Psychology of Happiness Analysis of Flow The Term Paper

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Psychology of Happiness

Analysis of "Flow: The psychology of optimal experience" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

In the book, "Flow: the psychology of optimal experience," author Mihaly Cszikszentmihalyi offers an alternative perspective in which to view how people have re-defined the concept of happiness and changed it according to the experiences of people at present. Now that we have a relatively higher level of comfort and ease in life, we have changed the way people measure and achieve happiness: while others try to look for it through material things, others still experience it without so much effort. This is the primary difference that Mihaly sets out in the first chapter of his book, people who achieve happiness without looking for it and those who were not able to achieve it even though they tried to.

In this paper, the researcher analyzes Mihaly's discussion of what sets out the 'happy' individual from the 'unhappy' individual. In the first chapter of his book, he offered characteristics that make the happy people happy and unhappy ones as such. This paper argues that from Mihaly's standpoint, happiness should be treated not as a concept that must be sought out or discovered, but rather, as an experience that must be spontaneous, uncalled for, yet, very much appreciated though not easily recognized. The concept-versus-experience theme became the author's dominant theme in his discussion of happiness.

In the texts that follow, the researcher offers various points in which Mihaly had argued his stance concerning happiness as experience. These arguments are outlined as follows: (1) happiness as an experience must be anticipated, yet it must not also get in the way of the life of the individual, to the point where s/he would fail to recognize other experiences worth experiencing as well; (2) happiness is achieved when one is in control of his or her life -- this means s/he has a working goal, a direction, in life; and (3) happiness is achieved, finally, in changing one's perspective from being a 'realist' to a 'liberalist.'

The first argument claimed that in order to achieve happiness, it must be anticipated as an experience, and not just a simple state of feeling, as what other people tend to believe and aspire for. Mihaly means that by experiencing, an individual must actually live happiness. How is this possible? The author suggests adopting his "theory of optimal experience," which is best represented by the concept of "flow" (4). He defines flow 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."

Mihaly meant, in simpler terms, that happiness can be achieved by dedicating one's self to one's chosen path of life. Though he did not specify what specific kind of dedication in life we must adhere to, he more or less provides an example: dedication may be in the form of becoming committed to one's role as a worker, or a family member, or simply as an individual constantly interacting with other people. His first recommendation in achieving happiness is actually a path towards self-reflection and -- discovery: once an individual is able to determine what drives him to dedicate his/her life to his/her work or chosen career in life, s/he is in fact engaging in introspection, where the individual assesses what would be the path in which s/he should take, which would also give him/her the drive to aspire for greater things without sacrificing one's opportunity to experience life with other people. Thus, flow must be experienced through sharing, for it is only in the company of other people that we truly realize that we are happy. In effect, optimal experience is a balancing act of asserting one's individuality in the midst of a harmonious social relationship with other people as well.

The second argument has a more or less similar assertion as the first argument. In fact, from the discussion above, one can surmise that Mihaly, as he provided an explanation and example of flow as an optimal experience, was actually leading us to the discussion of self-reflection and self-discovery.

However, what makes his argument important despite its common theme is that he emphasized the process in which people are gradually 'stripping' away the layers of happiness s/he has in life in order to achieve the core, which most people…[continue]

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