Saturday, September 1, 2007


Just finished "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihaly Csikezentmihalyi. A fairly dense read but a very good book. The author's argument is basically that in order to improve our experience of life we should pursue flow experiences - those experiences that lead people to claim they're "in the zone" and during which time people seem to lose all sense of time, themselves, and achieve a unity with their environment.

Some examples of activities that for some lead to flow are chess, rock climbing, team sports, and the various forms peoples' creativity can take. First of all I definitely feel that Mihaly's model is accurate and resonates as intuitively true with most people. These activities that provide flow for each person are what constitutes true enjoyment, as opposed to the non-challenging pleasures of eating cheesecake or

Overall I give the book thumbs up, although it does get a bit too ambitious later on by attempting to apply the flow concept to social life, work and life as a whole later on. While it is true work can provide flow I think it's a it of a stretch to apply that to one's social life (and may have an adverse effect upon it by giving one ulterior motives when socializing - similar to NLP for example) and it is, in my opinion, overreaching to apply the flow concept to life as a whole. Mihaly's point is that one could come up with a big, complex enough challenge/goal (one of the key components of a flow experience) from which all of one's actions, behaviours and thoughts would then logically follow from to unify life into a comprehensive flow experience. Apart from those who have devoted their lives wholeheartedly to a religious or ideological ideal I think instances of this are very rare, and while it certainly would be an admirable thing to strive for I think you'd probably end up spending most of your life trying to find this comprehensive goal as opposed to living your life according to it.

For me I think if there is a meta-flow aspect to life it would be in trying to find individual flow experiences that you enjoy more than any other, which involves a lot of trial and error. And trying to find a career that can provide you with as much flow as possible, which is quite a monumental undertaking in and of itself.