Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is one of those nonfiction books I hear quoted most–and the love doesn’t seem to be subsiding. Written by one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, psychologist and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it makes a single point, and makes it well: if you want to enjoy what you do, seek flow.

Read this book because you want to figure out how to hack work in such a way that makes it feel like play.

Key Takeaways

  • Flow, says the author, is a state of focus during which a person loses self-consciousness and time-consciousness and is deeply engaged in the process at had.
  • Flow isn’t a mysterious condition, though; it comes when three specific, identifiable conditions are met. These are: an appropriate level of challenge; clear goals and feedback, and control/autonomy.
  • Autonomy can be achieved in even small ways, and the difference it makes to work satisfaction can hardly be overstated.
  • Flow can be achieved even during what some consider routine or menial tasks. The book tells the story of a farmer in the Italian Alps who enjoys all her various tasks, from dawn to dusk. When asked which task she enjoys most, she named them all, one by one. The book also features a self-taught welder who mastered every phase of his plant’s operation and, in his spare time, built a backyard garden (with rainbow features!). “It could be said that they work sixteen hours a day, but it could also be said that they never work,” the author writes of these workers.

About the Author

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian psychologist and researcher. He is known for his work on the concept of “flow,” a state of complete engagement and enjoyment in an activity. He has written several books and articles on the subject, and his work has had a significant impact on the fields of psychology and positive psychology. Csikszentmihalyi has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the field of psychology.


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