Flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Highlights from July 26, 2021

  • Or is the pervasive malaise that often sours even our most precious moments the result of our seeking happiness in the wrong places? (Location 167)
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    • Note: Material-things Wealth Power fame
  • What I “discovered” was that happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. 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. (Location 174)
    • Note: How we perceive events is what controls our happiness This feels as though it closely aligns with some principals of stoicism
  • “Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” (Location 181)
  • The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. (Location 203)
    • Note: Going back to art of impossible, we must trigger the flow state,.
  • flow—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 will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it. (Location 216)
  • optimal experience depends on the ability to control what happens in consciousness moment by moment, (Location 249)
  • The optimal state of inner experience is one in which there is order in consciousness. This happens when psychic energy—or attention—is invested in realistic goals, and when skills match the opportunities for action. (Location 260)
  • It is how people respond to stress that determines whether they will profit from misfortune or be miserable. (Location 277)
  • When that is accomplished, and a person feels in control of life and feels that it makes sense, there is nothing left to desire. (Location 280)
  • Frustration is deeply woven into the fabric of life. (Location 292)
  • Only direct control of experience, the ability to derive moment-by-moment enjoyment from everything we do, can overcome the obstacles to fulfillment. (Location 300)
  • How we feel about ourselves, the joy we get from living, ultimately depend directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences. Whether we are happy depends on inner harmony, not on the controls we are able to exert over the great forces of the universe. (Location 327)
  • With affluence and power come escalating expectations, and as our level of wealth and comforts keeps increasing, the sense of well-being we hoped to achieve keeps receding into the distance. (Location 339)
  • The problem arises when people are so fixated on what they want to achieve that they cease to derive pleasure from the present. When that happens, they forfeit their chance of contentment. (Location 345)
  • The lack of inner order manifests itself in the subjective condition that some call ontological anxiety, or existential dread. Basically, it is a fear of being, a feeling that there is no meaning to life and that existence is not worth going on with. (Location 381)
  • after each success it becomes clearer that money, power, status, and possessions do not, by themselves, necessarily add one iota to the quality of life. (Location 406)
  • Traditionally, the problem of existence has been most directly confronted through religion, and an increasing number of the disillusioned are turning back to it, choosing either one of the standard creeds or a more esoteric Eastern variety. But religions are only temporarily successful attempts to cope with the lack of meaning in life; they are not permanent answers. (Location 418)
  • In the meantime, those who seek consolation in existing churches often pay for their peace of mind with a tacit agreement to ignore a great deal of what is known about the way the world works. (Location 426)
  • To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances. (Location 469)
  • And before all else, achieving control over experience requires a drastic change in attitude about what is important and what is not. (Location 474)
  • civilization is built on the repression of individual desires. (Location 482)
  • The only authority many people trust today is instinct. If something feels good, if it is natural and spontaneous, then it must be right. (Location 506)
  • One must particularly achieve control over instinctual drives to achieve a healthy independence of society, for as long as we respond predictably to what feels good and what feels bad, it is easy for others to exploit our preferences for their own ends. (Location 517)
  • The most important step in emancipating oneself from social controls is the ability to find rewards in the events of each moment. (Location 533)
  • it seems that those who take the trouble to gain mastery over what happens in consciousness do live a happier life. (Location 611)
  • consciousness has developed the ability to override its genetic instructions and to set its own independent course of action. (Location 618)
  • person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening “outside,” just by changing the contents of consciousness. (Location 626)
  • we can manage at most seven bits of information—such as differentiated sounds, or visual stimuli, or recognizable nuances of emotion or thought—at any one time, and that the shortest time it takes to discriminate between one set of bits and another is about 1/18 of a second. (Location 718)
  • The limitation of consciousness is demonstrated by the fact that to understand what another person is saying we must process 40 bits of information each second. If we assume the upper limit of our capacity to be 126 bits per second, it follows that to understand what three people are saying simultaneously is theoretically possible, but only by managing to keep out of consciousness every other thought or sensation. (Location 724)
  • Therefore, the information we allow into consciousness becomes extremely important; it is, in fact, what determines the content and the quality of life. (Location 749)
  • The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer. And the person who can do this usually enjoys the normal course of everyday life. (Location 770)
  • experience depends on the way we invest psychic energy—on the structure of attention. (Location 858)
  • One of the main forces that affects consciousness adversely is psychic disorder—that is, information that conflicts with existing intentions, or distracts us from carrying them out. (Location 868)
  • pain, fear, rage, anxiety, or jealousy. (Location 870)
  • When a person is able to organize his or her consciousness so as to experience flow as often as possible, the quality of life is inevitably going to improve, because, as in the case of Rico and Pam, even the usually boring routines of work become purposeful and enjoyable. (Location 958)
