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Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Summary

Flow takes a look at what it means to have an optimal human experience. People often think power, sex, money, and other items will make them happy. People who have and experience these things may or may not be happy depending on how they live life. Through many years of research, people have reported that the times they feel the most enjoyment in their lives occur when in a flow state. This means they were challenged, but their perception of their skill was a match to the challenge. The task had provided immediate feedback and there was a total consumption of focus and effort in that moment. People may think partying or doing nothing is rewarding, and yet it is the challenge, the complete immersion in the moment that we find rewarding. As such, we have numerous opportunities in our lives to seek a flow state. A change to focus within ourselves, and to push ourselves within a given context makes a difference. For any given life moment, we have an opportunity to perceive it in a way that will be rewarding or not. Many people who have suffered tragically look to the times after the tragedy such as learning to walk again as a meaningful, enjoyable part of life. They were completely within that task. Instead of looking to seek wealth, perhaps seek to find flow. Wealth is something that is an uncontrollable outcome, but by seeking flow, regardless of the outcome of wealth, you will still have experienced joy. Whereas if you seek wealth, you may or may not have wealth, and either way you could still end up miserable. This concept of choosing what we focus on also pertains to how we spend our free time. While relaxing may seem nice, looking for challenging activities that meet our skill sets can enable a more optimal experience.
How it influenced me

This book has been incredibly powerful in my life. Due to various reasons/excuses it took me much longer from start to finish than a book typically does, but I’d suggest it added more to my experience. I found myself in awe that I could learn so much about a topic I thought I had learned about in grad school. I found an eye-opening understanding of my world and it seemed that daily or at least weekly I would understand others’ worlds too! Numerous times I’d be in a conversation with someone discussing some aspects of life and I found the desire to share Flow with them. It was as if I could understand people better. Then reading/listening/talking more I realized how other people would reference flow without the terminology. It has been tremendously powerful to seek means and methods to challenge myself and then to realize the higher satisfaction I have in my life. For some people who say they are miserable, I can see the lack of flow opportunities and look to aid them. This all being said, I don’t think flow is the end all be all, but it is a powerful concept that has paid tremendous value in my life.

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