Of all the types of books I read at various times, the pop psychology/non-fiction/motivational/psychological texts always take me the longest.
There’s a lot to take in, think about, absorb, and I like to give it ample time to soak into the brain matter.
So this week I’m wrapping up Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi’s Flow, the book that, essentially, attempts to home in on the meaning of life. The root of all true happiness.
An impressive claim?
Perhaps, but I really can’t argue with him.
Before I get into my thoughts on the book, I’ll get right to the recommendation. If you enjoy the sort of book that gets you inside your own head and helps you see the world/your actions differently, you’ll enjoy it. It’s dense at times, but interesting, and as it’s referred to in so many more recent books (this one came out in the 90s and is the definitive work on the subject), it’s a great starting point to give context.
My previous post about the book breaks down his definition of “flow,” and the various criteria required to enter into this optimal experience.
For the rest of the book, he goes more into depth with the various criteria and how they come into practice with examples, like the man who’s worked the same welding job at a company for thirty years, but still loves going into his job because he finds new ways to challenge himself and then goes home to invest new little devices and features for his rock garden as a hobby.
He discusses the fact that research shows people enter the flow state significantly more often at work than their do in their leisure hours, but society focuses so much on the value of working solely so you can enjoy your leisure time that, although less happy people want more of it.
The exception to the rule? People to whom leisure is an active hobby. Something that engages the mind in a way that matches the criteria previously mentioned.
Physical — running to beat your time or master a new form, taking up a new sport, getting into shape; cognitive — learning a new language, taking a course; creative — building/invention something, making art; or social — people? what? — activities can all get you into the flow state.
Passive activities like mindlessly watching television, travelling just to look, enjoying other people’s work without adding any of your own … don’t.
Where people are most affluent, it can actually take more effort to get into the flow state unless is an effort is made to get involved in your surroundings, to keep growing as a person.
He discusses how, without that effort, can people even forget how to set their mind to active thinking. Leading to say, less critical thought while watching the news, taking the opinions of media mavens and your neighbours without taking the time to reason things out yourself (things to consider as we enter the 2019 election prep in both Canada and the States).
The best way to develop the flow mindset, this state of perfect happiness that both grows the self while separating the ego from the self, is to practice it.
So the next time you have a day off and you’re wondering how to fill your time, call up a friend, crack open a model set or a jigsaw puzzle, download a language app, go out and work in the garden.
Life your best life — it starts in your own head.