Book Review: Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Self-Help Book Movement

Finding Flow

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The theory of flow: is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized foxus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

The author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the creator of the theory of flow, so who better to write the book on the theory than the creator himself. The book had an average level of psychobabble, but avoided a large extent of it to communicate clearly to the reader. The book outlines a very real phenomenon that occurs to most conscious human beings during highly focused activities.

Although the bulk of the book outlines the feelings of flow while being alone, there are some aspects of the book that shine a negative light on introversion and a positive light on extroversion. This position is assumed from the advice of various techniques for introverts. “Socializing is more positive than being alone, that’s why meetings are so popular. People don’t like being alone. That would be, however, an important skill to learn…” (Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow). Other than the significant differences between introversion and extroversion, the advice outlined in this book is on point.

Several of the Amazon book reviewers said that they enjoyed the book because it gave them a sense of satisfaction, whether it made them “happy”, found the book “intriguing”, or was able to “relate” the book to their own lives. Their positive involvement is clearly stated where one reader even said that it is “the official handbook on happiness”.

Csikszentmihalyi takes the reader through his research and shows examples through various professions and hobbies while bringing flow to life. Although he is not necessarily poetic with his words, he is very ethical and socially responsible with his choice of words and has clear methodical steps of his research and conclusions, making it any easy read, similar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where poetry was not the base of the idea.

“Where, in everyday life, in our normal experience do we feel really happy?” (Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, TED Talks) Csikszentmihalyi relates flow mostly to the work life. Regardless of the culture, education, or creativity of a person in one of his studies he states that there is immediate feedback in the amount of ecstasy, clarity, and consciousness in the moment the person of study is experiencing. He accurately exemplifies the process and mental and emotional states through a combination of challenges and skills while a person is in the state of flow.

Personally, whenever I’m writing, especially something that I feel so interconnected to, I experience flow. I normally feel all components of flow, but the ones that stay with me the most, the longest, and the strongest are a high level of concentration mixed with the melting together of action and consciousness. It’s dreamlike; where you feel a sense of productive elation. The aftermath of flow is something so uniquely beautiful that suddenly everything around you has taken an optimistic turn. Everything around you feels comfortable, everything appears to be beautiful, and everything feels slow, light, and crisp. It even feels easier to breathe, acknowledging the consistent movement of your chest; rising and falling, your lungs; inhaling and exhaling. In the nature of your survival, you feel beautiful. Sometimes I take a walk after writing while I’m still in the mode of flow. All I want is to feel the day transpire in the wind blowing through my hair. It’s one diminutive connection after another that you can feel with your whole body.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone I know. Although, I feel like this is a complex theory to retain and I would not recommend this book to someone who has difficulty understanding their daily thought processes or someone who consistently questions the purposeful reasons of their life. I would more likely recommend this book to someone who will not over think the state of flow, but instead enjoy the thought of this natural, creative phenomenon.

-C

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