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Finding Flow by mihaly csikszentmihalyi

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(J\i\.\[),\ $:m.50
HOW do we spend our days? \Vhal
gives us pICHStll'C? Ilow do we feel
when we cat, watch
h avc sex,
wO I'k, drive, socialize with fl'iends? !lased on
a f:lr-I'e3ching s tudy of thousands of' indi­
viduals, j;i"llding FloB" contends Ihal we
of'lcn walk through OUT clays unawal'C and
out of'touch wit.h 01.11' emo t.iona l livcs. As a
result of this
constantly b ouncing bct-..\'cCIl two exll'clncs:
clul'illg much of tlrc day we live inulldated
by It,e anxiety and p,'esslII'Cs of' OUI' work
and obligations,
ments, we tend to live in passive bOI'Cclom.
ParI psychological sludy alld pali.
sel f - help book, Finding Flow is a pre scri p
tive gui de that hel ps us reclaim ownc l 'Sh j p of
our lives. l'he key, aco l'ding
10 Csi� ......entmi ­
halyi, is to c haJl eng c oUl'selves wilh tnsks that
1'C(luire a high deg ree or skiU alld eonunit­
ment. Ins t ead of watching televisioll, play
pial l o; lrallsfonn a roulillc task with a
diflc/,clll. approach, In shorl., le<ll'n the joy of
complete engagelnent.
Though tJley appeal' s i m p le on the
surface. the lessons in Pi"flding Flow arc life­
changing" By cl),s lalli zing these concepts­
dc veloped through a life's \'fOl{;: and 1't:se<lJ'ch al
I llC
Univcl'Sily of' ChiC<lf,'O
lil ies, Csi.kszenlmihalyi
deal' guide
has crafted a pl'Ofound
alld momentous work Ihat pnwides 1'C:lders
with the tools they need to live richel; rnol'C
vital lives.
The MasterMinds series:
These concise and accessible books present cutting-edge
ideas by leading thinkers in a highly readable format, each
title a crystallization of a lifetime's work and thought.
Other books in the MasterMinds series include:
f er
God: The Furure ofReligion by DON CU
Extmol'dimny Minds by HOWARD GARDNER
Mochi1le Beaury: Elegonce and the Hem1 of Computing
Future contributors include:
Praise for BasicBook,,;' Science Aiasters series:
"This is good publishing. PBS, cat your heart out."
�Kjrlms Reviews
"Aimed at busy, nonmathematical readers, this precise series
evinces solid quality control and begins under highly ElVorable
�A. L. A. Book/ist
"If this standard is maintained, the Science Masters series looks set
play a major role in the responsible popularization of sciences."
-NC"UJ Sciflllisl
For Tsa, again
Copyright ©
1997 by Mihaly Csibt;emmihalyi.
Published by 8;lsieBooL:�,
A Oi\1sion of ll:a'l)CrQ,mns Puhlishers, me.
All rightS resel'\·ed. Printed in the United Sures of America. No
pan of rhis book may be used or rcproduced in any manner
whatsOC\'cr without written permission excepr in rhe C'3SC of
brief quol'ations embodied
critica l
aniclt:S and reviews. For
informarion address Ha'l>crColiins Publishers, lnc.,
jjrd Stn-ct, Ncw York, j\Ty looll.
Drsigtml by Elliott 8�nrd
Libruy of Congress Cataloging-in-Puhlication 03U
CsikS'l.entmihal},j, l\ lihaly.
Finding flow in
- 1St cd.
everyday life I by Mihaly Csiksl'.cnTlIlihalyi.
cm. - (MastcrMinds)
Includes bibliographical references
and index.
ISUN 0-465-<>4513-8
I. Happiness.
UF575·1 il7C848
SS-dc1 1
Conduct of life.
<O>/RR0109 8 7 6 S 4 3
I. Title.
n. Series.
The Struchues of Everyday Life
The Content of Experience
How We Feel "When Doing Different Things
The Paradox of Work
The Risks and Opporhmities of Leisure
Relationships and the Quality of Life
Changing the Patterns of Life
The Autotelic Personality
The Love of Fate
The results discussed i n this book arc based on research sup­
ported by the Spencer Foundation ,md the Alfred P. Sloan
Foundation. A great number of colleagues and students have
briven invaluable help in the investigation of flow. I would
like to thank especially Kevin Rathunde at rhe University of
Utllh; Samuci \¥halen at Northwestern University; Kiyoshi
Asakaw<1 ,It Shikoku-Gakuen University in Japan; Fausto
Massimini and Antonclla DeUe Fave at the University of N:Li­
lan, Italy; Paolo lnghillcri at the University of PCnlgia, Italy;
and at Tn}' own University of Chicago vVendy Adlai-Gail,
Joel Hcktncr, Jeanne Nakamura, John Patton, and Jennifer
Of the man}' colleagues whose friendship has been such an
invaluable support I want
give special thanks to Charles
Bidwell, VVilliam Damon, Howard Gardner, Geoffrey God­
be}" Elizabeth Noclle-NculllaJll1, Mark Runco, and Barbara
-::: O N E
The Structures of
Everyday Life
If we really want to live, we'd better start at once to try;
If we don't, it doesn't matter, but we'd better start to die.
-w. 1-1. Auden
The lines by Auden reproduced above compress precisely
what this book is about. The choice is simple: between now
and the inevitable end of our da}'s, we can choo se ei ther
live or ro die. Biological life is an automatic process, as long
as we take care of the needs of the body. Bur to live in the
sense the poet means it is by no means something that will
happen by itself. In fact everything conspires ag ainst it': if we
don't take charge of its direction,
life will be controlled
by the outside to serve the purpose of some orher agency. Bi­
ologically programmed instincts will usc it to replicate rhe
genctic m:aerial we carry; the culture will make sure that we
use i[ to propagate its values and institutions; and other peo ,
spected Joe, even though they couldn't quite make him out.
thcr their own agenda-all of this without regard to how any
The)' asked his help whenever there was any problem. fvtany
of this will affect us. \-Ve cannot expect anyone to help us
cl,limed that without Joe the factory might just as well closc.
pic will try to take as much of our energy as possible
live; we must discover how co do it by ourselves.
So what does "to live" mean in this context? Obviously, it
Throughout the years I have met many CEOs of major
companies, powerful politicians, and several dozen Nobel
doesn't refer simply to biological survival. It must mean to
Prize-winners-eminent people who in Illany ways led excel­
live in fullncss, without waste of time and potcntial, express­
lent lives, but none that was better than Joe's. ''''hat makes a
ing one's uniqueness, yet participating intimately in the COI11-
life like his serene, useful, and worth living? This is the cru­
plexity of the cosmos. This book will explore ways of living
cial question this book will address. Three main assumptions
in this manner, rei)'ing as much as possible on findings in
underlie my approach. The first is that prophets, poets, and
contemporary psychology and my own research, as well as on
philosophers have gleaned important truths in the past,
the wisdom of the past, in whatever form it was recorded.
I will reopen the question of "\Nhat is a good life?" in a
very modest fashion. lnstead of dealing in prophecies and
truths that are essential for our continued survival. But these
have been expressed in the conceptual vocabulary of their
time, so that to be useful, their meaning has to be rediscov­
will try to stay as dose to reasonable evidence as
ered and reinterpreted every generation. The sacred books
possible, focusing on the mundane, the everyday events that
of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and the Veda are
we typically encounter throughout a normal da}'.
the best repositories of the ideas that mattered most to our
A concrete example may illustrate best what I mean by
leading a good life. Years ago my students and I studied a
ancestors, and to ignore them is an act of childish conceit.
factory where railroad cars were assembled. The main work­
place was a huge, dirty hangar where one could hardly he.lf a
word because of the constant noise. Most of the welders who
worked there hated their jobs, and were constantly watching
the dock in anticipation of quitting time. As soon as they
were out of the FJctory the}1 hurried to the neighborhood sa­
loons, or took a drive across the state line for more lively
But it is equally naive to believe that whatever was written
down in the past contains an absolute truth that lasts forever.
The second plank on which this book is built is that cur­
rently science provides the most vital infonmtion to hu­
mankind. ScientjEic truth is also expressed in terms of the
worldview of the times, and therefore wiiJ change and might
be discarded in the furure. There is probably as much super­
stition and misunderstanding embedded in modern science
as there was in the old myths, but we are too close in time to
Except for one of them. The exception wasJoe, a barely lit­
teU the difference. Perhaps eventually ESP and spirirual en­
erate man in his early sixties, who had trained himself to un­
ergy will lead us ro immediate tnlth without the need for
derstand and to fix every piece of equipment in the factory,
theories and laboratories. But shortcuts are dangerous; we
frolll cranes to computer monitors. He loved to take on ma­
cannOt delude ourselves th;lt our knowledge is further along
chinery that didn't work, figure out what was wrong with it,
than it" actually is. For better or for worse, at this time science
and set it right again. At home, he and his wife built a large
is still the most trustworthy mirror of reality, and we ignore
rock f,rarden on two empty lots next to their house, and in it
it only at our peril.
he built misty fountains that made rainbows-even at night.
The thjrd assumption is that if we wish to understand
The hundred or so welders who worked at the same plant re-
what real "living" entails, we should listen to the voices of the
past, and integrate their messages with the knowledge that
science is slowly accumulating. Ideological gestures-such as
Rousseau's project of returning to nature, which was a pre­
cursor to the Freudian faith-arc just empty posturing when
one has no idea what human nature is. There is no hope in
the past. There is no solution to be found in the presem. Nor
will we be better off by jumping ahead into an imaginary fu­
ture. The only path to finding out what life is about is a pa­
tient, slow attempt to make sense of the realities of the past
and the possibilities of the future as they can be understood
in the present.
