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Denver Great Minds™

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Flow - Book Review

Flow written by Mihaly Csikszentmmihalyi The following are notes and summary while I read this amazing book. I highly encourage you to actually read the book, especially if you seek to understand this concept on a deeper level. These are notes that struck a chord with myself or seemed crucial to understand of flowstate. Flowstate is a mind state of fulfillment typically described by high performers or masters of their craft. This book studied thousands of individuals in regards to fulfillment, concentration, and mastery. Obviously, this book was worthy of my blog and I hope you enjoy. I give it five starts and highly encourage you to grab your own copy if you enjoy these brief notes. <hr> Men and women seek happiness. While happiness itself is sought for it's own sake, every other goal is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy. Despite modern inventions that make life more abundant- such as bathrooms, chairs, and televisions- people often end up feeling that their lives have been wasted, that instead of being filled with happiness, their years were spent in anxiety and boredom. Click here to purchase this book.



Happiness is not something that happens to us, good fortune, or random chance. It can not be purchased or commanded with power. It's how we interpret events. It's about preparation, cultivation, and defended privately. People who learn to control their inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives. We can not search for it.


"Ask yourself if you are happy and you cease to be so. "

J.S. Mill


Optimal Experience is something we make happen.

For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves. Avoiding challenges ultimately breeds unhappiness. Optimal experience is an exhilaration (a deep sense of enjoyment) when we feel in control of our actions and masters of our own fate.


Happiness is feeling good about your life.


In the quest for happiness, partial solutions don't work. We want to participate in the content of our life.


The reason happiness is a challenge is because the Universe was not created to answer our needs- despite the myths mankind has developed to reassure itself. Frustration is deeply woven into the fabric of life.


When people try to achieve happiness on their own, without the support of faith, they usually seek to maximize pleasures that are either biologically programmed in their genes or are out as attractive by the society in which they live. WEALTH, POWER, AND SEX become the chief goals that give direction to their strivings; but the quality of life cannot be improved this way. Only direct control of experience, the ability to derive moment-by-moment enjoyment from everything we do, can overcome the obstacles to fulfillment.


" The Universe is not hostile, nor yet is it friendly. It is simply indifferent"

-J.H Holmes


No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes places in their modes of thought. (J.S. Millls)


How we feel about ourselves, the joy we get from living, ultimately depend directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences. Whether we are happy depends on inner harmony, not on the controls we are able to exert over the great forces of the universe.


Each of us has a picture, however vauge, of what we would like to accomplish before we die. How close we get ti attaining that goal becomes measure for the quality of our lives. If it remains beyond our reach, we grow resentful or resigned, if it is at least in part achieved, we experience a sense of happiness and satisfaction.


For the majority of people on this earth, life goals are simple: to survive, to leave children who will in turn survive, and if possible, to do so with a certain amount of comfort and dignity.


There is no inherent problem in our desire to escalate our goals, as long as we enjoy the struggle along the way. The problem arises when people are so fixated on what they want to achieve that they cease to derive pleasure from the present. When that happens they forfeit their chance of contentment.


  • Be open to a variety of experience

  • Keep learning until you die

  • have strong ties and commitments to other people and the environment to which you live

  • Enjoy whatever you do, even if tedious or difficult

  • Never be bored

  • Take stride in anything that comes your way

  • Be in control of your life


One of the major functions of every culture is to shield its members from chaos, to reassure them of their importance and ultimate success. Without such trust in exclusive privileges, it would be difficult to face odds of existence. This is as it should be. But there are times when the feeling that one has found safety in the bosom of a friendly cosmos becomes dangerous. The unwarranted sense of security sooner or later results in a rude awakening.


Genuinely happy individuals are few and far between.


How many people enjoy what they are doing, who are reasonably satisfied with their lot, who do not regret the past and look to the future with genuine confidence?


It's difficult to find an honest man. It's even more difficult to find a happy man.


"Is this all there is?"

There is an expectation that after one grows up, things will get better. During the years of early adulthood the future still looks promising, the hope remains that one's goals will be realized. Your time is up, it's time to move on. "Wait a minute, this can't be happening to me. I haven't even begun to live. Where is all that money I was supposed to have made? Where are all the good times I was going to have?"


As this realization slowly sets in, different people react to it differently. Some try to ignore it, and renew their efforts to acquire more of the things that were suppose to make life good- bigger cares and homes, more power on the job, a more glamorous lifestyle. They renew their efforts, determined still to achieve the satisfaction that up into this point has eluded them. Sometimes this solution works, simply because one is so drawn into the competitive struggle that there is no time to realize that the goal has not come any nearer. But if a person does take the time to reflect, the disillusionment returns: after each success it becomes clearer that money, power, status, and possessions do not, by themselves, necessarily add one iota to the quality of life.


There are just so many dams about to burst and so little time to tend to them all.


They may dabble in genteel forms of escape such as developing a harmless hobby or accumulating a collection of abstract paintings or porcelain figurines. Or they may lose themselves to alcohol or in the dreamworld of drugs. While exotic pleasures and expensive recreations temporarily take the mind off the basic question " Is this all there is?" few claim to have ever found an answer that way.


Religions are only temporarily successful attempts to cope with the lack of meaning in life; they are not permanent answers. The future does not look much rosier. The trends are often disturbing that we become jaded and tune it out. The level of knowledge in the population seems to be declining everywhere.


Each person must use whatever tools are available to carve out a meaningful, enjoyable life. To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. A person must develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of the external circumstances. It requires discipline and perseverance that are rare in any era, and especially in the present. And before all else, achieving control over experience requires a drastic change in attitude about what is important and what is not.


" We are always getting to live but never living. " -Ralph Waldo Emerson " It is always bread and jam tomorrow, never bread and jam today."


Civilization is built on the representation of individual desires. It would be impossible to maintain any kind of social order unless society's members were focused to take on the habits and skills that the culture required, whether the individual likes it or not. The essence of socialization is to make people dependent on social controls, to have them respond predictably to rewards and punishments.


The people of a oppressed country obey their conquerors because they want to go on living. When they do not rely on pain, social systems use pleasure as the inducement to accept norms. "The good life" promised as reward for a lifetime of work and adherence to laws is built on the cravings contained in our genetic programs.


It is important to realize that seeking pleasure is a reflex response built into our genes for the preservation of the species, not for the purpose of our own personal advantage. The interest is simply being manipulated by the invisible genetic code, following its own plans.


The person who cannot resist food or alcohol, or whose mind is constantly on sex, is not free to direct his or her psychic energy.


  • Achieve control over instinctual drives to achieve a healthy independence of society

  • Our genetic desires make us dependent on a social system that exploits our energies for its own purposes

  • There is no question it is necessary to survive in a complex society that one must work on external goals and to postpone immediate gratification. But a person does not need to be turned into a puppet jerked about by social controls.

  • Find rewards in the events of each moment. Power returns to the person when rewards are no longer regulated by outside forces.

  • Pain and pleasure occur in the consciousness and exist only there.

  • Let your heart control the mind and rewards.

  • The control of consciousness determines the quality of life.


If Christ had returned to preach his message of liberation in the Middle Ages, he would have been crucified again and again by the leaders of that very church whose worldly power was built on his name.


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