Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, American philosopher and psychologist of Hungarian origin, has devoted most of his life studying the happiness and ways to feel happy.
He is best known for his work on positive psychology and unique concept of Flow – a moment of nothingness, a mental state of total involvement, loss of sense of time, lack of fear and anxiety, the dissolution of the ego and sense of absolute fullness of life.
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. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p.3)
1. Happiness – is not what “happens” to us. We need to learn how to be happy. In the footsteps of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi insists that happiness does not simply happen. It must be prepared for and cultivated by each person, by setting challenges that are neither too demanding nor too simple for ones abilities. Do not forget that you can create (or not) the happiness in your thoughts . After all, it’s you the one who chooses how to react to what’s happening to you.
2. When I set myself a goal to understand why some people are able to be happy, and others not – I started to study two groups of people . The first group are the people who have lost everything in life, including health and loved ones, but it did not break them. They managed to find a new meaning of life and new incentives for self-development. And they were happier than those to whom fate seemed to be favorable. The second group of people – are creative people: artists, musicians, writers. When they do what they do, nothing else exists around them – they fall into that mental state that is similar to narcotic buzz. After years of research, Csikszentmihalyi came to conclusion that, these two experiences – ability to control mind and manage your psychic energy are the ways to be happy.
Flow – is a very powerful experience. It ‘s addictive. We must learn to get out of it as soon as we need to get back to reality!
3. Money, wealth and even health – do not guarantee happiness . Yes, they can improve life, but if you can not control the energy , you will still be missing something. There are two types of responses to stress : neurotic defense, when you blame the whole world for your misfortune , and ” mature ” defense, when you are able to overcome the chaos so that at least your mind is in order. When you face the problems , learn how to temporarily disable all the anger and emotions. Try to logically analyze the situation and to reformulate the problem so that it is easier to solve it with the help of alternative opportunities and strategies.
Csíkszentmihályi quotes Marcus Aurelius approvingly when the Stoic philosopher writes, “If you are pained by external things it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that power now.” (Cskiszentmihalyi, 1990, p.20) The key to happiness consists in how we invest our psychic energy. When we focus our attention on a consciously chosen goal, our psychic energy literally “flows” in the direction of that goal, resulting in a re-ordering and harmony within consciousness.
4. Learn to have fun every day. Here’s an easy way . Make a list of things you’re good at . Make sure they are not too complicated, also not too simple. Those are the things you really love doing and when you doing them you lose the sense of time. Wrote them down? Great. Now, try to spend some time on one of these things every day, and gradually make them a little difficult as the time goes by. This way you will learn to enter a state of Flow.
5. Flow- is the feeling of fullness of life , which is – happiness. The more you are in the flow , the less your vital energy is wasted . And there’s more joy in your life . This state is not so difficult to achieve. Csíkszentmihályi identified several rules to get into the Flow . First, you should be really good at what you are doing in order not to waste energy on self-doubt. ‘I’ disappears when you are in the Flow, but becomes stronger when you come out of ‘Flow’. Second, you need to be fully focused at task, not to allow any insignificant information to occupy your mind. Third, the perception of time is changing. Hours turn into minutes, and minutes can stretch into hours . Fourth, you must have clear goals and the ability to quickly get feedback . Fifth, you completely forget about the worries and problems as if they were not in your life anymore. Because of this your energy and ideas become even greater as if you get connected to the flow of a single cosmic energy . Sixth, you get a sense of control over the situation and , as a consequence – of your life .
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO WORK HARD. Working hard is the easiest way to enter Flow, ie. Happiness.
6. You can enter the Flow from literally any type of job – from ironing shirts to the conquest of Everest. A dancer would describe it like this: “Concentration is becoming pervasive. Thoughts cease to wander , you do not think about anything else , totally absorbed in his motion like … Energy flows through you , you feel relaxed , confident and full of energy . ” For a chess player: ” Do I have a strange feeling of well-being . I fully run my world, controlling the course of things and events. ” . This causes ecstasy. If you win enough battles with them , it becomes easier to win in the world. “
7. Do not be afraid to work hard. You have a greater chance to enter the Flow during hard work, rather than leisure. The main thing is your work has to be varied and interesting, increasingly complex tasks should match your skills, so there’s a purpose for your actions and ability to get feedback.
8. Ask yourself: where do your spare hours go? Scientists estimate that the average european works 30 hours a week, spends another 10 hours staying at work but wasting his/her time,- plays games, chats with colleagues. Twenty hours per week are spent on leisure, of which 7 hours – TV , 3 hours – reading, 2 hours – sport activities, and 7 hours – on communication and entertainment. So, there’s still 50-60 hours left to manage. Our ancestors had much less time for leisure, but it doesn’t mean that we enjoy life more than they did.
9. Try to find meaning in everything you do. Do not spend your mental energy to doubt , regret , feel guilt or fear, but on the things that you find useful and which you get a pleasure from .
10. Do not waste your energy on trying to fill the time , just to avoid loneliness. Learn to enjoy the moments when you are alone. Those moments are a great opportunity to get to know yourself better and try to take control of your world.
11. The only correct way to live life is to act spontaneously – without thinking about the external benefits and merging with the world, taoists figures out this 2300 years ago. Trust yourself , your abilities, the world in general and your place in it. Act with confidence , and the best solutions will come effortlessly and even naturally.