Accordingl}., in this book "'life" will mean what we experi­
ence from morning to night. seven days a week, for about
seventy years if we are lucky, for even longer if we are very
fortunate. This might seem a narrow perspective when com­
pared to the much morc exalted views of life that myths and
religions have made us familiar with. But to turn Pascal's wa­
ger on itS head, it seems that, when in doubt, the best smlt­
ebrr is to assume that these seventy or so years are our ani),
chance to experience the COSI110S, and we should make the
fullest usc of it. For if we don't, we might lose everything;
whereas if we are wrong and there is life beyond the grave.
we lose nothing.
\"'hat this life \\�11 amounr [0 is in part determined by the
chemical processes in our body, by the biological interaction
among organs, by the tiny electric.!1 currentS jumping between
the synapses of the brain, and by the organi7.ation of infonlla­
tion that the culture imposes on our mind. Bur the actual qual­
ity of life-what we do, and how we feel about it-will be
detennined by our thoughts and emotions; by the interpreta­
tions we give to chcmical, biological, and soci'll processes.
Studying the stream of consciou..·mess passing through the
mind is the prO\�nce of phenomenolof,ric;ll philosophy. M.y
work in the past thirty years has consisted in developing a sys­
tematic phenomenolobrr that makes lise of the tools of the so­
cial sciences-primarily ps)'chology and sociology-in order
to answer the question: "''hat is life like? And the more practi­
cal question: How can each person create an excellent life?
The first step in answering such questions involves getting
a good grasp of the forces that shape what we ({III expcrience.
\rVhcther we like it or not, each of us is constrained by limits
on what we can do and feel. To ignore these limitS leads to
denial and evenrually to failure. To achieve excellence, wc
must first understand the reality of the everyday, with all its
demands and potential frustrations. In many of the ancient
myths, a person who wanted to find happiness, love, or eter­
nal life, had to first travel through the netherworld. Before
being allowed to contemplate the splendors of heaven, Dante
had to wander through the horrors of hell so he could under­
stand what kept us from entering the pearly gates. The same
is rruc of the more secular quest we are about to begin.
Baboons who live in the African plains spend about one-third
of their life sleeping, and when awake they divide their time
between traveling, finding and eating food, and free 'leisure
time-which basically consists in interacting, or grooming
each other's fur to pick out lice. It is not a very exciting life,
yet not much has changed in the million years since humans
evolved alit of common simian ancestors. The requirements
of life stiH dictate that we spend our time in a way that is not
that different
hours, most people sleep one-third of the day, and use the
remainder to work, travel, and rest in more or less the same
proportions as the baboons do. And as the historian Em­
manuel Le Roy Ladurie has shown, in thirteenth century
French viHages-which were among the most advanced in
tl �e world at the time-the most common leisure pursuh was
still that of picking lice out of each other's hair. Now, of
course, we have television,
The C)'c1es of rest, production, consumption, and interac­
tion ;lre as much a part of how we experience life as our
senses-vision, hearing, and so forth-are. Because the ner-
vous system is so constnlcted that it can only process a small
of the nobility learned to dance lhc minuet and to converse
amount of infonnation
can experience must be experienced serially, one thing after
in foreign languages.
The same differences in life�chances are still with us.
the other. it is often said of a rich and powerful mall that "Like
\"'hat can a child born into an urban slum in Los Angeles,
:my briven moment, IllOSt of what we
the rest of us, he must pull his trouscrs on one leg at;l time."
Detroit, Cairo, or Mexico City expect to experience during a
\iVe can swallow only one bite, hear only one song, read one
lifetime? How is that going
paper, have one conversation at a time. Thus the limitations
a child born into an affluent American suburb, or
f r
on attention, which determines the amount of psychic enerb'Y
do Swedish or Swiss family? Unfortunately there is no jus­
we have for experiencing the world, provide an inflexible
tice, nor any rhyme or reason, in one person being born into
script for us to live by. Across time and in different cultures,
a starving community, perhaps even with a congenital physi­
cal defect, while anorher starts l.ife with good looks, good
what people do and for how long is astonishingly similar.
Having just said that in some important respect'i all lives
are similar, one must hasten to recognize the obvious differ­
health, ,l1ld a large bank account.
So while the main paramctcrs of life are fixed, and no per­
A A1anhattan stockbroker, a Chinese peasant, and a
son call avoid resting, eating, interacting, and doing at least
bushman of the Kalahari will play out the basic human script
some work, humanity is divided into social categories that
in ways that at first will seem to have nothing in common.
determine to a large extent the specific content of experi­
vVriting about Europe in the sixteenth to eighteenth cen­
ence. And to make it all more interesting, there is, of course,
turies, the historians Natalie Zemon Davis and Arlette Farge
the matter of individuality.
comment: "Daily life unfolded within the frame of enduring
If we look out of a window in winter, we might see mil­
gender and social hierarchies." This is tme of all social
lions of identical snowflakes cavorting by. But if we took a
groups we have knowledge of: How a person lives depends in
magnifying glass and looked
large part on sex, age, and social position.
would soon discover that they were not identical-in fact,
the flakes separatcly, we
The accident of birth puts a person in a slot that greatly
that each had a shape that no other flake duplicated exactly.
determines what sorts of experiences his or her life will con­
The same is true of human being'S. \¥e can tell quite a lot
sist of. A boy of six or seven years, born into a poor famil), in
about what Susan will experience just by the fact that she is
one of the industrial regions of England twO hundred years
hUlllan. \¥e can tell even 1110re by knowing she is an Ameri­
ago, was likely to wake up around five in the morning, rush
can girl, living in a certain specific cOllllllunity, with parents
to the mill to service the clanking mechanical looms till sun­
of such and such an occupation. But after everything is said
set, six days a week. Often he would die of exhaustion before
and done, knowing all the external parameters will not allow
reaching his teens. A girl of twelve in the silk-making regions
us to predict what Susan's life will he like. Not only because
of France around the same time would sit next to a tub all
random chance might throw all bets off, hut more impor­
day, dipping silJ...··worm cocoons in scalding water to melt the
tantly, beclluse Susan has a mind or her own with which she
sticky substance that held the threads together. She was
can either decide to squander her oppornmities, or con­
versely overcome some of the disadvantages of her hil'lh.
succumb ro respiratory diseases as she sat in wet
clothes from dawn to dusk, and her fingertips eventually lost
all feeling from the hot water. In the meantime, the children
It is because of this flexihility of human consciousness that
a hook sllch
this can be written. If everything was deter-
Illined by the COllllllon human condition, by social and cul­
tural categories, and by chance, it would be useless to reflect
on wa.vs to make one's life excellent. ForulIllueiv
. there is
enough room for pe rsonal iniriative and choice to make a
real difference. And those who bcJie\'e this are cile ones with
the best chance to break free from the grip of fate.
something . And we value money because
it liberates
:1 certain extent
from the eonstr:lints of life by lll:lking il possi­
have free time to do in it what' we wa nt'.
\Vh:11, then, do people do with their time? Table
gives a
general notion of how we spend the sixteen or so hours a da}'
in which we are awake and conscious. The figures :1re by ne­
To live means to experie nce-through doing, feding , think­
in g. Experience takes place in time, so time is the ultimatc
scarce reso urce we h,we. O\'er thc years, the content of expe­
rience will deternline the quality of life. Therefore one of the
most essential decisions any of us can make is about how
one 's time is allocated or invested. Of course, how we invest
cessity approximate, because depending on whether a person
is young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, V:1srly different
patrerns might result. BlIt by and large, the numbers in the
table ca n begin to describe what an average day i n our society
looks like. They arc in man)' ways quite similar to rhose ob­
tained by time budgets in other industria lized countries.
time is not our decision alone to make. As we h,we seen ear­
lier, stringem constraims dic[ate what we should do either as
members of the human race, or because we bel ong
tain culture ,md society . Nevertheless, there is room for per­
sonlll choices, and control o ver time is
a certain extent in
our hands. As the histori:m E. P. Thompson nored, cven in
the mOst oppressive decades of lhe Industrial Revolution,
when workers slaved away for more than eighty h ours a week
in mines and factories, there were some who spem their few
precious free hours in literary pursuits or po li tical action in­
stead of following the majority into the pubs.
The terllls we use in talking about time-budgeting, in­
vesting, allocati ng, wasting-are borrowed from the lan­
guage o f finance. Consequently some people claim that our
attinlde roward time is colored hy our peculiar capitalist her­
itage. h is true th:lt the maxim "Time is money" was a f3vorite of that
:1p ologist of capitalism ,
Tabl£ 1
a cer­
Benj amin
Fra nklin , bur the equ.l tio n of cile two terms is certainly much
older, and roored in the COlllilion human experience, r:1ther
than in our culture alone. In fact it could be argued that it is
money that gets its v:1lue from time, rather than the other
way around.}' is simply the Illost genenllly used
counter for measuring the time inves led in doing or making
Where Docs Time Go?
Based on d aytim e activities re porte d by rep rese ntative adults and
tccnagers in recent U.S. snldies. Percentages will differ by age,
gender, social class, and personal pre fe rence-minimum and ma.xi­
mum ranges are indicaled. Each percentage point is equivalent to
about one hour per week.
Productive Activities
Toml: 24-60%
\Vorking at work, or studying
Talking, eating, dardreaming while at work
Maintenance Activities
Toml: 20-42%
Housework (cooking, clea ning, shopping)
G room i ng (washi ng up, dre ssing)
Driving, transportation
Leisure Activities
Media (TV �Hld reading)
I lobbies, sports, lIlo\'ics, restaurants
4 -13%
Talking, socializing
Idling, resting
Total: 20-43%
Sources: Csikszentm.iha1ri and Graef 1980; KuUeY and C�lk..<;l;(ntlllihal)'i 1990i
Larson and Richards 1994.
\¥hat we do during an average day can be divided into
three major kinds of activities.The first and largest includes
what we must do in order
generate energy for survival and
comfort.Nowadays this is almost synonymous with "making
money," since money has become the medium of exchange
for Illost things. However, for young people still in sc.:hoo1,
learning might be included among these prodlldivf activities,
because for them education is the equivalent of adult work,
and the first will lead into the second.
