November 12, 2005
Although I didn’t get to go to UI10 to see Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s presentation, I did just finish his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In a short 1996 Wired interview, Csikszentmihalyi defined flow as:
Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.
This definition seems pretty straightforward, and not too surprising, but what makes the book so interesting (and hard to summarize), is the way that Csikszentmihalyi establishes a structure for creating flow, and then applies it to so many aspects of life.
The concept of actively seeking out things that will increase your complexity as a human being really resonated with me, as did the focus on intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivations. His encouragement of amateur scholarship seems especially interesting in light of the impact of blogging, where the average person can now easily share research, writing, and thoughts in a public forum.
I’ve found a good summary of Flow and a few interviews with Csikszentmihalyi on various topics: