The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Book - 2008
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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

Publisher: New York ;, Toronto :, Harper Perennial Modern Classics,, 2008.
Edition: First Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition.
Copyright Date: ©1990
ISBN: 9780061339202
Branch Call Number: 155.2 Csi
Characteristics: xii, 303, 16 pages : portrait ; 21 cm


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Nov 04, 2018

For scientists and researchers, it is, of course, not enough to observe some phenomena and draw what appear to be fairly obvious conclusions. No, such occurrences must be researched to determine whether what we think is happening is what is actually happening. In that sense, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” is (for now, anyway) the logical conclusion of a series of books I’ve read over the past couple of months — “The Art of Peace,” “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life,” and “The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection” — all based, more or less, on living a better life. Whether by focusing on inner peace, reevaluating unhealthy values, or finding ways to connect and be present in the moment, each book approaches its variation on the theme from different perspectives, from spiritual to existential to practical. None, however, have concerned themselves with the psychology behind achieving such positive states, and how a person might apply those principles and make possible the transition from theory to practice.

“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” is the result of decades of research on the positive aspects of human experience — joy, creativity, the process of total involvement with life that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.” According to the author, this is neither stylized academic prose nor pop-psychology self-help guide, nor is it filled with insider tips on how to be happy (which, if not readily apparent, isn’t possible in any case). Despite the absence of such scholarly devices as footnotes and references in the text (there is, however, an extensive notes section at the end), Csikszentmihalyi is clearly a researcher, and his writing style does not adequately escape the dry academia I recall having to write myself as a psychology undergrad.

So, yeah, the book is a bit of a bore to read, but not just because the prose lacks personality. It’s also because of what I alluded to at the top: “Flow” is 240 pages covering decades of research that doesn’t tell us much more than what seems fairly obvious (and is something I just said to a colleague recently at work): we may not be able to control every event, but we can control how we react to them. That is, if we can control our consciousness by ordering the information that enters it (and what does not), we can “discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.” Such a blunt assessment might be a bit unfair, but a 10,000-word “Psychology Today” article, though it no doubt would have failed to cover the cost of all those thousands of interviews, would have more than sufficed.

Read the rest of my review at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2513422166

Sep 19, 2018

This looks like just a summary, not the actual book.

Feb 07, 2018

I found the ideas interesting but the prose did not flow.

Feb 05, 2018

Very anecdotal and dated.

Jan 18, 2017

This book does nothing but help you become a better person. Mihaly challenges you to get out of the lull that you droll through everyday and to see the "moment" for what it really is; a poignant opportunity to improve. And on top of that, once we get into the habit of self-challenging and achieving goals, then the process becomes seamless and almost "Flow"s naturally. Really a great book that makes you smile every time you pick it up

Jan 06, 2017

This book gave a lot of insights on how to cultivate the flow experience. It is not exactly a how to book but it does give some suggestions. Flow is talked about as a tool to enrich life, and make the most out of work life, free time or learning. It is very comfortable to read and not too scientific and the author tries to stay objective. I laughed a few times in a kind of its funny because it is true sort of way. The only downside of the book I would mention is that it isn't a how to book, I got so pumped up by the notion of flow and optimal experience I wanted a formula but that is almost impossible because of the fluid nature of being in flow and everyone's individual preferences.

JCS3F Mar 03, 2014

While the author does little to effectively sketch the means of deliberately entering a state a flow and though the book is of dubious scientific merit and method, Czikszentmihaly does touch on several key points for readers seeking an improved understanding of flow. Most notably, the singular focus experienced by those in flow. Distraction is all around us and it has become increasingly important to understand distraction in the context of psychology and neurobiology to effectively overcome it. Czikszentmihaly makes it clear that this is possible, almost regardless of the object of our attention. In addition, flow depends on striking a comfortable balance between challenging material and the confusion that can accompany the steep end of the learning curve. In this way, Czikszentmihaly writes a weakly defined, poor quantified exploration of an amorphous concept, yet manages to create something of enduring legacy.


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wooknight Apr 25, 2011

This is another book that I found extremely influential and have read it several times , though I am still trying to implement the ideas suggested by the author

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