Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

Author: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
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by HuShang   2021-12-10

I think what you're talking about is flow. It's this zone between something that is too easy and too difficult. It's where you get 'into the zone' and just focus.


by melvinkoopmans   2021-12-10

During sleep you're in an altered state of consciousness which prevents you from being aware of your surroundings. It seems like your perception of time is much influenced by different types of sensory information (such as vision, sound, hearing). Since you're no longer consciously aware of that information from the environment, there is no way for the brain to determine the time between constituent events.

Alterations of the perception of time also occur when people are intensely focused on a task, which makes it seem like time is speeding up. Psychologist call this mental state *flow*, which is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time. If you find this interesting I highly recommend Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

What is also interesting, is the fact that a lot of people report time distortions after taking psychedelics or cannabis. This probably also has to do with a different awareness of the order of events which in turn distorts the perception of time. For instance people experience dilation of time; the feeling that time has slowed down. This commonly occurs during intense hallucinogenic experiences and seems to stem from the fact that during an intense trip, abnormally large amounts of experience are felt in very short periods of time. People also experience the opposite effect, speeding up of time. This commonly occurs under the influence of certain stimulating compounds and seems to at least partially stem from the fact that during intense levels of stimulation, people typically become hyper-focused on activities and tasks in a manner which can allow time to pass them by without realizing it.

And what is even more bizarre is the experience of time reversal, reported in many psychedelic experiences. This is the perception that the events, hallucinations, and experiences that occurred around one's self within the previous several minutes to several hours are spontaneously playing backwards in a manner which is somewhat similar to that of a rewinding VHS tape.

It's a fascinating complex subject, full of unanswered questions ;)

by shafq123   2021-12-10

i agree with many of your thoughts

the idea that happiness/success is the "unintended side effect" of pursuit has stuck with me ever since i read it

i think your definition of happiness is more correct as a definition as pleasure, and interestingly, if you look at the neurotransmitters involved (seratonin for happiness, dopamine for pleasure) it seems to fit this distinction

This is a good image to explain what I'm trying to talk about

Another thing to add to your readings, if you haven't come across it yet, is Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

by [deleted]   2019-08-24

This isn't new. And certainly not always pathological. The concept / experience of time appears to be somewhat influenced by one's culture.

The ancient Greeks distinguished between chronos and kairos. I remember reading an essay about it in a Jungian book years ago (late 80's? early 90's? but I can't remember the book). My understanding is that other (non-Western) cultures also have different words for different experiences of time.

For myself, a therapy hour can seem like an eternity. Or it can pass by in what seems like 30 seconds. I regularly hear from clients "Our time is up already?" That's usually a sign to me that our work is on the right track.

I'd invite you to consider reading "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience



If memory serves, the author talks about the experience of time in this work as well.


Good luck!

by xOrder69   2019-08-24

I suggest you read this book and make the commitment to start working on yourself. In the end you are the only person who can do anything about your situation.

by Meeseekslookatmee   2019-08-24

Whenever I see posts like this I recommend this book (not necessarily stoic). It's basic premise is that its all in your head and with the right attitude you can find enjoyment (even fulfillment) from something as mundane as folding the laundry.


by PlumpFish   2019-07-21

You are not alive so that you may entertain yourself as much as possible and then die. You are meant for more. The search for more- discovering, then rediscovering why you're here, what your gifts are, this will last your whole life.

Discipline helps you accomplish something. But you need to figure out what to accomplish. The good and bad news is nobody knows. This is yours, and everyone's internal journey.

Use your gifts, involve other people. Are you a good singer? Sing for others. Are you a good cook? Cook for others. Are you strong? Help people move. Are you smart? Create an app, invest wisely, cure a disease. Are you really good at shooting a rubber-band from your fingers? Make youtube videos about it. Perform for sick kids in hospitals. It doesn't matter how big or small your gifts are. Share them.

I will give you an example from my life. I'm in my early 30's. I'm a good writer and speaker. My goal in life is to help others feel less alone. My strong social senses are insight and empathy. I like making others laugh, I like challenging regularly accepted ideas and tinkering with fringe ideas. So- I write friends letters, emails, Facebook messages to connect with them. I write funny personal essays and read around my city/online. I exercise to be confident/attractive (enough) to the opposite sex. I volunteer at Special Olympics coaching soccer. I seek out people going through hard times and connect with them, look them in the eyes and allow them to be who they are. I volunteer at the skid row mission. All of this helps and strengthens my soul. But for money, I program. I chose programming because I can enter Flow states during it, so even though it's work and can often suck, it can be really rewarding. Read Flow and design aspects of your life around it: https://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Perennial-Classics/dp/0061339202. It's taken me my entire life to figure all of this stuff out about myself, and I'm still learning and growing. One day I may hate all of this.

