Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness (TED Talk)

Mihaly started out by looking for the roots of happiness.

Above a certain level, money does not increase happiness. Once you have enough to be comfortable, then more will not make you happier, in fact it can even make you less happy.

Where in our normal, every day experience, do we feel really happy? Start with people such as artists and scientists – what makes their life meaningful.

Our nervous system can only process about 110 bits of information per second. In order to simply follow somebody talking, and understand what they’re saying, you need to process about 60 bits per second. That’s why you can’t understand two people talking to you at the same time.

A composer said he feels as if he doesn’t exist when he’s in the state of flow – a state of ecstasy. This is because he’s processing so much information at once, that his nervous system cannot also process the experience of existence – so he feels as if the whole experience was not even real. This kind of experience can only happen to somebody who is very well trained, has a technique, which enables him to get lost in that experience.

So many of the people he interviewed described similar experiences, and called them spontaneous flow, that this is where he got the name for it.

“It’s like opening a door that’s floating in the middle of nowhere and all you have to do is go and turn the handle and open it and let yourself sink into it. You can’t particularly force yourself through it. You just have to float. If there’s any gravitational pull, it’s from the outside world trying to keep you back from the door.” – a poet describing his sense of flow

Creating that sense of flow requires several things – one of them is a sense of clarity, you know exactly what it is you want to do. You need to be completely concentrated in the activity.

Ultimately it is mos likely to come about when you are doing something that you really like to do.

(Part of TED a day for June)


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