Tag Archives: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a much sought-after speaker and the author of 19 books (many of them best sellers), including Beyond Boredom and Anxiety (still in print after 5 editions), Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (selected by 4 book clubs & translated into 23 languages), Creativity (selected by 4 book clubs & translated into 5 languages), and Good Business (translated into 9 languages).

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was born in Italy where his father was serving as a consul for the Hungarian government. During WWII as a pre-teen child, he witnessed the crash of European society and wondered why grown-ups had not found a better way to live. The quest to understand how to improve life led him through religion, philosophy, literature and art, before coming to rest on psychology.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi came to the US in 1956 with $1.25 to his name and almost no English. For his ESL class he wrote the first of two autobiographical short stories that were published in the New Yorker. He taught at the University of Chicago for 30 years, eventually becoming Chairman of its Psychology Department.

With his talk ““Creativity and Flow: Making Life and Learning more Enjoyable”, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that children are born with an enormous desire to learn. Unfortunately, formal schooling has never been successful in leveraging this desire. Research on the flow experience has begun to offer ideas for how to make learning more enjoyable.

Children are born with an enormous desire to learn. Unfortunately, formal schooling has never been successful in leveraging this desire for the purposes of education. In the past few decades, research on the flow experience has begun to offer ideas for how to make learning more enjoyable. Prof. Csikszentmihalyi will describe the components of flow and its implications to education

Learning Objectives: Develop an understanding of the flow experience, how it can help learning, and how it relates to existing pedagogies (e.g. Montessori education).

This talk was given at the conference “Brain Development and Learning 2010 Meeting” in Vancouver. It was an interdisciplinary conference devoted to improving children’s lives by making cutting-edge research in neuroscience, child psychology, & medicine. Further information available on http://www.interprofessional.ubc.ca/bdl.html

The 5th European Conference on Positive Psychology in Copenhagen, Denmark started today (June, 23rd) and will continue until 26th. The focus is on how the science of well-being is changing the lives of individuals, communities, and institutions around the globe; there is a special perspective on what is happening in Nordic Countries and the wider European context, with an eye on the rapidly approaching future.

The conference covers themes such as:

– Positive psychology towards 2025: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
– Evidence-based educational and professional application, and misapplication
– Cross-cultural and universal perspectives on positive psychology: what is an optimal balance?
– Nordic issues: Societies and institutional analysis
– The media: how they are energizing and depressing people
– The environment: what is the contribution of Positive Psychology?
– Art and Science in Positive Psychology

Speakers include:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Claremont Graduate University, USA

William Damon, Stanford University, USA

Michael Eid, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany

Antonella Delle Fave, University of Milan, Italy

Barbara Fredrickson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil, USA

Howard Gardner, Harvard University, USA

Felicia Huppert, University of Cambridge, UK

Corey Keyes, Emory University, USA

Alex Linley, CAPP, UK

Willibald Ruch, Universität Zürich, Switzerland

Wilmar Schaufeli, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Carmelo Vázquez, Facultad de Psicología de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

Ruut Veenhoven, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Joar Vittersø, University of Tromsø, Norway

More information on the official website: http://www.ecpp2010.dk

From January 2000 American Psychologist, Vol 55. No. 1. 5 14 DOI: 10.1037//0003-066X.55.1.5 Please see full article on

A science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions promises to improve quality of life and prevent the pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless. The exclusive focus on pathology that has dominated so much of our discipline results in a model of the human being lacking the positive features that make life worth living. Hope, wisdom, creativity, future mindedness, courage, spirituality, responsi- bility, and perseverance are ignored or explained as transformations of more authentic negative impulses. The 15 articles in this millennial issue of the American Psychologist discuss such issues as what enables happiness, the effects of autonomy and self-regulation, how optimism and hope affect health, what constitutes wisdom, and how talent and creativity come to fruition. The authors outline a framework .For a science of positive psychology, point to gaps in our knowledge, and predict that the next century will see a science and profession that will come to under- stand and build the factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to flourish.


