and recipe for as fundamental a subject as human happiness is. With only haphazardly explained descriptions of 'methods', the author quickly forms his thesis that in order to be happy, one must carefully take on increasingly challenging goals, moving up an ever-ascending ladder of skill levels, obtaining clear feedback along the way, and enhancing ones attention levels and focus on the task, away from one's self. This in a nut-shell is what the book is about. Hardly anything new. What he has done is - condensed (from eastern thought, that are essentially much broader and more comprehensive frameworks around attaining happiness, reducing suffering and 'proper' living)- relabeled (his condensed gist, into what is calls 'Flow' in this book)-retrofitted (this reduced concept of Flow into a variety of activities that appeal a western lifestyle, jettisoning the said comprehensive frameworks that have existed for thousands of years in Zen, Buddhist, Yoga, Bhagwad Gita)Is the book helpful? Sure. Is it worth devoting 250 some pages? No. The author on many occasions appears to boil the ocean and seems to want to solve the world's problems with his 'Flow' approach, one that is hardly new or adds new insights, and one that certainly may not fit as well across cultures or socio-economic backgrounds. To the work's credit, when seen as an interpretation of ancient wisdom, the book is a helpful one. It does successfully introduce the audience to the gist of eastern thought. Just think many chapters seemed to endlessly ramble around the same basic ideas over and over. May help readers to also try reading Patanjali's Yoga Sutras to complement this book, compare and draw your own conclusions.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿m not big on these types of books but read this one as it was given to me by a friend who had found inspiration within its pages; it essentially explains how taking control of one¿s life, both through controlling how one interprets the somewhat random events life may throw our way, as well as actively taking on challenges, is the key to happiness.Just this quote:¿But when we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing to do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing. Unless a person knows how to give order to his or her thoughts, attention will be attracted to whatever is most problematic at the moment: it will focus on some real or imaginary pain, on recent grudges or long-term frustrations. Entropy is the normal state of consciousness ¿ a condition that is neither useful nor enjoyable.¿
tkadlec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Flow was one of those books that kept being recommended to me, but I just never got around to reading. Now that I have, it's pretty easy to see why it's been brought up so many times. It's a very well written look at the factors involved in creating the "flow" effect, and the implications are widespread.Mihaly manages to write articulately and engagingly (for the most part - the latter parts of the book didn't hold my attention quite as strongly) about this topic - and he explores it in depth. While the phrase "optimal experience" may give the impression that this is another "self-help" book, it's a far deeper and more scientific exploration of the topic than books of that variety tend to be.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Flow," as the author of this book defines it, is what happens when we experience the right kind of challenge in the right frame of mind so that our whole being focuses on what we're doing, and worry, distraction, self-consciousness, even our perception of time all disappear. He believes that it is this flow state that constitutes real and substantial happiness, the "optimal experience" of the subtitle.This "flow" experience is a familiar one to me, but also mysterious and fascinating and very much worth investigating. But while most of what the author has to say about it here seems sensible enough, I think this is a rather flawed exploration of the subject. For one thing, he sometimes seems to define the concept of "flow" so broadly that its meaning becomes blurred. For another, I'm highly dubious about the idea of anything, however broadly defined, being presented as the one and only key to happiness. But the biggest problem, I think, is that the book doesn't really seem to know whether it wants to be a scientifically-based explanation of a particular aspect of psychology, or a philosophical consideration of what it is to live a meaningful life, or a sort of self-help volume meant to encourage readers to live more satisfying lives of their own. As a result, it's not terribly successful at being any of them, and far too much of it is taken up by somewhat repetitious examples of various areas in which people can find fulfilling challenges. I have a few other quibbles with it, as well, including a dislike for some of the terminology he uses, but those are comparatively minor.So, kind of a disappointing read. And yet, it was still a fairly thought-provoking one, as I frequently found myself, especially in the earlier parts of the book, wanting to argue certain points, or coming up with my own examples of things, or pondering how our relationship to "flow" has changed in the 22 years since this book was published. (For instance, what does it mean that we're increasingly living in a world where not only are interruptions and intrusions increasingly unavoidable, but where failing to concentrate completely on any one thing (aka "multitasking") is regarded as a sort of virtue?) That's a good thing, at least, but it just makes me think that this could have been a lot better than it was.
Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A textbook for Introduction to Liberal Studies. A study oh how we use time and what constitutes a pleasureable experience.
novawalsh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Incredible ideas about happiness, productivity and the way people work and motivate themselves. I recommend this book to everyone. And I will read it again and again.