Between a quarter to more than half of our psychic energy
goes into such productive activities, depending on the kind of
job, and whether one works full or part time.Although most
full-time workers are on the job about forty hours a week,
which is 35 percent of the I I 2 waking hours of the week, the
figure does not reflect reality exactly, because of the forty
hours per week spent on the job workers actually work only
about thirty, the remainder being spent in talking, daydream­
ing, making lists, and other occupations irrelevant to work.
is this much time or little? It depends on what we compare
some anthropologists, among the least
technologic�tlly developed societies, such as the tribesmen of
the Brazilian jungles or the African deserts, grown Illen
rarely spend more than four hours a day providing for their
livelihood-the rest of the time they spend resting, chatting,
sinbring, and dancing. On the other hand, during the hun­
dred years or so of industrializ.'ltion in the \-Vest, before the
unions were able to regulate working time, it was not un­
usual for workers to spend twelve or more hours a day in the
fac.:tOry. So the eight-hour workday, which is currently the
norm, is abollt halfway between tht two extremes.
Traditionally women have been burdened bv maintenance
work while men have taken on the productive �oles. This dif­
ference is still quite strong in the contelllp0f;try
U.S.: while
mcn ,md women spend equal amounts of time eating (about
5 percent), women devore twice as much time as men do
all the other maintenance activities.
The gender-typing of household tasks is of course even
more severe practically everywhere else. In the fonner Sm'iet
Union, where gender equality was a matter of ideology, mar­
ried women doctors and engineers stiH had to do all the
housework in addition to their paying jobs. Tn IllOst of the
world, a man who cooks for his family or docs the dishes
loses his self-respect as well as the respect of others.
This division of labor seems to be as old as humanity itself.
[n the past, however, the maintenance of the household often
required tnonnously strenuous labor from women. One his­
torian describes the simation in Europe four centuries ago:
Women carried water to steep mountain terraces in areas
... where water was scarce.... They cut and dried turf,
collected kelp, firewood, weeds by the roadside to feed
rabhits.They milked cows and goats, grew vegetables, col­
lected chestnuts and herbs. The commonest source of
heating for British and some irish and Dutch farmers was
animal turds, which were gathered by hand by women and
received their final drying out stacked near the family
Plumbing and electronic appliances have certainly made a
difference in the amount of physical effort
Productive activities create new energy; but we need to do
household, just as technology has eased the physic;ll burden
a great deal of work just to preserve tht body and its posses­
of productive work. But most women in A<;ia, Africa, and
sions. Therefore aboul a fourth of our day is involved in var­
South America-in other words, Illost women in the world­
ious sorts of 1I1fl;11ffIlfIllCe activities. \-Ve keep the body in
still have to devote a major part of their lives to kecping the
shape by eating, resting, grooming; our possessions by clean­
material and emotional infrastructure of their families from
ing, cooking, shopping, and doing all sorts of housework.
this public sphere of action is the most important for devel­
oping one's potential, tile one where the highest risks are run
bue the greatest growth occurs.
The second context is made up of one's family-for chil­
dren their parents and siblings, for adults their partners,
spouses, and children. \"'hile reccntly the very notion of
"family" as a recognizable social unit has been sc,'erely criti­
cized, and while it is tme that no one kind of arrangement
fits this definition in time and space, it is also true that always
and everywhere there has been a group of pcople with whom
one reckoned special bonds of kinship, with whom one felt
safer, and for whom one felt a greater sense of responsibility
than for others. No matter how strange nowadays some of
our reconstituted families are in comparison with an idcal
nuclear family, close relatives still provide a unique kind of
Then dlere is the context defined by the absence of other
people-solitude. In technological societies we spend about
one-third of the da}' alone, a much greater proportion than
in most tribal societies, where being alone is often consid­
ered to be vcry dangerous. E,'cn for us being alone is unde­
sirable; the vast majority of people try to avoid it as much as
possible. Although it is possible to learn to enjoy solitude, it
is a rare acquired taste. Bur whether we like it or not, many
of the obligations of daily life require for us to be alone: chil­
dren have to study and practice by themselves, housewives
take care of the home alone, and many jobs .Ire at least in
part solitary. So even if we don'r enjoy it, it is importam to
learn w wlerate solitude, or else the quality of our lives is
The most prevalent way to find Out about what people do
with their time is through polls, surveys, and time budgets.
These methods usually ask people
fill out a diary at the
end of a day or a week; they are easy to administer, but be­
G1USe they are based on recollection, are not very precise,
Another method is the Experience Sampling Method, or
ESM, which I developed at the University of Chicago in the
early seventies. The ESM uses a pager or a progr.llllmable
watch to signal people
fill out two pages in a bookJet they
carry with them. Signals are programmed to go off at ran­
dom times within two-hour segment., of the day, from early
morning to I
I P.I\\.
or later. At the signal the person writes
down where she is, what she is doing, what she is thinking
about, who she is with, and then ratcs her state of conscious­
ness at the moment on various numerical scales-how happy
she is, how much she is concentrating, how strongly she is
motivated, how high her self·esteem is, and so on.
At the end of a week, each person will have filled out up to
fifty-six p.lges of the ESM booklet, providing
virtual film
strip of his or her dail), activities and experiences. \,ye can
trace a person's activities from morning to night day by day
over the week, and we can follow his or her mood swings in
relation to what the person does and who he is with.
At our Chicago laboratOry, we have collected over the
years a total of more than seventy thousand pages from about
twenty-three hundred respondents; investigators at universi­
ties in other parts of the world have more than tripled these
figures. Large numbers of responses are important because
they allow us to look into the shape and quality of daily life in
bound w suffer.
great detail and with l:onsiderable precision. It allows
III this chapter and the next one, I talk about how people use
feel when they do so. Furthermore, we can see whether
tlleir time, how much of it they spend alone or with others,
and how they feel about what they do. \"'hat is the el'idence
on which such assertions are based?
sec, for example, how often people cat meals, and how they
teenagers, adtllts, and old people feel the same way about
meals, and whctllCr eating is a similar experience when one
ears alone or in company. The method also allows compar-
isons among Americans, Europeans, Asians, and any other
culture where the method can be used. In what follows, I will
be using results obtained by surveys and polls interchange­
ably with ESM results. The notes at the end of the book will
indicate tile sources from which the data were obtained.
The Content of
We have seen that work, maintenance, and leisure t�lke up
most of our psychic energy. But one person might love work
and the other hate it; one person might enjoy free time and
the other be bored when there is nothing to do. So while
what we do day i n and day out has a lot to do with what kind
of life we have, how we experience what we do is even more
Emotions are in some respect the most subjective ele­
lllents of consciousness, since it is only the person himself or
herself who can tell whether he or she tnlly experiences love,
shame, gratitude, or happiness. Yet an emotion is ,lisa the
most objective content of the mind, because the "gut feeling"
we e.xperience when we :Ire in love, or ashamed, or scared, or
happy, is generally more real to us than what we observe in
the world outside, or whatever we learn from science or
logic. Thus we often find ourselves in the paradoxical posi,
tion of being like behavioral psychologists when we look at
other people, discounting what they say and trusting only
what they do; whereas when we look at ourselves we are like
phenomenologists, taking our inner feelings morc seriously
than outside events or overt actions.
Psychologists have identified up to nine basic emotions
tha[ can reliably be identified by facial expressions alllong
people living in very different cultures; thus it seems that just
as all humans can see and can speak, so they also share a
comlllon set of feeling states. But to simplify as much as pos­
sible, one can say th:a all emotions share in a b:lsic duality:
they :lrc either positive and attractive, or they arc negative
and repulsive. It is because of this simple feature that emo­
tions help us choose what should be good for us. A baby is at­
tracted to a human face, and is happy when she sees her
mother, because i t helps her bond with a caretaker. \,ye feel
pleasure when cating, or when with a member of the oppo­
site sex, because the species would nO[ survive i f we didn't
seek Out food and sex. \Me fee l an i.nstinctive revulsion at the
sight of snakes, insects, rotten smells, darkness-all dli.n,gs
that in the evolutionary past miglu have presented serious
dangers to survival.
In addition to the simple genetically wired emotions, hu­
mans have developed a great number of more subtle and ten­
der, as well as debased, feelings. �nle e\'olution of self-reflective
consciousness has allowed our mce to "to}''' with feclings, to
fake or manipulate feclings in ways that no other animal can.
The songs, dances, Illasks of our ancestors evoked dread and
awe, joy and inroxication. I lorror movies, drugs, ,md music do
the same thing now. But origillall}, emotions served as signals
about the outside world; now they arc often detached from any
real object, to be indulged in for their own sake.
I lappiness is the prototype of the positive emotions. As
many a thinker since Aristotle has said, everything we do is
ultimately aimed at experiencing happiness. We don't really
want wealth, or health, or fame as such-we want these things
because we hope that they will make LIS happy. Bur happiness
we seek nOt because it will get us something else, but for its
own sake. If happiness is really the bottom line of life, what
do we k.
now about it?
Until mid-century, psychologists were reluctanr to study
happiness because the reigning behaviorist paradigm in the
social sciences held that subjective eillotions wcre too Aims}'
to be proper subjects of scientific research. But as the "dust­
bowl empiricism" in academia has cleared in the last few
decades so that dlC importance of subjective experiences
could again be recognized, the study of happiness has been
pursued with renewed vigor.
"'hat has been learned is both familiar and surprising. It is
surprising, for instance, that despite problems and tragedies,
all over the world people tend to describe themselves as
much more happy than unhappy. In America, typically ol1e­
third of respondents from representative samples say that
they are "very happy," and only one in ten that they are "not
too happy." The majority mte themselves above the halfway
mark, as "pretty happy." Similar results are reported from
dozens of other countries. How can this be, when thinkers
through the ages, reflecting on how short and painful life can
be, have always told us that the world is a vale of tears, and
we were not made to be happy? Perhaps the reason for the
discrepam.."Y is that prophets and philosophers tend to be per­
fectionists, and dle imperfections of life offend them.
\¥bereas the rest of humankind is glad to be alive, imperfec­
tions and all.