The field of positive psychology at the subjective level is about valued subjective experiences: well-being, con- tentment, and satisfaction (in the past); hope and optimism (for the future); and flow and happiness (in the present). At the individual level, it is about positive individual traits: the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future mindedness, spirituality, high talent, and wisdom. At the group level, it is about the civic virtues and the insti- tutions that move individuals toward better citizenship: responsibility, nurturance, altruism, civility, moderation, tolerance, and work ethic.

Enjoyment Versus Pleasure
In a similar vein, it is useful to distinguish positive expe- riences that are pleasurable from those that are enjoyable. Pleasure is the good feeling that comes from satisfying homeostatic needs such as hunger, sex, and bodily comfort. Enjoyment, on the other hand, refers to the good feelings people experience when they break through the limits of homeostasis–when they do something that stretches them beyond what they were–in an athletic event, an artistic performance, a good deed, a stimulating conversation. En- joyment, rather than pleasure, is what leads to personal growth and long-term happiness, but why is that when given a chance, most people opt for pleasure over enjoy- ment? Why do people choose to watch television over reading a challenging book, even when they know that their usual hedonic state during television is mild dysphoria, whereas the book can produce flow?

Collective Well-Being

This question leads directly to the issue of the balance between individual and collective well-being. Some hedo- nic rewards tend to be zero-sum when viewed from a systemic perspective. If running a speedboat for an hour provides the same amount of well-being to Person A as reading from a book of poems provides to Person B, but the speedboat consumes 10 gallons of gasoline and irritates 200 bathers, should the two experiences be weighed equally? Will a social science of positive community and positive institutions arise?


It has been a common but unspoken assumption in the social sciences that negative traits are authentic and posi- tive traits are derivative, compensatory, or even inauthen- tic, but there are two other possibilities: that negative traits are derivative from positive traits and that the positive and negative systems are separate systems. However, if the two systems are separate, how do they interact? Is it necessary to be resilient, to overcome hardship and suffering to experience positive emotion and to develop positive traits? Does too much positive experience create a fragile and brittle personality?

As positive psychology finds its way into prevention and therapy, techniques that build positive traits will become commonplace. Psychologists have good reason to believe that techniques that build positive traits and positive sub- jective experiences work, both in therapy and perhaps more importantly in prevention. Building optimism, for example, prevents depression (Seligman, Schulman, DeRubeis, & Hollon, 1999). The question is, how? By what mechanisms does courage or interpersonal skill or hope or future mind- edness buffer against depression or schizophrenia or sub- stance abuse?

Descriptive or Prescriptive
Is a science of positive psychology descriptive or prescrip- tive? The study of the relations among enabling conditions, individual strengths, institutions, and outcomes such as well-being or income might merely result in an empirical matrix. Such a matrix would describe, for example, what talents under what enabling conditions lead to what kinds of outcomes. This matrix would inform individuals’ choices along the course of their lives, but would take no stand on the desirability of different life courses. Alterna- tively, positive psychology might become a prescriptive discipline like clinical psychology, in which the paths out of depression, for example, are not only described, but also held to be desirable.


[…] We predict that positive psychology in this new cen- tury will allow psychologists to understand and build those factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to flourish. Such a science will not need to start afresh. It requires for the most part just a redirecting of scientific energy. In the 50 years since psychology and psychiatry became healing disciplines, they have developed a highly transferable science of mental illness. They developed a usable taxonomy, as well as reliable and valid ways of measuring such fuzzy concepts as schizophrenia, anger, and depression. They developed sophisticated methods– both experimental and longitudinal–for understanding the causal pathways that lead to such undesirable outcomes. Most important, they developed pharmacological and psy- chological interventions that have allowed many untreat- able mental disorders to become highly treatable and, in a couple of cases, even curable. These same methods and in many cases the same laboratories and the next generation of scientists, with a slight shift of emphasis and funding, will be used to measure, understand, and build those char- acteristics that make life most worth living. As a side effect of studying positive human traits, science will learn how to buffer against and better prevent mental, as well as some physical, illnesses. As a main effect, psychologists will learn how to build the qualities that help individuals and communities, not just to endure and survive, but also to flourish.