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Saturday, November 4th, 2006

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12:06a
Another recent read ...
Ah, once again I jumped out-of-order on doing these reviews. I've had this one sitting around for a while, trying to figure out exactly what angle to take on it, but figured I'd just as well plow into doing the review (while it was reasonably fresh in my mind), rather than waiting for the ideal inspiration.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's (and, no, I don't have clue how that's pronounced!) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is, I take it, something of "a classic" at this point and has been the basis of several derivative books on the subject. Based on Csikszentmihalyi's continuing research, it looks at how some people are able to exist quite contentedly in the most stressful/meager situations, while others are miserable in lives of ease and plenty, and tries to get to the psychological "why" behind this. This examination comes from various angles, from the "contentedness" of hard-working pastoral villages to the array of experiences exhibited by urban factory workers, and from the rather counter-intuitive reality that most modern people get more satisfaction (are in more "flow") at work than they are in their leisure hours.

Of course, the whole concept of "flow" is a bit amorphous ... although it is a state that we all recognize and appreciate when it happens. Perhaps most culturally identified with sports, it's that point where everything that we're doing is working towards attaining our goals in a seemingly seamless web of interacting elements. Csikszentmihalyi breaks this down as an interface of challenges and skills, with an ideal zone being where our skills are extended to meet our challenges ... too little challenge, an there is boredom, too little skill and there is anxiety.

Pretty much "the answer" is breaking things down into manageable, achievable, step-by-step goals ... as long as one is having small successes (which have some challenge to them), one is likely to be happy in one's activities. Mental control also feeds into this, as does paying attention to how one spends one's time (i.e., avoiding TV).

Anyway, Flow is still in print in a re-print edition, so you should be able to find it via your local bookstore, but the Amazon new/used vendors have it for as little as a couple of bucks.


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