Of course there is a more pessimistic explanation, namely,
that when people say they arc pretty happy they are deceiv­
ing either the researcher who is the poll, or more
likely, they arc whistling in the dark. After all, Karl A1arx has
accustomed us to think that a factory worker can feel he is
perfecdy happy, bur dlis subjective happiness is a sclf­
deception that means nothing because objectively the worker
is alienated by the system that exploits his lahor. Jean-Paul
Sartre has told uS that most people live with "false conscious­
self-esteem. It is i n looking at these clusters or relationships
ness," pretending even to themselves that they are living in
that the skepticism of the postmodernist critique might
the best of "II possible worlds. More recently M..ichei Fou­
make sense. It is likely, for insmnce, that a healthy, religious
cault and the postll1odernists have made it clear lhat what
person will construct a "happier" narrative about his or her
people teil us docs not reflect real events, but only a style of
life than one who is not, regardless of thc .Ictual qualiry of
narrative, a way of talking that refers only to itself. \-Vhile
experience. But since we always cncoulllcr the "raw" data of
these critiques of self-perception illuminate important issues
experience through interpretivc filtcrs, the stories we tell
that have to be recognized, they also suffer from the intellec­
abollt how we feel arc an esscntial pan of our emotions. A
rual arrogance of scholars who believe their interpretations
woman who says she is happy to work two jobs to keep
of reality should take precedence over the direct experience
roof over her children's head is probably in fact h'lppier
of the l1lu\rirude. The profound doubts of Marx, Sarrrc, and
than a wOlllan who doesn't see why she should have to
Foucault norwithst<1nding, 1 still think that when a person
bother with even a single job.
says he is "prctry happy," Olle has no right to ignore his state­
But happiness is certainly nOt the only emotion worth
considering. 111 fact, if one W,lIlts to improve the qU:lliry of
ment, or interpret it to mean the opposite.
Another set of familial' yet surprising findings has to do
everyday life, happiness may be the wrong place to start. Ln
with the relationship between material well-being and happi­
the first place, self-reports of h.lppincss do not vary from
ness. As one would expect, people who live in nations that
person to person as much as othcr reelings dOj no matter
are materially better off and politically more stable r;ltC
how empty a life otherwise might be, most persons will be
themselves happier (e.g., the Swiss and Norwebrians say the)'
reluctant to admit being unhappy. Furthermore, this emo­
arc happier than Greeks and Pormguese)-but not always
tion is more a personal characteristic than a situational one.
(e.g., the poorer Irish claim to be happier than the wealthier
In other words, over timc somc pcople come
Japanese). But within the same society there is onl)' a very
themselves as happy regardless of external conditions, while relationship betwcen finances and satisfaction with lircj
others will becomc lIsed to feeling relatively less happy no
billiona ires in America are only infinitesimally happier than
think of
matter wh:n happens to them. Other feelings are Illuch more
those with average incomes. And wh.ile personal income in
influenced by what aile does, who one is with, or thc place
dle U.S. more than doubled between 1960 and the
one happens to be. These moods arc more amenable to di­
1 990S
constant dollars, the proportion of people sa},jng they arc
very happy remained a steady 30 percent. One conclusion
that the I1ndings seem to justify is that beyond the threshold
of poverty, additional resources do not appreciably improve
the chanccs or being happy.
A number or personal qualities are related to how happy
pcople describe themselves to be. For instance, a healthy cx­
trovert with strong selr-esteem, a stable marriage, and reli­
rect change, and because they are also connccted to how
happy we feel, in the long run they might lifl Ollr average
level or happiness.
For inst,Hlce, how activc, strong, and alert we reel depends
a lot on what we do-these feelings become morc intense
when we ,1fe involved with
difficult task, and lhey get more
attcnuated when we fail at what wc try
do, or when we
don't try to do anything. So these reelings can be directly af­
gious fa ith will be much more Iikel}' to sa}' he is happy than a
fected by what we choose
chronically ill, introverted, and divorced atheist widl low
Strong we arc also more likely to feel happy, so that in time
do. \,vhen we feel active and
the choice of what we do will also affe ct our happiness. Simi­
larly most people feel rhey are more cheerful and sociable
when they are with others than when they are alone. Again,
cheerfulness and sociability are related to happiness, which
probably explains why extroverts on the average tend to be
happier than introverts.
The quality of life does not depend on happiness alone,
but also on what one does to be happy. if one fails to develop
goals that give meaning to one's existence, if one does not
use the mind to its fullest, then good feelings fulfill just a
fraction of the potential we possess. A person who achieves
conrenunent by withdrawing from the world to "cultivate his
own garden," like Voltaire's Candide, cannot be said to lead
an excellent life. Withom dreams, without risks, only a trivial
semblance of living can be achieved.
Emotions refer to the internal states of consciousness. Nega­
tive emotions like sadness, fear, anxiety, or boredom produce
"psychic entropy" in the mind, that is, a state in which we
cannot use attention effectively to deal with external tasks,
because we need it to restore an inner subjective order. Posi­
tive emotions like happiness, strength, or alertness are states
of "psychjc negentropy" bee'lUse we don't need attention to
ruminate and feel sorry for ourselves, and psychic energy can
flow freely into whatever thought or task we choose ro invest
it m.
\\Then we choose to invest attention in a given task, we say
that we have formed an intention, or set a goal for ourselves.
How long and how intensely we stick by our goals is a func­
tion of motivation. Therefore intentions, goals, and motiva­
tions are also manifestations of psychic negentropy. They
focus psychjc energy, establish priorities, and thus create or­
der in consciousness. vVithout them mental processes be­
come random, and feelings tend to deteriorate rapidly.
Goals are usually arranged in a hierarchy, from trivial
ones, ljke getting to the corner store to buy some icc cream,
to risking one's life for the country. Tn the course of an aver­
age day, about one-third of the time people will say that they
do what they do because they wanted to do it, one-third be­
cause they had to do it, and the last third because they had
nothing better to do. These proportions vary by age, gender,
and activity: children feel they have more choice than their
fathers, and men more than their wives; whatever a person
does at home is perceived to be more voluntary than at work.
Quite a bit of evidence shows that whereas people feel best
when what they do is voluJltary, they do not feel worst when
what they do is obhgatory. Psychic entropy is highest instead
when persons feel that what they do is motivated by not hav­
ing anything else to do. Thus both intrinsic motivation
(wanting to do it) and extrinsic motivation (having to do it)
are preferable to the state where one acts by default, without
having any kind of goal to focus attention. The large part of
life lll,l11y people experience as being thus uJlmotjvated leaves
a great deal of room for improvement.
Intentions focus psychic energy in the short run, whereas
goals tend to be more long-term, and eventually it is the
goals that we pursue that wilJ shape and determine the kind
of self dlat we are to become. What makes Modler Theresa
the nun radically different from Madonna the singer are the
goals into whjch they have lnvested their attention through­
Out their lives. IvVithollt a consistent set of goals, it is difficult
to develop a coherent self. It is through the patterned invest­
ment of psychic energy provided by goals that one creates
order in experience. Thjs order, which manifests itself in
predictable actions, emotions, and choices, in time becomes
recognizable as a more or less unique "self."
The goals one endorses also de(Crmine one's self-esteem.
As \Villiam James pointed out over a hundred years ago, self­
esteem depends on the ratio of expectation to successes. A
person Illay develop low self-esteem either because he sets
his goals too high, or because he achieves too few successes.
So it is not necessarily true that the person who achieves
most will have the highest self-esteem. Concrary to what one
would expect, A<;ian-American students who get excellent
grades tend to have lower self-esteem than other minorities
who are academically less successful, because proportionately
their goals are set even higher than their success. Mothers
who work full-time have lower self-esteem than mothers
who do not work at all, becausc although they accomplish
more, their expectations still outpace their achievements.
from this it follows that contrary to popular wisdom, in­
creasing children's self-esteem is not always a good idea-es­
pecially if it is achieved by lowering their expectations.
There are other misconceptions concerning intentions
and goals. For instance, some point out that Eastern reli­
gions, such as the various forms of Hinduism and Buddhism,
prescribe the abolition of intentionality as a prerequisite for
happiness. They claim that only by relinquishing every de­
sire, by achieving a goalless existence, can we hope to avoid
unhappiness. This line of thought has influenced many
young people in Europe and America to attempt
reject all
goals, in the belief that only completely spontaneous and
random behavior leads to an enlightened life.
In my opinion this reading of the Eastern message is
rather superficial. After all, to try abolishing desire is itself a
tremendously difficult and ambitious goal. M.ost of uS are so
thoroughly programmed with genetic and cultural desires
that it takes an act of almost superhuman will to still them
all. Those who expect that by being spontaneous they will
avoid setting goals, usually just follow blindly the goals set
down for them by instincts and education. They often end
up being so mean, lecherous, and prejudiced as to stand a
good Buddhist monk's hair on end.
The true message of the Eastern religions, it seems to me,
is not the abolition of all goals. \"lhat they tell us is that most
intentions we form spontaneously are to be mjstrustcd. To
make sure that we survive in a dangerous world dominated
by scarcity, our genes have programmed us to be greedy, to
want power, to domjnate over others. For the same reason,
the social group into which we are born teaches us that only
those who share our language and religion are
be trusted.
The inertia of the past dictates [hat most of our goals will be
shaped by genetic or by cultural inheritance. It is these goals,
the Buddhists tell us, that we must learn to curb. But this aim
requires very strong motivation. Paradoxically, the goal of
rejecting programmcd goals might require the constant in­
vestment of ,111 one's psychic eneq,ry. A Yogi or a Buddhist
monk needs every ounce of attention to keep programmed
desires from irrupting into consciousness, and thus have little
psychic energy left free to do ll11ything else. Thus the praxis
of the religions of the East is almost tile opposite of how i t
has usually been interpreted i n the "Vest.
