The one-sentence summary
Understanding the concept of flow helps people to live in better harmony with themselves and others.
• This is the classic work on how to achieve happiness by the near-unpronounceable Drucker School of Management professor.
• He was the first to articulate 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.
• The phenomenology (dealing directly with events as we experience them) of enjoyment has 8 major components:
1. A challenging activity that requires skills (we must have a chance of completing it)
2. The merging of action and awareness (we must be able to concentrate)
3. Clear goals (we need to be clear what we are doing…)
4. Immediate feedback (…and see immediate progress)
5. Concentration on the task at hand (effortless involvement removed from everyday worries and frustrations)
6. The paradox of control (a sense of control, even if you are not quite sure how you are doing it)
7. The loss of self-consciousness (concern for the self disappears, but the person emerges stronger after the experience)
8. The transformation of time (hours can pass by in minutes, or minutes can stretch out to seem like hours)
• All of this adds up to an autotelic experience (auto = self and telos = goal) – a self-contained activity that has no expectation of future benefit, in which the doing of it is the reward in itself.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
• The autotelic self is a happy person. They are able to:
1. Set goals – have something to strive for.
2. Become immersed in the activity – get lost in it.
3. Pay attention to what is happening – be ‘present’ in the here and now.
4. Learn to enjoy the immediate experience – rather than hanker after something else.
• The brain can cope with 126 bits of information a second, 7,560 per minute, or half a million an hour.
• Being in flow helps to counteract psychic entropy, a disorganisation of the self (one’s thoughts) that impairs mental effectiveness. Flow is sometimes therefore called negentropy.
• Man has often used games for this very purpose: agon (competitive, such as sports); alea (games of chance, such as dice or bingo); ilinx (altering consciousness, such as skydiving); mimicry (dance, theatre).
• Intrinsic work is good because you do it for the love of it; extrinsic work usually has an ulterior motive, such as promotion, and is usually less satisfying.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
• Not much. You can extract the bits you need to have a better-balanced life.