Class XVI. MC’s Flow, the essay “Happiness Revisited” + New Reading

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Please read all of my notes carefully; please, as well, read last week’s notes in full. There are a few things due:  last week’s summary, this week’s summary, and you must read all of the excerpts from Flow. All will be attached, below and in previous posts. Make sure you are keeping up or there will be a quiz.

ENGL 2150 Class XVI. notes Happiness Revisited

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow

(Here, make sure to read Ch.1, the essay entitled “Happiness Revisited”; as well, make sure, at the very least, then to read the section labeled “Enjoyment and  the Quality of Life” which goes from pgs. 52 to 76)

29 thoughts on “Class XVI. MC’s Flow, the essay “Happiness Revisited” + New Reading

  1. People listen to music for a range of reasons, some strictly for the beat, or tune, while others for the lyrics. One may argue that the lyrics of songs compel people to listen, in attempts to understand the implications of such lyrics. According to Albert Camus, from The Myth of Sisyphus, An Absurd Reasoning, written in 1945, “From the moment absurdity is recognized, it becomes a passion, the most harrowing of all. But whether or not one can live with one’s passions, whether or not one can accept their law, which is to burn the heart they simultaneously exalt—that is the whole question (16). The absurd consists of three components; the first is awareness, conscious of its existence. The second is questioning freedom of both body and mind. The third is revolting. Camus defines the absurd as the separation of an individual from the world. Justin Bieber, a popular young male artist, recently released a song titled “As Long as You Love Me,” which includes the following lyrics: “As long as you love me, we could be starving we could be homeless, we could be broke. As long as you love me, I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold.” These specific lyrics coincide with Camus idea of the absurd. Bieber states unrealistic statements that could not possibly be true, in fact they are absurd. One may argue that an individual starving, homeless and broke and could not be happy. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there are certain physiological needs such as food and water that must be satisfied before love and affection can be met. In these lyrics there is display of the absurd. Bieber is conscious of the separation between himself and world. As an individual, he expresses that love is more important than such struggles of the world which are the absurd. Bieber displays freedom of both his mind and body to choose to love or not to love. Revolting is seen in his willingness to give up his shelter, security and even necessities in exchange for love. In these lyrics, love is his passion, and to live with his passion can result in one of two things, him being able to accept it or allowing it to consume him.

  2. Sorry, I forgot to write my initials on the post above.

    “People listen to music for a range of reasons, some strictly for the beat, or tune, while others for the lyrics. ..” (ABOVE)

    Thank you.
    – G.E.M.

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  4. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in “Flow,” the essay “Happiness Revisited”, “throughout history, weapons that were designed to provide security have turned around and threatened to destroy their makers.” This relates to my definition of happiness which was family because in a way you can relate family to a weapon for example your parents who made you provide security for you while your growing up, some parents don’t provide security for their child; instead they turn around on their kids which can lead to ruining a kids life. A strong well connected family is a great asset in life because it gives you knowledge and in today’s society knowledge can be used as a weapon.

  5. “Happiness” has myriad definitions. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Happiness Revisited, “While happiness itself is sought for its own sake, every other goal—health, beauty, money, or power—is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy.” To put simply, happiness can be defined as fulfilling one’s wants. This, however, is still not an accurate definition. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in Happiness Revisited, “We do not understand what happiness is any better than Aristotle did, and as for learning how to attain that blessed condition, one could argue that we have made no progress at all.” The reason for this is that everyone desires something different. Some people argue that “happiness” is just another word for “satisfaction.” I strongly disagree with that. To me, the difference between “satisfaction” and “happiness” is the difference between “needs” and “wants”. When people get what they need, they are satisfied, but not always happy. When people get what they want, they are mostly happy, but not always. I say “mostly happy” because certain conditions may apply. For instance, during Christmas, there is an exchange of gifts. One person could receive the gift that they always wanted, but in return, gave the other person something they didn’t want. Thus, instead of happiness, the person may feel guilty.

  6. The concept of happiness is a complex one. According to Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi in Happiness Revisited from “Flow”, the human race has a very warped perspective on the attainment of happiness. People have come to assume that the achievement of material goals constitutes happiness, however, very few people actually gain happiness from such things. Csikszenmihalyi believes in the “inner experience”, which is consciousness of one’s self, and “order in consciousness”, which is when a situation occurs that needs to be matched by the skills that a person possesses. Once someone overcomes struggles, he achieves a feeling of elation that could be considered the root of happiness. “Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person” (Csikszenmihalyi, 11).