Learning to manage one's goals is an important step i n
achieving excellence i n everyday l.ifc. To d o so, however,
docs not involve either thc cxtrcme of spontaneity on the
one hand, or compulsi\Te control on the other. The best so­
lution might bc to understand the roots of one's motiva­
tion, and while recognizing the biases involved in one's
desires, in all humbleness to choose goals that will provide
order in one's consciousness without causing too much dis­
order in the social or material environment. To try for less
than this is to forfeit tllC chance of developing your poten­
tial, and to try for much more is to set yourself up for
The third content of consciousness are cognitive mental op­
erations. Thinking is such a complex subject that i t is entirely
out of the question to deal with i t systematically here-in­
stead it makes sense
simplify the subject so [hat we can talk
about it in relation to everyday life. ",That we call thinking is
also a process whereby psychic energy gets ordered. Emo­
tions focus attention by mobilizing the entire organism in an
approach or an avoidance mode. Goals do it by providing
images of desired outcomes. Thoughts order attention by
producing sequences of images that :-Ire related to each other
in some meaningful way.
For instance, one of the most basic mental operations con­
sists in the linking of cause and effect. How this begins in a
person's life C,l11 be easily observed when an infant first dis­
covers that by moving her hand she can ring the bell hanging
over the crib. This simple connection is the paradigm on
which much of later thinking is based. With time, however,
the steps from causes to effects become increasingly more
abstract and removed from concrete reality. An electrician, a
musical composer, a stockbroker consider simultaneously
hundreds of possible connections be(\,>/een the symbols on
which they are operating in their minds-watts and ohms,
notes and beats, the buying and selling prices of stocks.
By now it is probably apparent that emotions, intentions,
and thoughts do not pass through consciousness as separate
strands of experience, but that they are constantly intercon­
nected, and modify each other as they go along. A young
man falls in love with a girl, and experiences all the typical
emotions that love implies. He intends to win her heart, and
begins to think of how to reach this goal. He figures that get­
ting himself a snazzy new car will win the girl's attention. So
now the goal of earning money to buy a new car becomes
embedded in the goal of wooing-but having to work more
may interfere with going fishing and produce negative emo­
tions, which generate new thoughts, which in hlrn may bring
the boy's goals in line with his emotions . . . the stream of ex­
perience always carries many such bits of information con­
To pursue mental operations to any depth, a person has to
learn to concentrate attention. \Vithout focus, consciousness
is in a state of chaos. 'rhe normal condition of the mind is
one of informational disorder: random thoughts· chase one
another instead of lining up ill logical causal sequences. Un­
less one learns to concentrate, and is able to invest the effort,
thoughts will scaner without reaching any conclusion. Even
daydreaming-that is, the linking together of pleasant im­
ages to create some sort of mental motion picrure-requires
the ability to concentrate, and apparently many children
never learn to comrol their attention sufficiently to be able
to daydream.
Concentration requires more effort when it goes against
the grain of emotions and motivations. A student who hates
math will have a hard time focusing attention on a calculus
textbook long enough to absorb the information it contains,
and it will take strong incentives (sllch as wanting to pass the
course) for him to do so. Usually the more difficult a mental
task, the harder it is to concentrate on it. But when a person
likes what he does and is motivated to do it, focusing the
mind becomes effortless even when the objective difficulties
are great.
Generally, when the issue of thinking comes up, most peo­
ple assume it must h,we to do with intelligence. They are in­
terested in individual differences in thinking, such as:
"VYhat's my IQ?" or: "He is a genius at math." Intelligence
refers to a variety of mental processes; for instance, how eas­
ily one can represent and manipulate quantities in the mind,
or how sensitive one is to infonnation indexed in words. But
as Howard Gardner has shown, it is possible to extend the
concept of intelligence to include the ability to differentiate
and to use all kinds of information, including muscle sensa­
tions, sounds, feelings, and visual shapes. Some children are
horn with an above-average sensiti\riry to sound. They can
discriminate tones and pitches better than others, and as they
grow up they learn to recognize notes and produce har­
monies more easily than their peers. Similarly small advan­
tages at the beginning of life can develop into large
differences in visual, athletic, or mathematical abilities.
But innate talents cannot develop into a Illature intelli­
gence unless a person learns to control attention. Only
through extensive investments of psychic energy can a child
with musical gifts turn into a musician, or a mathematically
gifted child into an engineer or physicist. It takes much ef­
shrouded trees running by. There is no room in your aware­
fort to absorb the knowledge and the skills that are needed
ness for conflicts or contradictions; you know that a distract­
to do the mental operations an adult professional is sup­
ing thought or emotion might get you buried facedown in
posed ro perform. Mozart was a prodigy and a genius, bur if
the snow. And who want."
his father hadn't forced him to practice as soon as he was out
perfect that all you want is for it to last forever, to immerse
of diapers, it is doubtful his talent would h;we blossomed as
yourself completely in the experience.
it did. By learning to concentrate, a person acquires control
get distracted? The run is so
If skiing does not mean much to you, substitute your fa­
over psychic energy, the basic fuel upon which all thinking
vorite activity for this vignette. It could be singing in a choir,
programming a computer, dancing, playing bridge, reading a
good book. Or if you lovt: your job, as many pt:oplt: do, it
In everyday life, it is rare for the different contents of experi­
could be wht:n you arc gt:tting immersed in a complicated
surgical operation or a close business deal. Or this complete
be in synchrony with each other. At work my anen­
cion might be focused, because the boss gave me a job
immcrsion in the activity may occur in a social interaction, as
that requires intense thinking. But this particular job is not
when good friends talk with each other, or when a mother
one I ordinarily would want to do, so 1 am not very moti­
plays with her baby. \\'hat is common
vated intrinsically. At the same time, I am d.istracted by fcel­
that consciousness is full of experiences, and these experi­
ings of anxiety about my teenage son's erratic behavior. So
ences are in harmony with each other. Contrary to what hap­
while pan of my mind is concentrated on the t.lsk, J am not
pens all too often in everyday life, in moments such as these
completely involved iJl it. Tt is not that my Illind is in total
what we feel, what we wish, and what we think are in har­
chaos, but there is quite a bit of enrropy in my conscious­
ness-thoughts, emotions, and intentions come into fOCllS
pulling my attention in different directions. Or, to consider
another example,
may enjoy a drink with friends aftcr work,
feci b'lJilty about not going home to clle family and mad
at myself for wasting time and money.
such moments is
These exceptional moments arc what 1 have called
]lenv ex­
periences. The metaphor of "flow" is one that many people
have used
describe the sense of effortless action they feel
in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes
refer to it as "being in the zone," religious mystics as being in
"ecstasy," artists and musicians as aesthetic rapture. Acll!ctes,
Neither of thesc scenarios is particularly unusual. Every­
mystics, and artists do very different things when they reach
day life is full of cllcm: rarely do we fcd the serenity that
now, yet their descriptions of the experience arc remarkably
comes when heart, will, :md mind are on the same page.
intentions, and thoughts jostle each
Flow tends to occur when a person faces a clear set of
other in consciousness, and we are helpless to keep cllcm in
goals that require appropriate responses. It is easy to enter
flow in games such as chess, tcnnis, or poker, because cllCY
Conflicting desires,
But now let LIS consider some alternatives. Imagine, for in­
havc goals and rules for action that make it possible for the
stance, that you ,l re skiing down a slope and your full atten­
player to act without questioning what should be done, and
tion is focused on the movements of the body, the position of
how. For the duration of the game the player livt:s in
the skis, the air whistling past your face, and thc snow-
contained universe wherc everything is black and white. The
same clarity of goals is present if you perform a religiolls rit­
ual, play a musical piece, wcave a rug, write a computer pro­
gram, climb a mountain, or perfonn surgery. Activities that
induce flow could be called "flow activities" because they
make it morc likely for the experience to occur. In contrast
to nonnal life, flow activities allow a person to focus on goals
Figure 1
The quality of experience as a function of the relatiollshill
between challenges and skills. 0lltimal experience, or flow,
occurs when both variables are high,
I ligh
that 3rc dear and compatible.
Another characteristic of flow activities is that they pro­
vide immediate feedback. They make it clear how well you
are doing. After each IllQ\'C of a game you can tell whether
you have improved your position or not. With each step, the
climber knows that he has inched higher. After each bar of a
song you can hear whether the notes you sang matched the
score. The weaver can se� whether the last !'Ow of stitches fits
the pattern of the tapestry as it should. The surgeon can see
as she cuts whether the knife has avoided cutting any arteries,
or whether there is sudden bleeding. On the job or at home
we might go for long periods without a clue as to how we
stand, while in flow we can usually tell.
Flow tl!nds
occur when a person's skills arc fuUy in­
volved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manage­
able. Optimal experiences usually involve a fine balance
betwel!n one's ability to act, and the available oppornlllities
for action (see figure . ) . If challenges are too high on� gets
frustrated, then worried, and evemually anxious. If chal­
lenges are toO low relative to one's skills one gets relaxed,
then bored. I f both challenges and skills are perceived
low, one gets to fecI apathetic. But when high challenges :ll'e
matched with high skills, then the deep involvement that sets
flow apart from ordinary life is likely to occur. 'fhe climber
will feel it when the mount,lin dCIll:lnds all his strength, the
singer when the song demands the full range of her vocal
ability, the weaver whell the design of the tapestlY is more
complex than anything attempted before, and the surgeon
when the operation involves new procedures or requires an
unexpected variation. A typical day is full of anxiety and
boredom. Flow experiences provide the flashes of intense liv­
ing against this dull background.
"''hen goals are clear, feedback relevant, and challenges ilnd
skills arc in balance, attention becomes ordered and fldly in­
vcsted. Because of the total dcmand on psychic energy, a per­
son in flow is completely focused. There is no space in
consciousness for distracting thoughts, irrelevant feelings.
Self-consciousness disappears, yet one feels stronger than
usual. The sense of time is distorted: hours seem
pass by in
minutes. ""hen a person's entire being is stretched in the full
functioning of body and mind, whatever one docs becomes
portant Stines for learning. The othcr conditions are less fa­
worth doing for its own sake; living becomes its own justifi­
vorable. \¥hen a person is am:.ious or worried, for example,
cation. In the harmoniolls focusing of physical and psychic
the step to flow often seems too fur, and one retreatS to a less
energy. life finally comes into its own.
challenging simation instead of trying to cope.
