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The Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

July 4, 2012

One of the best books I have read about achieving happiness was copyrighted in 1988 and first published in the United States by Harper and Row.

It was the summation of a man’s work about happiness and how to achieve it, written so  any laymen could understand it.

The Flow, a book written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi helped revolutionize my way of thinking and keeps me on track towards my own goal––the act of optimally experiencing my life fully with ebullient joy while on earth.  This book soon became one of the foundational building blocks in my life, and it still is. It is a book I pick up to read over and over again, to receive strength and to see how I am progressing, when I get to a hard place and seem to be stuck––not going anywhere.

Have you ever wondered why some days seem long in comparison to other days, which seem to flow quickly and are too short?

Then, The Flow is the book you might want to read.  Csikszentmihalyi opens his book by reiterating it is not a how to book, which gives you ten quick easy steps that guarantee you your happiness. He lets us know there are plenty of those types of books on the market, and the majority of them have all failed.  He defines attaining happiness based on research he had conducted over many years. These tests were also conducted in other countries throughout the Western world.

The prognosis states that the best moments in life usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. This optimal experience, he says further, is something that we make happen.[1]

His introduction presented in chapter one  alone has enough power in it to inspire anyone, who is seeking to live happily by finding his or her best life, to read further.

Are you one of those people who dread Monday morning?

Discontentment takes place when our day’s work seems to be long, and our bodies began to suffer from a weariness we cannot shake off.  More often, there is a goal we have desired to accomplish, but for some reason or another, we never find the time.  The Flow spurs you on to organize and differentiate your life so you are forced to take the time.

Following a flow experience, the organization of the self is more complex than it had been before.  It is by becoming increasingly complex that the self might be said to grow. Complexity is the result of two broad psychological processes: differentiation and integration.[2]

Reading The Flow helped me to find universal oneness or unity, where time does not exist when I am writing, singing, practicing a special sheet of music on my keyboard or piano. It is a state of being, where regardless of the difficulty of the piece of music, or the research that needs to be completed before I can start writing an article or a book, or the voice regimen I must take my body through so I can sing the notes I need to sing, I move in flow. At those times, regardless of the stress or pain I might be experiencing, time stands still, because I am connecting events to one another––events, which cause me to look ahead to the goal I am trying to reach, and time becomes eternal.

To achieve this control, however, requires determination and discipline.  Optimal experience is not the result of a hedonistic, lotus-eating approach to life.  A relaxed, laissez-faire attitude is not a sufficient defense against chaos.  As we have seen from the very beginning of this book, to be able to transform random events into flow, one must develop skills that stretch capacities, that make one become more than what one is.  Flow drives individuals to creativity and outstanding achievement.[3]

Csikszentmihalyi challenges us to take responsibility for our happiness, not by shunning the difficulties of life, but by taking them on, by learning what makes us excel and developing the discipline to do it by tying all of the knots into a sequence that bring order into your life.

But to change all existence into a flow experience, it is not sufficient to learn merely how to control moment-by-moment states of consciousness.  It is also necessary to have an overall context of goals for the events of everyday life to make sense.  If a person moves from one flow activity to another without a connecting order, it will be difficult at the end of one’s life to look back on the years past and find meaning in what has happened.  To create harmony in whatever one does is the last task that the flow theory presents to those who wish to attain optimal experience; it is a task that involves transforming the entirety of life into a single flow activity, with unified goals that provide constant purpose.[4]  

The Flow is a book I highly recommend to any person who would like to achieve happiness, by taking on life with participation in it to make their happiness a reality.


Pat Garcia


[1]Csikszentimihalyi, Mihaly, 1988. The Flow, Revised Edition 2002, The Random House Group Ltd.

[2] Csikszentimihalyi, Mihaly, 1988. The Flow, Revised Edition 2002, The Random House Group Ltd. Page 41

[3] Csikszentimihalyi, Mihaly, 1988. The Flow, Revised Edition 2002, The Random House Group Ltd.

[4] Csikszentimihalyi, Mihaly, 1988.  The Flow, Revised Edition 2002, The Random House Group Ltd.  Page 213

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  1. Your review makes me want to read to book. Nice work, Pat!


    • Hi Mary Ann,
      That is one of the biggest compliments that you can pay any writer who is writing a book review and I truly say thank you. It is always good hering from you. Hope all is well with your screen plays.
      Take care.


      • I did a lot of writing into the wee hours and this morning. Wishing you a happy day/night. M.A.


      • Hi,
        How well I understand that! One of my major problems is starting something and moving into the flow of it, I forget the time. Before I knowit, it is 5 or 6 AM. Then a tiredness falls upon me, and I seek sleep to get re-energize myself, because I am totally wasted from the creative energy that flowed through my body.
        Hope you rested well.


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