As promised in my last blog The Concept of FLOW, I am bringing you a summary of some important concepts from the book “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi so that you can learn to apply this theory to your own life. This book teaches you how motivation works and what to do to enjoy life more. So, let’s dive into it…
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. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances (how to do this is further discussed in my previous post about motivation). We must also become independent from the dictates of the body, and learn to take charge of what happens in the mind. Pain and pleasure occur in consciousness and exist only there.
PATHS OF LIBERATION:
The simple truth that the control of consciousness determines the quality of life has been known for a long time, since before Aristotle.
THE ANATOMY OF CONSCIOUSNESS:
The way in which consciousness works is not entirely controlled by its biological programming – in many important respects it is self-directed. In other words, consciousness has developed the ability to override its genetic instructions and to set its own independent course of action. A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening “outside”, just by changing the content of consciousness. With all its limitations, consciousness could be employed so much more effectively. The mind has enormous untapped potential that we desperately need to learn how to use.
But, what does it mean, then, to be conscious? It simply means that certain specific conscious events (sensations, feelings, thoughts, intentions) are occurring, and that we are able to direct their course. We might think of consciousness as intentionally ordered information.
THE LIMITS OF CONSCIOUSNESS:
We can process about 126 bits of information (such as differentiated sounds, or visual stimuli, or recognizable nuances of emotion or though) per second. The limitation of consciousness is demonstrated by the fact that to understand what another person is saying we must process 40 bits of information each second. It follows that to understand what 3 people are saying simultaneously is theoretically possible, but only by managing to keep out of consciousness every other thought or sensation. We couldn’t, for instance, be aware of the speakers’ expressions, nor could we wonder about why they are saying what they are saying, or notice what they are wearing. Thus, individuals can experience only so much, and the information that we allow into our consciousness becomes extremely important. It is, in fact, what determines the content and the quality of life.
ATTENTION AS CONTROL OF CONSCIOUSNESS:
The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer. And the person who can do this usually enjoys the normal course of everyday life (Doesn’t this sound familiar to my explanation of FLOW? :P). Thus, attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.
That’s all for this summary, but in the next one I will talk about Csikszentmihalyi’s method to reach a state of FLOW.
Until then, take care ❤