Let me give you some examples of where I lack discipline: I wanted to write a book 5 years ago. I started it, never finished. Discipline will help me finish it, but knowing myself was what allowed me to know I had the ability to write and something worth saying. Also, some days I just play video games for 10 hours. I ignore everything. Discipline helps limit/reduce those days.

I want you to think about the idea of production and consumption. When you watch TV/Youtube, you are consuming. Reading a book, consuming. Eating pizza, consuming. If you make your parents spaghetti, you're producing. Paint a picture, producing. Arrange flowers into a bouquet and then give them to someone, producing. Find a good balance in your life between these things. Everyone is different. The fact that you wrote this post makes me think you're a little high on consumption and a little low on production. Decide how you're going to change, then use discipline to execute those changes.

by KilluaKanmuru   2019-07-21


John Vervaeke on YouTube is great. Check out his videos. I especially like his series: Awakening from the Meaning Crisis.

by Orange_Moose   2019-07-21


by magic_beans   2017-08-19
You are experiencing Flow: https://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Perennial-...
by elliotec   2017-08-19
This is some pretty odd advice. Basically it amounts to "stop doing things that you enjoy". Drop music, news, and video games? Not listening to music will not make you a better programmer. I agree about sugar in moderation and getting good rest (though the specific times seem debatable).

#2 is a serious misunderstanding of flow[0] and is against research arguing that flow states facilitate learning[1].

Flow is not easy-peasy non-frustration time, it is getting "fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity." To deny yourself that is blocking yourself from the most productive and rewarding of human experiences.

One of the fundamental ideas of flow is that when the task is challenging enough to break one out of the state, additional skills are learned to return to the flow state.[2]

In my opinion, to achieve your maximum potential as a programmer, you should be striving to hit a flow state as much as possible.

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Perennial-...

by Baeocystin   2017-08-19
Some of my best ideas have come to me after hours of twaddling away with no particular goal in mind in SimCity.

We as devs tend to seek optimal solutions as if they were a simple numeric quantity, where more/higher=better. We know this is not how things are, but the mental model is seductive in in its simplicity.

What I have learned over the years is that it is the constant change between different forms of attention and focus that drive me to be my best. Which means time, real time, away from what I do for work. And when I return to work after doing so, I appreciate it all the more.

You might be interested in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow, if you have not yet read it. Although it has nothing to do with game playing per se, it helped clarify many aspects of my thinking when it came to why I felt I was 'wasting' time while gaming, and why I was wrong in that assessment.


by jseliger   2017-08-19
I feel like I'm being dragged through this tedious system which will later prepare me for work at a company coding Blub, it's driving me nuts.

To some extent, this is true and will continue to be true. But, as others have no doubt pointed out and will continue to point out, you'll learn more from school than just coding Blub (or lisp, or haskell, or whatever); you'll be learning how to learn, how to get along with others, how to live on your own, and so forth.

The big advantage you'll have at UW is that you'll be hanging around a lot of very smart people, especially in the CS department (I assume you're from Washington; I actually went to Newport HS in Bellevue). The connections you make, whether from demonstrating your skill or just from hanging out, will probably serve you for the rest of your life. If you impress your professors, you'll find research/internship opportunities you wouldn't elsewhere. And don't underestimate the larger social aspect: you'll never be around so many people in your own stage of life again. So go to the occasional party, hook up here and there, and learn how to be a person too, which is more important than you might imagine.

You should at least start college, although it'll be easy to get lost at UW. Still, this advice: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1183085 seems good to me; if this is you, don't go. But the weight should be on going; if you really hate it, you can quit. But try to find challenging classes while not underestimating the social potential. And don't get side-tracked by run-of-the-mill jobs; the only way you should drop out is for a game-changing startup opportunity.

You're probably reading variations on a lot of the advice above because it's pretty good advice. It won't apply to everyone, but it will apply to most—especially people as driven as you. A few more observations: read my post about why laptops in class are often a distraction: http://jseliger.com/2008/12/28/laptops-students-distraction-... and, as soon as you can, get a copy of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience : http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061339202?ie=UTF8&tag=... as soon as you can. There's another thing you'll find in college: books that are essential but that you don't currently know to read because you don't have people around you who are sufficiently knowledgeable to recommend them.

Anyway, if you have other, specific questions for me, send an e-mail to the link at http://jseliger.com , which is my blog, especially if you by chance are going to Newport.