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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Petergeorge

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience - Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

Overview: Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's investigations of "optimal experience" have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow


  • The best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments in our lives usually occur when our body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

  • Ensure your challenges are in line with your passions and values, so they provide intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards. Setting yourself intrinsic rewards can mean greater enjoyment and an increased state of fulfillment. At work, for example, it’s about setting meaningful tasks for yourself, rather than relying on being given rewards by your boss or customers

  • We as humans can manage at most seven bits of information at one time

  • Have a goal for meaningless tasks you do to make them more exciting. “How can I beat my previous record” “how can I improve x”

  • Flow is when there is no disorder to straighten out and no threat for the self to defend against

  • As our studies have suggested, the phenomenology of enjoyment has eight major components. When people reflect on how it feels when their experience is most positive, they mention at least one, and often all, of the following.

    • First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing.

    • Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.

    • Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.

    • Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.

    • Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.

    • Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over.

Autotelic Personality

1. Clarity - know what parents expect from them

2. Centering - perception parents are interested in what they are doing

3. Choice - feel they have a variety to choose from

4. Commitment - trust to put down defence and be fully immersed

5. Challenge - parents dedication to provide complex opportunities

  • Collective effervescence - sense that one belongs to a group with a concrete, real existence

  • People in flow can sometimes be so into something like music that they can hear and enjoy the music by just reading the sheet music and imagining the sounds

  • Optimal Flow in work means even if you could do anything in the world regardless of pay, you would continue what you are doing in work in your day to day as it gives you joy (eg. interviewing the lady who works on a farm and hearing her say she’d continue to milk the cows in the morning regardless of money)

  • Automatic personality - ability to create flow experiences even in the most barren environment

  • Studies on flow have demonstrated repeatedly that more than anything else, the quality of life depends on two factors: how we experience work and our relations with other people

  • Below are some strategies and tips to enter “the zone”:

  1. Have concrete and manageable goals: Have a practical goal you set out to do or accomplish.

  2. Adjust opportunities to capabilities: Don’t do something that is too easy or too difficult for you.

  3. Clear information how we are doing: Getting feedback on your progress. Can be measured by others, or internally.

  4. **Screen out distraction and concentrate***: This means turning off all distractions (email, social media, internet, smartphone, mental distractions).

  • We need both alone time and time with those that have a nurturing, supportive impact on our lives. Having people that are differentiated yet integrated. We need to be part of like-minded communities to allow us opportunities for growth.

  • “People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”

  • “Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.”

1 Comment

Vicki Powell
Vicki Powell
May 28

Love this summary!

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