It is the full involvclllCIll of flow, rather than happiness,
Thus the flow experience acts as a magnet for learning­
that makes for excellence in life. \I\'hen we are in flow, we are
th:tt is, for developing new levels of challenges and skills. In
nOt happy, because to experience happiness we must focus on
an ideal simation, a person would be constantly growing
our inner states, and that would takc away attention from the
while enjoying whatever he or she did. Alas, we know this is
task at hand. If a rock climber takes time out
feel happy
not the case. Usually we feel roo hored and apathetic to move
while negotiating a difficult move, he might fall to the bot­
into the flow zone, so we prefer to fill our mind with ready­
tom of the mountain. The surgeon can't afford to feel happy
made, prepackaged stimulation off the video shelf or some
during a demanding operation, or a musician while playing a
other kind of professional entertainmcnt. Or we feel too
challenging score. Only after the task is completed do wt:
imagine we could dcvelop the appropriate
have the leisure to look back on what has happened, and then
skills, so we prefer (Q descend into the apathy engendered hy
we are flooded with gnltirude for the excellence of that expe­
artificial relaxants like drugs or alcohol. It takes energy to
rience-then, in retrospect, we are happy. But one can be
achieve optimal experiences, and all too often wc arc unable,
happy without experiencing flow. We can be happy experi­
or unwilling, to put out the initial effort.
encing the passive pleasure of a rested body, a warm sun­
How often do people experience flow? That depends on
shine, the contentlnent of a serene relationship. These are
whether we are willing to count even mild approximations of
also moments to treasure, bm this kind of happiness is very
the ideal condition as instances of flow. For example, i f one
vulnerable and dependent on favorable external circum­
asks a sample of typical Americans: " D o you ever get in­
stances. The happiness that follows flow is of our own mak­
volved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to
ing, and it leads
matter, :lIld you lose track of time?" roughly one in five will
increasing complexity and growth in
say that yes, this happens to thcm often, as much as several
The graph in figure I can also he read to indicate why flow
leads to personal growth. Suppose a person is in the area
marked "Arousal" on the graph. This is not a had condition
times a day; whereas about 1 5 percent will say that no, this
never happens to them. These frequencies seem to be quite
stable and universal. For instance, in a recent survey of a rep­
to he in; in arousal a person feels mentally focused, active,
resentative sample of 6,469 Germans the same question was
and involved-bur not very strong, cheerful, or i n control.
answered in the following way: Often, 2 3 percent; Some­
How can one return
the more enjoyable flow state? The
answer is obvious: by learning new skills. Or let us look at the
times, 40 percent; Rarely, 2 5 percent; Never or Don't Know,
1 2 pcrccnt. Of course if onc werc to coum only
the most in­
area bbclt:d "Control. " This is also a positive state of experi­
tense and exalted flow c.\:periences, then their frequency
ence, wherc one feels happy, strong, satisfied. But one tends
would be mueh more r;lre.
to lack concentration, involvement, and a feeling that what
Flow is generally reported when a person is doing his or
one does is important. So how does'one get back to flow? By
her fa\'orite activity-gardening, lislening to Illusic, howling,
increasing challenges. Thus arousal and control are very im-
cooking a good meal. It also occurs when driving, when talk-
friends, and surprisingly often at work. Very rarely do
people report flow in passive leisure activities, such as watch­
ing television or relaxing. But hecause almost any activity .
t, It IS
produce flow provided the relevant elements are presen
possihle [0 improve the quality of life by making sure
dear goals, immediate feedback, skills balanced to action
-:::: T H R E E
are as
portunities, and the remaining conditions of flow
much as possible a conStant part of everyday life.
How We Feel When
Doing Different Things
The quality of Ijfe depends on what we do in the seventy or
so years we are allotted, and on what passes in consciousness
during that time. Different activities typically affect the
quality of experience in rather predictable ways. If all
through life we only do depressing things, it is unlikely that
we will end up having lived a very happy life. Usually each
activity has both positive and negative qualities. \\fhen we
cat, for instance, we tend to feci more positive affect than
usual; a graph of a person's level of happiness during the day
resembles the profile of the Golden Gate Bridge across San
Francisco Bay, with the high points corresponding to meal­
times. At the same time, mental concentration tends to be
rather low when a person eats, and one rarely experiences
The psycholo
effects of activities are nOt linear, hut
depend on their systemic relation to everything else we do.
For inst:mce, even though food is " source of good moods,
we cannot achieve happiness by eating around the clock.
Meals raise the level of h:tppiness, but only when we spend
around 5 percent of our waking time eating; i f we spent 1 00
percent o f the day eating, food would quickly cease to be re­
warding. "rhe same is true of Illost of the other good things
III life: sex, relaxation, television warching, in small doses,
tend to improve the quali ty of daily life considerably, hur the
effects arc not additive; a point of diminishing returns
quickly re:lchcd.
A vcry condensed vicw of how people typically experience
the various components of their daily life is presented
As we see, when adult<; work (or when children do
schoolwork) they tend to be less h,lppy than average and
their motivation is considerably below normal. At the same
::: ::: :::
time their level of concentration is relatively quite high, so
their mental processes seem to be eng-aged more th:m they
are the rest of the day. Surprisingly, work also often pro­
duces flow, presumably because challenges and skills tend to
be high when worki ng, and goals and feedback are often
dear and immediate.
Of course "work" is such a broad category that it seems
make an accurate generalization about it. In
the first place, it makes sense to think that the quality of ex­
perience when working would depend on the kjnd of job one
has. A traffic controller mllst concentrate much more
job than a night watdull,ll1. A self-employed entrepreneur
presumably is much more motivated to work than a clerk in a
government office, vVhile this is true, the characteristic sig­
nature of work persist<; despite the very rea l differences. For
example, the experience of managers when they
are on
job rescmbles that of assembly-line workers much more than
it resemblcs their own experience when they are at home.
Another prohlem of generalizing abour work is that the
same job will have lIlany aspects that are experienced differ-
ently. A manager might love to work on a project bm hate to
sit in conferences, while an assembler might love to set up a
machine but hate to take inventory. Nevertheless, it is still
possible to talk abollt the distinctive quality of the work ex­
perience in comparison with other general activity cate­
gories. 'rhe more it resembles a flow activity, the more
involved we become, and the more positive the experience.
\\Then the job presents clear goals, unambiguous feedback, a
sense of control, challenges that match the worker's skills,
and few distractions, the feelings it provides are not that dif­
ferent from what one experiences in a sport or an artistic per­
Maintenance activities are quite varied in terms of their
experiential profile. Few people enjoy housework, which
tends to be generally negative or neutral along all dimen­
sions. If one were to look in finer detail, however, it would
turn out that cooking is often a positive experience, espe­
cially compared to cleaning the house. Personal care�wash­
ing, dressing, and so forth-is usually neither positive nor
negative, Eating, as ment.ioned earlier, is one of t.he most
positive parts of the day in terms of affect and mot.ivation,
whereas it is low in cognitive activity and seldom an occasion
of �ow.
Driving a car, which is the last major component of the
maintenance category, is a surprisingly positive parr of life.
\'\lhile neutral in (erms of happiness and mmivation, it re­
quires skill and concentration, and some people experience
flow more of(en while driving than in any other pan of their
As one would expect, leisure tends w include (he more pos­
itive experiences of the day, Leisure is when people feel the
mos( motivated, when (hey say ulat they want to do wha(ever
they are doing, Yet here too, we find some surprises. Passive
leisure, which includes media consumption and resting, while
i( is a motivating and reasonably happy activity, involves little
mental focus, and rarely produces flow. Socializing-talking
with people without much ulterior purpose except the inter­
action itself�is generally highly positive even though it sel­
dom involves high mental concentration. Romance and sex
provide some of the bes( 1l10men�<; of the day, but for most
people ulCse ac(ivities are rather rare, so they fail to make
much of a difference in the overall quality of life unless they
are embedded in a context of an enduring relationship that
provides emo(ional and intellectual rewards as well.
Active leisure is another source of extremely positive expe­
riences. Y\'hen people do a hobby, ge( involved in exercise,
play a musical instrument, or go our (Q a movie or restaurant,
they tend to be more happy, motivated, concentrated, and
more often in flow than in any mher parr of the day, h is in
these contexts that all the variolls dimensions of experience
are most intensely focused and in harmony with each other.
It is imponam (0 remember, however, that active leisure
usually (akes up only between a fourth and a fiftll of a per­
son's free time, and for many it is vastly overshadowed by the
amount of time spent in passive leisure activities such as
watching television.
Ano(her way to look at the pattern in table 1 is to ask,
\,yhich activities are happiest? \Nruch are most mo(ivated? If
we do that, we see that happiness is highes( when eating,
when in active leisure, and when talking with people; it is
lowest when working on the job or around the house. Moti­
vation follows a similar pattern, wicil the addition th:n pas­
sive leisure, which docs nm make one happy, is something
we uSll<llly wam to do ;lI1yway. Concemra(ion is highest on
the job, when driving, :1I1d in active leisure-these are cile ac­
tivities that during the day require the most mental effort.
The same activities ,llso provide the highest rates of flow,
and so docs socializing with others. Y\'hen we look at the pat­
tern (his way, it again shows that active leisure provides the
best experience overall, while housework, personal care, and
idling provide the worSL
So the firs( s(ep in improving the quality of life consis(s in
engineering daily acti\rities so that one get.<; the most reward­
tool, and use it to tailor-make interventions that by ch:mging
ing experiences from them. This sounds simple, hut the iner­
the pattern of activities may improve well-being. I f a patient
tia of habit and social pressure are so strong that many
is always alone, they find work or volunteer .Ictivitics thal
people have no ide;1 which components of their li\'es they ac­
will bring him in social contact. If she is terrified of people,
tually enjoy, and which contribute to stress and depression.
the)' take her for walks in the crowded streets of the city, or
Keeping a diary or renccting on the past day in the evening
to spectacles and dances. The comforting presence of the
are ways to take stock systematically of the various innuences
therapist in the problematic situation, as opposed to the safe
on one's moods. After it is clear which activities produce the
office, often helps to remove the obstaclcs to thc patients' in­
high points in one's day, it becomes possible to start experi­
volvemenr with activities that improve the quality of their
menting-by increasing the frequency of the positive ones,
Creativc people are especially good at ordering their lives
and decreasing that of the others.