  • In flow we are in control of our psychic energy, and everything we do adds order to consciousness. (Location 960)
  • The “battle” is not really against the self, but against the entropy that brings disorder to consciousness. It is really a battle for the self; it is a struggle for establishing control over attention. The struggle does not necessarily have to be physical, as in the case of the climber. But anyone who has experienced flow knows that the deep enjoyment it provides requires an equal degree of disciplined concentration. (Location 965)
  • THERE ARE TWO MAIN STRATEGIES we can adopt to improve the quality of life. The first is to try making external conditions match our goals. The second is to change how we experience external conditions to make them fit our goals better. (Location 1005)
  • Neither of these strategies is effective when used alone. Changing external conditions might seem to work at first, but if a person is not in control of his consciousness, the old fears or desires will soon return, reviving previous anxieties. (Location 1012)
  • reality is that the quality of life does not depend directly on what others think of us or on what we own. The bottom line is, rather, how we feel about ourselves and about what happens to us. To improve life one must improve the quality of experience. (Location 1031)
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  • Pleasure is a feeling of contentment that one achieves whenever information in consciousness says that expectations set by biological programs or by social conditioning have been met. (Location 1053)
  • Enjoyable events occur when a person has not only met some prior expectation or satisfied a need or a desire but also gone beyond what he or she has been programmed to do and achieved something unexpected, perhaps something even unimagined before. (Location 1063)
  • we can experience pleasure without any investment of psychic energy, whereas enjoyment happens only as a result of unusual investments of attention. (Location 1073)
  • Without enjoyment life can be endured, and it can even be pleasant. But it can be so only precariously, depending on luck and the cooperation of the external environment. To gain personal control over the quality of experience, however, one needs to learn how to build enjoyment into what happens day in, day out. (Location 1099)
  • First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing. (Location 1122)
  • Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing. (Location 1123)
  • Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback. (Location 1123)
  • Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life. (Location 1124)
  • Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions. (Location 1125)
  • Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over. (Location 1125)
  • Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours. (Location 1126)
  • One simple way to find challenges is to enter a competitive situation. (Location 1152)
  • Mowing the lawn or waiting in a dentist’s office can become enjoyable provided one restructures the activity by providing goals, rules, and the other elements of enjoyment to be reviewed below. (Location 1168)
  • Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act. (Location 1199)
  • Almost any kind of feedback can be enjoyable, provided it is logically related to a goal in which one has invested psychic energy. (Location 1289)
  • flow experience is typically described as involving a sense of control—or, more precisely, as lacking the sense of worry about losing control that is typical in many situations of normal life. (Location 1344)
  • The important thing to realize here is that activities that produce flow experiences, even the seemingly most risky ones, are so constructed as to allow the practitioner to develop sufficient skills to reduce the margin of error to as close to zero as possible. (Location 1361)
  • what people enjoy is not the sense of being in control, but the sense of exercising control in difficult situations. (Location 1371)
  • Preoccupation with the self consumes psychic energy because in everyday life we often feel threatened. Whenever we are threatened we need to bring the image we have of ourselves back into awareness, so we can find out whether or not the threat is serious, and how we should meet it. (Location 1424)
  • the optimal experience involves a very active role for the self. (Location 1437)
  • The key element of an optimal experience is that it is an end in itself. (Location 1500)
  • The term “autotelic” derives from two Greek words, auto meaning self, and telos meaning goal. It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward. (Location 1504)
  • An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous. (Location 1582)
  • It is this dynamic feature that explains why flow activities lead to growth and discovery. One cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long. We grow either bored or frustrated; and then the desire to enjoy ourselves again pushes us to stretch our skills, or to discover new opportunities for using them. (Location 1659)
  • attentional disorders not only interfere with learning, but effectively rule out the possibility of experiencing flow as well. (Location 1842)
  • This in turn suggests that people who can enjoy themselves in a variety of situations have the ability to screen out stimulation and to focus only on what they decide is relevant for the moment. (Location 1909)
  • Children who grow up in family situations that facilitate clarity of goals, feedback, feeling of control, concentration on the task at hand, intrinsic motivation, and challenge will generally have a better chance to order their lives so as to make flow possible. (Location 1935)
  • When adversity threatens to paralyze us, we need to reassert control by finding a new direction in which to invest psychic energy, a direction that lies outside the reach of external forces. (Location 1996)
  • the easiest step toward improving the quality of life consists in simply learning to control the body and its senses. (Location 2030)
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  • The purest form of athletics, and sports in general, is to break through the limitations of what the body can accomplish. (Location 2065)
  • The joy of surpassing the limits of the body is open to all. (Location 2084)