"Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced ""ME-high CHICK-sent-me-high-ee""; but don't worry, there won't be a quiz) is a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. He came to popular attention when his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience was mentioned on the 1993 Super Bowl broadcast as having inspired the coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
According to Professor Csikszentmihalyi, a joyful life ""is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe....Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person.""
""Many people feel that the time they spend at work is essentially wasted?they are alienated from it, and the psychic energy invested in the job does nothing to strengthen their self,"" he observes. ""For quite a few people free time is also wasted. Leisure provides a relaxing respite from work, but it generally consists of passively absorbing information, without using any skills or exploring new opportunities for action. As a result life passes in a sequence of boring and anxious experiences over which a person has little control.""
But it doesn't have to be this way. During his years of research the professor has identified a state of happiness that he calls ""flow."" When an individual is engaged in a well defined task of his own choosing that is both challenging and within his capacities, he will experience ""optimal experience"" during its performance. This is ""flow.""
A flow-type experience includes one or more of the following features. (1) A task we have a possibility of completing. (2) Ability to concentrate on the task. (3) The task has clear goals and provides immediate feedback. (4) We act from a deep but effortless involvement that removes quotidian concerns. (5) We have a sense of control. (6) Concern for self disappears during the task, but the sense of self is stronger after the flow experience is over. (7) The sense of the passage of time alters.
""For more than 30 years I have been studying happiness,"" says Csikszentmihalyi. ""My interest in this subject came from my own experience during World War II when, as a child, I saw many adults being completely destroyed by the tragic events of the war. Among these people there were always a few who kept their courage, reached out to help others, and were able to give a sense of purpose and meaning to their lives. I wanted to discover about how one could build a life that was more fulfilling and enjoyable. I chose the discipline of psychology to seek out some answers.""
In Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, the professor explores what makes life worth living through interviews with the great achievers of our time. His research confirms that people are most likely to experience ""flow"" when immersed in creative work that they love. Csikszentmihalyi thus provides a scientific basis for the experience of the fictional Howard Roark, for whom the job of architecture is a combination of ""holy sacrament, Indian torture and sexual ecstasy.""
In the search for life, happiness, and meaning there are many mentors available to us. Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is one of the greatest."