Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a pretty popular book. It’s often mentioned in TED Talks and other must-read books, so I got interested in it. I thought “if the snippet I heard/read was good, the book must be better.”
I bought the Kindle version in October 2022, but I didn’t get to finish it because it was too complicated.
The idea was simple, but the writer seemed to overexplain it. The sentences were long. You’d lose the gist while in the middle of the sentence. Then you’d have to reread it again – at least that’s I experienced.
Sunk cost bias overpowered me that I decided to reread it this year.
Since 2023 started, I’ve been writing “Finish Flow book” every week, and every week I’d fail – until January 31st. I read the book from December-January. It’s not a long book, really, but again, how he wrote made it longer for me to finish it.
Flow, also known as “optimal experience”, is the state in which people are too involved in an activity that they lose track of time or can’t think of anything else than what they’re doing. Playing sports, partying with friends, or playing video games are some examples of flow-inducing activities, but it can happen to any activity you’re doing – even when working.
To experience flow, you need:
Give your full attention to the task in front of you. Whatever you need to do right now, stick to it and keep distractions away.
As a writer, I’m conscious of how I write, but if I constantly check and edit what I’m writing, I’d never experience flow because of the constant writing and stopping (to edit) and back to writing. So what I do is I write freely regardless of spelling mistakes, grammar lapses, incoherent ideas, or anything else. I save the “editing” once I’m done writing.
You need freedom to be yourself and to allow yourself to make mistakes. When you’re always self-conscious, you’ll find it more difficult to experience flow.
Feedback lets you know when your actions are getting you close to your goals. The goal should be clear, and so should the feedback be.
A tennis player’s main goal is to win a competition, and the sub-goals (as I’d call it) is to hit the ball strategically back to the opponent. Once the player hits the ball, the feedback, whether it was hit back by the opponent or not, is clear. It tells the tennis player to do better.
You need a balance between challenging and easy. When what you’re doing is too challenging, you’ll lose confidence in yourself and feel anxious. If it’s too easy, you’ll be bored.
Find the right balance of challenge in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll increase your skill.
What do I think of the book?
The book is great as it teaches us how to make the mundane things in life interesting.
The only thing I disliked about it is how it was written, and for that I’d rate it as 3/5.
Should you read it?
If you’re curious why I love and hate the book, read it. If you want the gist, this blog post is enough.
Would I reread it again?
Not anytime soon! Maybe in a few years.