  7. The 14th Dalai Lama once said, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” This quote epitomizes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s thinking in his work, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” Happiness is the one goal most, if not all, people push themselves to strive for. It’s an emotion and state of being that eludes so many, but can be grasped easily, as Csikszentmihalyi puts it, “when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” It’s why sky divers jump out of an airplane ten thousand feet above land, and why being generous to the homeless brings out a certain satisfaction to the do-gooder.

    As the examples show, there is some type of realistic goal these individuals attempt to accomplish. For the skydiver, it would be trying to go higher up in the air. For the generous person, it’s an act of satisfying the goal of helping those in need. When “attention is invested in realistic goals, and when skills match the opportunities for action”, happiness takes its true form, and brings out the best in humanity. When this stream of consciousness is “harmoniously ordered”, Csikszentmihalyi theory of flow becomes apparent. The notion is to be at terms with whatever goal a person may set out to do, and once they reach that goal, they reach their emotional peak of happiness. However, reaching these goals may never be easy, and the world was never made to easily let individuals acquire a state of euphoria. An example of this would be trying to eradicate injustices done to those who don’t deserve it, whether it be by violence or another type of oppression. Fortunately, stopping these horrible crimes against humanity becomes a task and goal to those who want to stop them. A person may donate money, sponsor or make an organization that focuses on stopping these atrocities, or push for stronger laws and policies that govern the areas of where the violations are the norm. Doing so, and then achieving such a task, becomes part of the flow. Once there is some type of success, we see an inanimate emotion become animate among the citizens that try to carry out their ambitions.

  8. The feeling of happiness is quite rare in this day in age. It seems as if stress and anxiety are the most present emotions, which can be linked to work and issues. The process of nostalgia is reminiscing over old memories has been psychologically proven to put one into a happy state. Since nostalgia has a significant role in happiness then one should set aside time for recreation. These moments of “recreation” will create the memories that once reflected on will allow the stigma of happiness to take over. Time management will allow someone to place time into their schedule for relaxing and recreation. A planner, a notepad or even a cell phone can be used as a device for time management. This will immediately relieve stress and is the first step on the complex road to happiness.

    Being happy is a desire that many have and it’s appalling to see how many people are confused on how to approach happiness. According to Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi in Happiness Revisited from Flow, “this simple truth—that the control of consciousness determines the quality of life” (20). The control of conscious is beneficial to one’s wellbeing because stress and anxiety have been deemed as detrimental to one’s health. This requires a significant amount of effort before it becomes second nature, one will have to not only know how to do it but they must consistently make effort to guide their emotions when in stress giving situations. Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi discussed that one must avoid social control because independence is another necessity in this process. Happiness requires dedication from the individual by wanting to be happy and not expecting happiness to come to you.

    Stav. O

  9. What does it mean to be happy? This is an age old question that has remained unanswered for centuries. From Aristotle to Csikszentmihalyi, there have been many theories on how to define and achieve happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory on this topic is presented in his book titled, Flow. In his book, Csikszentmihalyi presents an idea known as optimal experience, otherwise known as flow. He explains optimal experience as, “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.” (4). this means that when someone is doing something that they really enjoy doing, it produces a really great experience and drowns out all their worries and stresses. This, I believe, can be categorized as a state of happiness. My theory of happiness is that it is the feeling that is acquired after having successfully achieved some type of long-run goal, ambition, or desire. By “long-run” goals, I mean things such as graduating high school or maintaining a high GPA throughout college. Notice that these goals also require a level of hard work to achieve. This leads to another aspect of my definition of happiness: that the harder something is to achieve, the better it feels when you actually achieve. Mihaly also stated in his book that, “The pursuit of a goal brings order in awareness because a person must concentrate attention on the task at hand and momentarily forget everything else.
    These periods of struggling to overcome challenges are what people find to be the most enjoyable times of their lives.” (4). This statement supports my belief on what happiness is in that it explains that when people work hard to achieve something, they are experiencing one of the greatest moments of their lives. When an individual focuses all of her or his energy and attention on a goal, it gives them a moment to forget about their other worries or stresses and provides them with a comforting feeling. This very feeling is what I believe happiness is and I think that Csikszentmihalyi would agree with that.

