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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was born on September 29, 1934, in Fiume, Italy – now (Croatia) is a Hungarian psychology professor, who emigrated to the United States at the age of 22. He received his B.A. in 1960 and his Ph.D. in 1965, both from the University of Chicago. He is the father of MIT Media Lab associate professor Christopher Csikszentmihalyi and University of California – Berkeley professor of philosophical and religious traditions of China and East Asia. Now at Claremont Graduate University, he is the former head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago and of the department of sociology and anthropology at Lake Forest College. He is noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity, but is best known as the architect of the notion of flow and for his years of research and writing on the topic. He is the author of many books and over 120 articles or book chapters. Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, described Csikszentmihalyi as the world’s leading researcher on positive psychology. He once said “Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason. His works are influential and are widely cited.

The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium, Finding Flow, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

‘Flow is 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. I have a naive trust in the universe — that at some level it all makes sense, and we can get glimpses of that sense if we try.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-sent-mehigh-ee) is a psychology professor at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California and is the former head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago and of the department of sociology and anthropology at Lake Forest College. He is noted for his work in the study of happiness, creativity, subjective well-being, and fun, but is best known as the architect of the notion of flow and for his years of research and writing on the topic. He is the author of many books and over 120 articles or book chapters. Martin Seligman, the former president of the American Psychological Association, described him as the world’s leading researcher on positive psychology. He is one of the most widely cited psychologists today, in a variety of fields related to psychology and business.

In his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi outlines his theory that people are most happy when they are in a state of flow — a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterised by a feeling of great freedom, enjoyment, fulfilment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns are typically ignored.

Go with the flow…

To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. The flow state also implies a kind of focussed attention, and indeed, it has been noted that mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and martial arts seem to improve a person’s capacity for flow. Among other benefits, all of these activities train and improve attention. In short; flow could be described as a state where attention, motivation, and the situation meet, resulting in a kind of productive harmony or feedback.

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