Quotes from Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D.

theory of optimal experience based on the concept of flow—the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.
— Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D.


Wouldn’t you like to experience the state of flow? To answer that question, you might need first to understand what flow is. This post includes quotes that highlight a few of the concepts behind the general term. As a classically trained fine artist, many of these ideas are familiar to me as art is an area of study that started the research. However, as you will see, the concept of living in flow applies to all areas of both personal and professional activities. The audiobook is a practical and enjoyable listen, as it is like a casual series of conversational talks. I finished it in a day, and I will listen again, especially during times when I’m facing more challengings in my life. I also learned a new word: autotelic.

The autotelic personality are people with several very specific personality traits which are better able to achieve the “flow experience” than the average person. These personality traits include curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, and a desire of performing activities for intrinsic reasons only.

Quotes from Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D.

Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.

Through trial and error, through intense cultivation, we can straighten out the tangled skein of conflicting goals, and choose the one that will give purpose to action. Self-knowledge—an ancient remedy so old that its value is easily forgotten—is the process through which one may organize conflicting options. “Know thyself” was carved over the entrance to the Delphic oracle, and ever since untold pious epigrams have extolled its virtue.

If a person sets out to achieve a difficult enough goal, from which all other goals logically follow, and if he or she invests all energy in developing skills to reach that goal, then actions and feelings will be in harmony, and the separate parts of life will fit together—and each activity will “make sense” in the present, as well as in view of the past and of the future. In such a way, it is possible to give meaning to one’s entire life.

Attention is like energy in that without it no work can be done, and in doing work is dissipated. We create ourselves by how we use this energy. Memories, thoughts and feelings are all shaped by how use it. And it is an energy under control, to do with as we please; hence attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.

Everything the body can do is potentially enjoyable. Yet many people ignore this capacity, and use their physical equipment as little as possible, leaving its ability to provide flow unexploited.