  10. i just wanted to correct something in my summary. The second quote is actually from page 6, not 4.

    Thank you

  11. In the movie “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” there was a scene where a young stockbroker wanted to buy out a tycoon from a business because the wealthy tycoon was driving it into the ground. The young kid asked him what it would take for the tyrant to sell his stake in the company, to which the tyrant simply replied, “More”. This concept of “more” is an intrinsic method of understanding the mentality of society today.

    According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in “Flow”, “New needs are felt, new desires arise. With affluence and power come escalating expectations, and as our level of wealth and comforts keeps increasing, the sense of well-being we hoped to achieve keeps receding into the distance.” (10). As human wants and needs are fulfilled, more objectives are set on the pathway to happiness. Therefore, it is imperative to stick to a schedule of goals individuals set dedicated to inching towards happiness.

    This concept becomes more apparent as Csikszentmihalyi later states: “This paradox of rising expectations suggests that improving the quality of life might be an insurmountable task… In fact there is no problem in our desire to escalate our goals, as long as we enjoy the struggle along the way.” (10). Only through the effort and experience humans are subject to in life could they begin to become content with their achievements, as long as they stay the course and move forward.

    How can people understand what happiness is when there is always a want or need for more? Simply put by Csikszentmihalyi, “while humankind collectively has increased its material powers a thousandfold, it has not advanced very far in terms of improving the content of experience.” (15). So for the wealthy tyrant, young stockbroker, and all others in society alike, happiness is in the experience of striving and struggling for more in this world as long as more is possible.


  12. Greg Anderson once said, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” This relates to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s thoughts on how happiness can be achieved. According to Mihaly in his essay “Flow,” happiness can only be achieved if we can control our consciousness, find order in it, interpret day-to-day experiences, combat the inner obstacles within one’s self, and make sense of all those things put together. He brings up the concept of “flow,” which is a state of mind where one is focused on one activity so much that he/she forgets about everything else for a moment. It becomes enjoyable to the point that he/she keeps doing that activity just to experience that enjoyable moment again. When laborers or employees experience flow, they can reach order in consciousness, and find joy in their efforts towards their goal.
    Let one first define what happiness is before one understands how to achieve it. Happiness is the positive emotional response–like a smile–resulting from effort toward a goal rather than completing the goal itself. For example, if a pastry chef plans to open his/her own pastry shop, he/she would have to prepare a multitude of ideas for food, design of the store, location, etc. After achieving that goal, the pastry chef is content. But, is it truly because he accomplished the goal? If one were to be in the shoes of him/her, one could see that the “journey” contributed more than the “destination” did in determining his/her happiness. Why? The pastry chef had to pay an incredible amount of attention to the work he/she had to do in order to build that pastry shop. Even though it was a lot of work, he/she enjoyed the work as well as the effort put in that required a lot of physical and mental energy. Therefore, one can tell that his/her happiness derived from the order of consciousness that the pastry chef had, the joy he/she felt when doing the work required to create a pastry shop, and the exhilaration felt when overcoming adversities within him-/herself.

  13. The one thing people want most in life is to be happy. Though, many do not understand what happiness is or how they can obtain it. Happiness is having an optimistic perspective in all situations. People who are happy are capable of looking at both successes and failures in a positive manner. Personally, I am happy when I complete my homework and various tasks that each day requests. One way that allows me to become happy is by organizing my homework and tasks into a planner. Upon completion of each assignment, crossing it out of my planner brings enjoyment, knowing that I am one step closer to completing my list. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi from Flow, “Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person” (2). Csikszentmihalyi reasons that happiness is rooted internally and cannot be earned by external factors. Csikszentmihalyi argues that an individual is responsible for their own happiness, and that there is not a set of guidelines that can make someone happy. However, one may state that they find their happiness in the world’s materialistic pleasures, such as technology, makeup and clothing as well as in their closest friends and family.


