Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Chapters 1 to 6) – Productivity Book Group

Productivity Book Group [ http://productivitybookgroup.org ] discussed the first half of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience [ http://amzn.to/1lE8nPz ] by the renowned psychologist, Dr. Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi. Enjoy the discussion!

Dr. Czikszentmihalyi is currently Claremont Graduate University’s Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management. He was formerly a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago for 31 years, also serving as the department head of psychology until 2000. As the father of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman, has said, Dr. Czikszentmihalyi is the world’s leading positive psychology researcher.

In 1990, he published, Flow, and I thought it would be good to explain his definition of “flow” and then we can get into the discussion.

Over the course of 900 interviews, Dr. C.’s analysis of happy people from all walks of life and professions around the globe, he started to hear a word being used for this condition of ecstatic absorption in one’s activity–”flow.” Flow is this effortless state of doing and can be defined by its parts. We may also know this in athletics terms as being “in the zone.”

Through Dr. C.’s research he has identified seven major components:

  1. Goals and rules of the activity are clear, not confusing, and not conflicting, with immediate, moment by moment feedback.
  2. Challenges of the activity are matched with the skills of the person.
  3. Duality of attention disappears; merged action and awareness. Think of this as absolute focus.
  4. Intensity of the present moment…creating a new reality…what he calls “escape forward”…moving you into a focus, productive modality.
  5. A confidence in your control of a experience.
  6. Ego defenses dissipate and you lose a sense of self-consciousness. After the activity, self-esteem increases; one of the paradoxes of flow.
  7. Time warps. More time passes than experience, or time slows down relative to reality.

These are the conditions most-often necessary to achieve flow in your life. Czikszentmihalyi aims in the book, Flow, to engage the reader in knowing as much about these components so that he or she can increase flow in everyday life.


Q1. What is “happiness” to you? And, what do you think about Dr. Czikszentmihalyi’s thoughts on happiness?

Q2. Can you describe times when you achieve flow?

Q3. How do you feel like you can manufacture more components of flow into your personal and family life?

Q4. Physical and mental improvement seem to be the easiest first step toward flow, according to the author. What ways can you “dip your toe” into flow this way?

Q5. How do you feel like you can create more opportunities for flow in your professional life?

Q6. Dr. C. talks about passive experiences, like watching TV where others are in a state of flow, as being counter to us finding our own states of flow. In what ways do you think we can achieve flow even during passive activities to make them active? And, how do we combat this cultural shift toward more sedentary, passive experience?

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