A somewhat extreme example of how this might work was
so that what they do, when, and with whom will enahle them
psychi,ltrist in charge of a
to do their best work. If what they need is spontaneity and
large cOlllmunity mClltal he,llth center in the Netherlands. In
disorder, then they make sure to have that, too. The novelist
his hospital, patients are routinely given the ESM. to find out
Richard Stern's description of the "rhythrlls" of his d.lily life
what they do ;111 day, what they think about, and how they
is quite typical:
reported by M;l!Tell DeVries,
feel. One of the patients, a chronic schizophrenic woman
who had been hospit'lli'led for over ten years, showed the
My guess is lhat it resembles other people's rhythms. Any­
usual t�onfused thought patterns and low affect of severe
body who does work either has a routine or imposes on his
mental patholo!:"y. Hut during the twO weeks of the ESM
life certain periods i n which he can be alone or in which he
study, she reported quite positive moods twice. in both cases
collaborates. At any rate, he works out
she had heen mking eare of her fingernails. Thinking that it
for himself and this is not simply
sort of schedule
e.nernal, exoskeleral
was worth a try, the staff had a professional manicurist teach
phenomenon. It seems
her the skills of her trade. The patielll rook eagerly to the in­
relationshjp of your own physiological, hormonal, organic
struction, and she was soon caring for the nails of the rest of
self and its relationship to the world outside. Components
the patients. Her disposition changed so drastically that she
can be so ordinary as: do you read the newspaper in the
was released into the communilY under supen'isionj she
me it has much to do with the
used to do yellrs ago, and I stopped for
hung a shingle on her door, <lnd within the year she was sclr­
years ;md years, which altered the rhythm of my (by, ,md
sufficient. No one knows why paring nails was the challenge
so 011. One drinks a glass of wine in the evenings ;H certain
this woman needed, and if one interpreted this story psyt·ho­
times, when the blood sugar's low, :md one look-; forward
analytically, perhaps no one would want to know. 'fhe fact is
to it. And then of course those hours in which one works.
that for this one person at this stage in life, being a mani­
curist allowcd at least
pale semblance of flow to enter her
A major feature of daily rhythms is going in and out of
solitude. Over :tnd over, our findings suggest that people get
Professor Fausto Massimini and his staff at the University
depressed when they are alone, and they revive when they re­
of Milan, Italy, have also ad:tpted the ESM as a diagnostic
join the company of others. Alone a person generally reports
low happiness, aversive motivation, low concentration, apa­
thy, and an entire string of other negative states such as pas­
sivity, loneliness, detachment, and low self-esteem. Being
alone affects most those individuals who have the fewest re­
sources: those who have been unable to get an education,
who are poor, single, or divorced. Pathological states are of­
ten invisible as long as the person is with others; they take ef­
fect mostly when we are alone. The moods that people
diagnosed with chronic depression or with eating disorders
experienc.:e are indistinguishable from those of healthy peo­
ple-as long as they are in company and doing something
that requires concentration. But when they are alone with
nothing to do, their minds begin to be occupied by depress­
ing thoughts, and their consciousness becomes entropic.
This is also true, to a less pronounced extent, of everyone
The reason is that when we have to interact with another
person, even a stranger, our attention becomes structured by
external demands. The presence of the other imposes goals
and provides feedback. Even the simplest interaction-like
that of asking another person the correct time-has its own
challenges, which we confront with our interpersonal skills.
Our tone of voice, a smile, our bearing and demeanor are
part of the skills we need in stopping a stranger on the street,
and making a good impression. In more intimate encounters,
the level of hoth c.:hallenges and skills can grow very high.
Thus interactions have many of the charactcristics of flow
activities, and they certainly require the orderly investment
of psychic energy. By contrast, when we are alone with noth­
i ng to do there is no reason to concentrate, and what hap­
pens then is that the mind begins to unravel, and soon finds
something to worry abom.
Being with friends provides the most positive experiences.
llere people report being happy, alert, sociable, cheerful,
motivated. This is especially tnle of teenagers, but it also
holds for retired seniors in their seventies and eighties. The
importance of friendships on well-being is diffic.:ult to overes­
timate. The quality of life improves immensely when there is
at least one other person who is willing to listen to our trou­
bles, and [0 support us emotionally. National surveys find
that when someone claims [0 have five or more friends with
whom they can discuss important problems, they arc 60 per­
cent more likely [0 say that they are "very happy."
Experience while with the family tends to be average, not
as good as with friends, not as bad as when alone. But this av­
erage is also the rcsult of wide swings; one can get extremely
aggravatcd at home one moment and be thoroughly ecstatic
the next. On the job, adults tend to have greater concentra­
tion and cognitive involvement, but they are more motivated
when at home, and are happier there. The same holds true
for children in school compared to home. Family members
ohen experience their interactions differently from each
other. For instance, when fathers are with their children,
they typically rcport positive moods. So do their children up
to grade 5. Aften\'ards, children report increasingly negative
moods when ,,�th their fathers (at least until grade 8, after
which there are no data available).
The strong effects of companionship on the quality of ex­
perience suggest that investing psychic energy in relation­
ships is a good way to impro\'c life. Even the passive,
superficial conversations at a neighborhood bar can stave of
depression. Bm for real growth, it is necessary to find people
whose opinions are interesting and whose conversation is
stimulating. A more difficult, bur in the long run even more
useful, skill to acquire is the ability to tolenue solitude, and
to even enjoy it.
Everyday life unfolds in various locations-the home, cilC car,
the office, streets, and restaurants. In addition to activities and
companionships, locations also have an effect on the quality
of cxperience. Teenagers, for instance, feel best when they
are furthest away from adult supenrjsion, such as in a public
park. They feel most constrained in school, in churches, and
other places where their behavior must conform to others' cx­
pectations. Adults also prefer public pl;lces, where they ;lrc
likely to be with their friends and involved in voluntary
leisure activities. This is especially true for women, for whom
being out of the house often me,lnS a relief from drudgery,
whereas for men being in public is more often related to work
and other responsibilities.
For many people, driving a car gives the most consistent
sense of freedom and control; they call it their "thinking ma­
chine" because while driving they can concentrate on their
problems without intcrmptions, and resolve emotional con­
flicts in the protective cocoon of their personal vehicle. One
Chicago steelworker, whenever his personal problems be­
come too stressful, jumps into his car after work, and drives
west until he reaches the M.ississippi Rjver. He spends a few
hours at a picnic site on the banks, watching the silent waters
drift by. Then h e returns to the car, and br the time he gets
home, with the dawn rising over Lake Michigan, h e feels at
peace. For many families, the car has also become the loca­
tion for togetherness. At hOlll e parents and children are of­
ten dispersed in different rooms, doing different things;
when on an outing in the car, they talk, sing, or play games
Different rooms of the house also have their peculi:lr emo­
tional profile, in brge part because each is the setting for a
different kind of activity. for instance, men reporr good
moods when they are in the basement, whereas women do
not; probably because men go to the basement to relax or
work on hobbies, whereas their wives are more likely to go
there to do the laundry. 'Nomen report some of their best
moods in the house when they are in the bathroom, where
they are relatively free from the demands of the family, and
in the kitchen, where they arc in control and involved in
eookjng, which is an activity that is relatively pleasant. (iVl en
actually enjoy cooking much more than women, no doubt
because they do it less than one-tenth as often, and thus can
choose to do it when they feel like it.)
Although much has been written abollt how the environ­
ment in which one lives affect.. one's mind, there is actually
very little systematic knowledge on this topic. Since time im­
memorial, artists, scholars, and religious mystics have chosen
carefully tlle surroundings that best allowed serenity and in­
spiration. Buddhist monks settled down at the sources of the
Ganges River, Chjnese scholars wrote in pavilions un pic­
ruresque islands, Christian monasteries were built on the
hills with the best views. In contemporary America, research
institures and corporate R&D laboratories are generally sited
among rolling hills, with ducks in the reflecting ponds or the
ocean across the horizon.