  14. Happiness is a condition of someone where they feel positive emotions that can vary from an individual feeling content to overwhelming joy. Happiness is such an important fundamental in human life that most individuals sought to find different ways or ideas on how to achieve their idea of happiness. In the United States Declaration of Independence, it stated, “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as the essential natural rights for Americans. Although everyone has different concepts on how to achieve happiness and even what “happiness” is to them, throughout someone’s life, in their own way or form, they are always trying to achieve it whether it is gaining certain materialistic things or creating memorable and positive experiences.
    In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow”, in the essay “Happiness Revisited”, he introduces the idea that people generally make the assumption of achieving materialistic ends to satisfy their sought for happiness and generally proven that most individuals will not be happy even after achieving materialistic goods for themselves. Csikszentmihalyi believes that an individual’s “inner experience” which is also the will determine the fate of someone’s happiness. In the essay, he said “People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy,” contributes to the original idea that it’s not just the materialistic goods that can make someone happy but the experience and the memories they make that defines the level of achieved happiness in someone’s life.

  15. What is the recipe for happiness? I have many recipes for happiness. One of them includes a hint of guava candy with a cup full of friends and family and a spoon of strawberry ice cream. Guava candy does not make me automatically happy but the smell, the sourness and sweet taste of it does. Similarly a spoon of strawberry ice cream makes me happy because of the creamy and sweet taste of it. My family and friends play a huge role in my life and have helped create amazing memories that have contributed to my happiness. Combining the experience of enjoying guava candy, family and friends and strawberry ice cream, makes me happy.

    According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s essay “Happiness Revisited“ from his book, “Flow”, “…happiness is not something that happens…It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them.” (2). Csikszentmihalyi suggests that when one is able to take control of a specific event or action and enjoy every single aspect of it, one is able to reach the “optimal experience”, which leads to enjoyment and thus happiness. As Csikszentmihalye suggests, happiness is based on experiences and the way that one chooses to interpret them. Whether it is eating guava candy, being with friends or family and enjoying strawberry ice cream together, one is able to experience happiness when one is able to interpret them in a manner where one enjoys every single detail of it. If tomorrow this recipe does not exist, I will be able to use another recipe for happiness or create a new one because tomorrow I can encounter a new experience, whether good or bad, I will make the most of it and reach the “optimal experience”.

  16. How often a seemingly simple notion turns out to be difficult to define? Everyone understands it, but fails to provide a universal explanation. This is true about happiness. What does it mean to be happy? Some see it in being healthy, rich or famous, others – in being satisfied with what one has or reflecting on positive event and memories from the past. The list of definitions is be endless as each and every individual from the 7 billion population of earth will offer his own definition depending on age, gender, religion, place of living, educational and cultural background.
    Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi’s “Happiness Revisited” from Flow is another attempt to develop a more or less universal definition of this complex term. It advocates that, “happiness is not something that happens;…how we feel about ourselves, the joy we get from living, ultimately depend on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences.” Indeed, one might possess all fortune, money and fame in the world, but still be far from happiness. While a poor old man, living humbly in the most remote area none has ever heard of, might be extremely happy. Csikszenmihalyi suggests that, in order to be happy in every moment of life, it is necessary to control what happens in consciousness and tune the mind into the positive disposition on as many occasions as possible. He introduces the term flow in an attempt to define the means of achieving happiness. According to him, “a flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity, that nothing else seem to matter, the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it for the sheer sake of doing it.”(4) Indeed, if one is engaged in doing something that really satisfies him and fills with positive emotions, then at least at that particular moment a person is happy.
    There is no doubt, that engaging in the activities one likes and gets the utmost enjoyment from, brings enormous amount of positive emotions and, therefore, happiness. But controlling the mind and making it perceive some activities as enjoyable ones, when they are not or are not that enjoyable, is an extremely difficult task. Z.Freud compared the mind to an iceberg, suggesting that what one knows or supposes he knows and controls is only its visible part. What is concealed beneath the water – id and super ego, contains enormously potent forces. Before one makes a conscious attempt to convince mind in something, his sub-consciousness will be already done with delivering to the mind the first impression or perception about a given experience. Besides, an attempt to control consciousness is a voluntary event that requires effort. Any involuntary action registers in mind better and faster than a voluntary one. Therefore, before one tries to control how the mind interprets the experience, the mind already knows what that experience is really like.
    Due to these reasons my understanding of happiness corresponds to the flow theory only to some extent. I understand happiness as a state of certain stability, comprised of income and employment security, emotional and physical health that allows me not to “worry about tomorrow” and concentrate on doing what I enjoy doing. For instance, such hobbies as traveling, or even simply watching good movies or drawing. Even though hobbies are obviously flow-activities, they can be genuinely enjoyable and emotionally rewarding only on the platform of satisfied physiological needs in food, safety and security. Thus, my view of happiness fits perfectly into the Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which states that a person cannot reach self-actualization stage and achieve the highest point in self-development until his needs from lower tears (physiological needs, of need in love and security) are met.

