The book Flow by Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi is about the psychology of how optimal experience illuminates the way to happiness. This book is a fascinating read and I haven’t finished it yet, but here are some of the concepts I have already picked up from this book. The phenomenology of enjoyment has 7 major components. When people reflect on how it feels when their experience is most positive, they mention at least one – and often all – of the following:
1.The experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a realistic chance of completing.
2.We must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.
3.The concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.
4.One acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.
5.Enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.
6.The concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over.
7.The sense of the duration of time is altered – hours seem to pass by in minutes, and/or minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.
The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feels that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.
Keep in mind, I have enjoyed at least one of the items listed above when I am the most happiest. Time seems to either go extremely fast or stand utterly still. I remember the events vividly, and if I associate them with certain music, they may trigger that feeling of “flow” – the optimal experience.
The conditions under which the above experience cannot exist, rendering us unable to enjoy life and standing as obstacles to experiencing optimal flow are:
- Being excessively self-conscious. Being constantly worried about how others will perceive you, afraid of creating the wrong impression or doing something inappropriate will also condemn you to permanent exclusion from enjoyment.
- Being excessively self-centered. You evaluate every bit of information only in terms of how it might serve your desires. Everything in and of itself, standing on its own, is valueless. A flower is not worth a second look unless it can be used; a man or a woman who cannot advance one’s interests does not deserve further attention. Consciousness is structured entirely in terms of its own ends, and nothing is allowed to exist in it that does not conform to those ends.
Although a self-conscious person is in many respects different from a self-centered one, neither is in enough control of psychic energy to enter easily into a flow experience.
Two things we must drop: self-consciousness and self-centeredness. Stop seeking approval from others; stop worrying; stop being self-centered.
The world does not revolve around me? NO, the world was here long before YOU were, and it will continue to exist when you are GONE!
Once we drop the flow obstacles listed above, only then we can enter the zone of flow, the optimal experience in life. -SjC