  17. Happiness does not have one true definition. In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow”, he states equates happiness and optimal experience. He goes on to say “Because optimal experience depends on the ability to control what happens in consciousness moment by moment, each person has to achieve it on the basis of his own individual efforts and creativity.” This holds true with my definition of happiness, the act of accepting the fact that things will not always go the way you want them to in a positive manner. Each person has their own way of completing this act.
    I learn this through experience, and immediate examination of my actions. For example, anger often arises after a rough break up. I attained happiness by analyzing the situation and accepting that things did not go how I wished them to. Others may have found happiness by burning all the things their significant other had given them. People will never handle a situation in the exact same manner and therefore, each person attains their own form of happiness.

  18. It is an inevitable thing that at some point in life, one will ponder the state of one’s happiness and the nature of happiness and fail to come to any meaningful conclusion, but not Mihaly Csiskszentmihalyi. In his philosophical work, titled “Flow”, he presents his ideas about happiness and the circumstances surrounding with his theory that is aptly labeled as “flow”. The most important part of the feeling of happiness is what he dubs an “optimal experience”, which basically means what it sounds like. An optimal experience as he defines it is a perfect moment — not by a measure of any material abundance, but in a feeling of control of the world around oneself and an uplifting of one’s consciousness. Flow is a perfect name for this state of happiness, as one can imagine being part of the ocean and its flow; there is no concern over where or why one is going in some direction, just that the journey itself is occurring.
    Flow is essentially synonymous with the commonly used description of “being in the zone”. It’s pretty easy to understand flow in those words. Everyone has been “in the zone” at some point, whether it was for cranking out a 5 page paper in a few hours, playing in any competitive game, or even cooking and cleaning, and that is the essence of flow. Personally, flow occurs during gaming often when something is perfectly balanced in terms of its difficulty and my ability; anything too easy is boring, and anything too difficult is annoying.

  19. Happiness is a feeling one achieves after completing a goal that the individual feels is worthwhile. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in “Flow,” the essay “Happiness Revisited” concludes that “the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile”. My definition of happiness relates to this in that accomplishing a challenging goal can provide a jubilant experience. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi expresses the idea that the person’s body and mind must be stretched to its limits. Putting all ones effort into a task makes the result worth the trouble. I can relate this notion to completing a last rep of a workout. The drive and completion of pushing the body to its limits is a moment of triumph that leaves one in a state of happiness. And to come back and complete the task again and again brings the individual back to the feeling of happiness. By being persistent with a workout and going again and again the body and mind will revisit the state of happiness.

  20. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, in “Flow,” the essay “Happiness Revisited” he writes that happiness is achieved differently by each individual. To me happiness is achieved when I wake up in the morning and have the sun shine directly onto my bed. This helps me start my day off the right way and wakes me up so I’m not feeling lethargic. Having the sun rise on my side of the house and placing my bed right under my window so that I can be exposed to any sun light there may be in the morning.
    Also in his essay Mihaly writes that happiness is a feeling one gets after accomplishing a certain goal he feels is beneficial to him. I can agree with what he says here because I know that after putting in hard work to achieve a goal, achieving it feels that much better. I got this feeling after practicing and playing basketball everyday the summer before I went into 12th grade. I was rehabilitating a broken ankle and practicing to work my way into the starting lineup. When the fall arrived and the season started, seeing my name up on the white board with the other four players was a great feeling. Thinking about the hard work I put in and realizing that I had achieved my goal made me happy. That is why to me being happy is being satisfied, being happy with my own success towards the goal I set for myself. Happiness is being content with what I have and what I have accomplished towards my final goal. Being happy is being able to look at good and bad results and seeing that the good outweighs the bad.

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  22. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, in “Flow,” the essay “Happiness Revisited” he writes that happiness is achieved differently by each individual. To me happiness is achieved when I wake up in the morning and have the sun shine directly onto my bed.

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