If we are to tnlst the reports of creative thinkers and
artists, congenial surroundings arc often the source of inspi­
ration and creativity. They ofren echo Franz Liszt's words,
which he wrote on romantic Lake Como: "I feel that the var­
ious features of Nahlre around me . . . provoke an emotional
reaction in the depth of my soul, which I have tried to tran­
scribe in music." Manfred Eigen, who won the Nobel Prize
in chemistry in 1967. says that some of his most important
insights came from winter trips to the Swiss Alps, where he
invited colleagues from all over the world to ski and talk
about science. If one reads the biographies of physicists like
Bohr, Heisenberg, Chandrash ekhar, and Bethe, one gets the
impression that without hikes in the mountains and the vi­
sion of night skies their science would not have amounted to
To make a creative change in the quality of experience, it
might be useful to experiment with one's surroundings as
well as WiUl activities and comp:.mions. OutinbTS and vaca­
tions help to clear the mind, to change perspectives, to look
at one's situation with a fresh eye. Taking ch;lrge of one's
home or office environment-throwing out the excess, re­
decorating to one's taste, making it personal and psychologi-
cally comfortable, could be the first step in reordering one's
hunger or headache; athletes in a competition can ignore
pain and fatigue until the event is over. \"'hen attention is fo­
differently we feci on Blue Mondays as compared to week­
cuscd minor aches and pains have no ch:mce to register in
ends. In fact, the way each day is experienced changes con­
Again, with time of day as with the other parameters of
We often hear of how important biorhythms <Ire, and how
siderably from morning to night. Early mornings and late
life, it is important to find out what rhythms are most conge­
nights are low on many of the positive emotions, mealtimes
nial to you personally. There is no day or hour that is best for
and afternoons are high. The largest changes occur when
everyone. Reflection helps
identify one's preferences, and
children leave school and when adults come home from
experimenmtion with different alternatives-getting up ear­
work. Not all the concents of consciousness travel in the
lier, taking a nap in the afternoon, eating at different times­
same direction: when out with friends in the evening
helps to find the best set of options.
teenagers report increasing excitement hour after hour, but
at the same time they also fed that they are gradually losing
I n all of these examples, we proceeded as if persons were pas­
control. In addition to these general trends, there are a num­
sive objects whose internal states are affected h)' what they
ber of individual differences: morning persons and night per­
do, who they are with, where they are, and so forth. \¥J:lile
sons relate to time of day in opposite ways.
this is true in part, in the last analysis it is not the external
Despite the bad reputation of certain days of the week, on
the whole people seem
experience each day more or less
conditions th,l[ count, but what we make of them. I t is per­
fectly possible
be happy doing housework with nobody
like the next. True, as one would expect, Friday afternoons
around, to be motivated when working, to concentrate when
and Saturdays are marginally berrer than Sunday evenings
talking to a child. In other words, the excellence of daily life
and Monday mornings, but the differences are less than one
finally depends not on what we do, but on
would expect. Much depends on how we plan our time: Sun­
bow we do it.
Nevcrtheless, before looking at how one can control the
day mornings call be quite depressing if one has nothing to
quality of experience directly by transforming information in
do, but if we look forward to a scheduled activity or a familiar
consciousness, it is important to reflecr on the effects that the
rimal such as going to a church service, then it can be a high
daily environment-the places, people, activities, and times
point of the week.
of day-has on us. Even the mOst accomplished mystic, de­
One interesting finding is that people report significantly
tached from all influences, will prefer to sit under one partic­
more physical symptoms, such as headaches and b3ckaches,
ular tree, eat a certain food, and be with one companion
on weekends and at times when they arc not studying or
rather than another. Most of us are much more responsive to
working. Even the pain of women with cancer is tolerable
the simations in which we find ourselves.
when they are with friends, or involved in an activity; it flares
"rhus the first step in improving the quality of life is to pay
close attention to what we do every da}" and to notice how
up when they are alone with nothing to do. Apparently when
psychic energy is nor committed to a definite task it is easier
to notice what goes wrong in Ollr hodies. This fits with what
we know aixlut the flow e.xpericnce: when playing a close
tournament, chess players can go for hours without noticing
we feel in dirferent activitics, places, times of day, and with
different companions. AJthough the general trends will prob­
ably apply also in your case-you'l l find yourself happier at
mealtimes and most often in flow when in active leimrc-
there might be also surprising revelations. it may turn out
that you really like being alone. Or that YOll like working
more than you thought. Or that reading makes YOLI feel bet­
ter afterwards than watching television. Or vice versa on all
-=:: FOUR
these counts. There is no law that says we have to experience
life in the same way. \Vhat is vital is to find out what works
out best in your case.
The Paradox of Work
\\Tork generally takes up a third of the time available for
living. \Vork is a strange experience: it provides some of
the most intense and satisfying moments, it gives a sense of
pride and ident.ity, yet it is something most of us are ghld
to avoid. On the one hand, recent surveys reporr that 84
percent of American men and 77 percent of women say
they would cont.inue
work even if they inherited enough
money so rhey no longer needed a job. On the other hand,
according to several ES1\1 studies, when people arc sig­
n;llcd at work they endorse the item "1 wish
was doing
something else" more than at any other time of the day.
Allother example of this contradictory attimde is a book in
which two eminent German social scientists, using the
same survey results, developed opposite arguments. Gne
claimed, alllong other things, that German workers dis­
liked work, ;lIld those who disliked it more were happier
overall. The second responded that workers only dislike
work because they 3re brainwashed by the media on ideo4
logical grounds, and those who like their work lead richer
public life and used their free ti me to consume luxury and en­
lives. The point is that there was reasonable evidence for
tertainment instead.
both conclusions.
"" ark, for the majority of people, started to change radi­
cally in Europe about five hundred years ago. It took another
quantum jump two hundred years ago, and still continues to
Because work is so importalll in terms of the alllount of
time it takes and the intensity of effects it produces in COIl­
sciousness, it is essential to face up to its ambiguities if one
wishes to improve the qualiry of life. A first step in that direc­
tion is ro briefly review how work activities evolved in his­
tory, and the contradictory values that were attributed
change at a rapid rate right now. Until the thirteenth cenrury,
almost all energy for work depended on human or animal
muscle. Only a few primitive engines, such as water-mills,
helped to alleviate the burden. Then slowly windmills with a
which still now affect our attitudes and experiences.
variety of gears began
\,york as we know it now is a very recem historical develop­
grains, hauling water, blasting furnaces where metals were
forged. The development of steam engines, and later electric­
ment. lr didn't exist before the great agricultural revolutions
that made inrcnsive farming possible about twelve thousand
years ago. During the previolls millions of years of human
evolution, each man and wOlllan provided for self and kin.
But there was no such thing as workingfor someone else; for
hunter-gatherers work was seamless!y integrated with the
rest of life.
In the classical Western civilizations of Greece and Rome,
philosophers reflected the public opinion about work, which
was that it should be avoided at ,111 costs. Idleness was consid­
ered a virtue. According to AristOtle, only a Illan who did not
have to work could be happy. Roman philosophers agreed
that "wage labor is sordid and unworthy of
free lnan . . .
take over the chore of grinding
ity, further revolutionized the way we transform energy and
make a living.
An offshoot of these technological breakthroughs has been
that work, instead of being seen as simply a physical effort
that an ox or a horse could do better, beg<1l1 to be seen as a
skilled activiry, a manifestation of human ingenuity and cre­
ativiry. By Calvin's time, it made sense to take the "work
ethic" seriously. And it is for this reason also that Karl Marx
could later reverse the classical evaluation of labor, and claim
that onl}1 through productive activity can we realize our hu­
man potential. His position did not contr:ldict the spirit of
Aristotle's opposite claim, that only leisure made men free. It
is just that, by the nineteenth cellhlry, work seemed to offer
craft labor is sordid, and so is the business of retailing." The
more creative options than idleness did.
ideal was to conquer or buy productive land, and then hire a
During the decades of affluence following World \,Var II,
most jobs in America might have been boring and bland, but
on the whole they provided decent conditions and reason­
staff of stewards to supen1ise its cultivation by slaves or inden­
tured serfs. In imperial Rome, about
percent of the male
adult population did not have to work. By having attained a
life of idleness, they believed that they had reached excellence
in their lives. In Republican times, there was some substance
to this belief: members of the ruling class volunteered their
time to fill military and administrative duties that helped the
community and gave room for personal potential to expand.
But after centuries of ease, the idle classes withdrew from
able security. There was much talk about a new era in which
work would be abolished, or at least transformed into purely
white-collar supervisory tasks that would take only a few
hours a week to accomplish. It didn't take long to sec how
utopian these forecasts had been. The global competition
that allowed the underpaid populations of Asia and South
America to compete in the labor market is again giving work
social safety net is in danger of unraveling, pcoplc ha\te to
not until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that a large
number of young people began to move from farms to cities,
work more often in arbitrary conditions and without much
in the United States a grim reputation. Lncrcasingly, as the
security about the future. So even now, at the dose of the
twentieth century, the deep arnbib'1Jity of work still haunrs us.
\,ve know i t is onc of the most imponam elemcnts of our
try their luck in the burgeoning urban econolll}'. Accord­
ing to some estimates, b}' age twelve as many as 80 percent of
country girls in some parts of Europe left their fanner par­
ems, whereas boys left on the aVef<lge two years later. Nlosr
lives, yct while we clo it wc would rather not be doing il.
of the jobs waiting in London or Paris were in what now
would be called the service industries, as charwomen, coach­
How do we learn these conflicting attitudes toward work?
men, porters, or laundresses.
And how do young people these days learn the skills and dis­
cipline required to do ,ldult productive work? These ques­
The sinmtion is very different now. Ln a recent smdy, we
asked ;1 few thousand representative American teenagers
tions are by no means trivi:11. \"'ith each gencration, work
what jobs they expected
hecomes ,In increasingly fuzzy concept, and it becomes
harder for young people to know what jobs will be w'liting
for them when they grow up, and to learn how ro prepare for
LI1 the past, and to a ccrtll in extent even now, in hunting or
fishing societies in Alaska or Mehlnesia, we can still see what
the pattern lIsed to be everywhere else in the world: children
from an early age particip:ltcd in their parents' work, and
gradually found themselves performing
productive adults
withom missing a beat along the way. An Inuit boy was given
a toy bow at age two, and he started practicing shooting right
away. By four he might be expected to shoor a ptarmigan,
six a rabbit, and from there he graduated
caribou and seal.
His sister went through a similar progression helping the
womcn of her kin group to cure hides, cook, sew, and care
for younger siblings. There was no question about what one
should do when onc grew up-thcrc were no options to
choose from, there was only
single path to productive
\,vhen the agricultural revol ution made cities possible
abOUt" ten thousand years ago, specialized jobs sta.·ted to ap­
pear, :Hld a degree of choice opened up for young people.
Still, most of them ended up doing what their parents did,
which until a few centuries ago was mainly farming. It was
co have when they grew up. The re­
sults arc presented in tahle 3. \Vh ar it shows is that adoles­
cell[S have unrealistically high expectations of hecoming
professionals: ' 5 percent of them c.xpect to hecolllc either
doctors or lawyers, which is almost fifteen times higher than
the actual proportion of doctors and lawyers in the labor
force according to the 1 990 Censlls. Most of the 244 adoles­
cenrs who expect to become professional athletes will also be
disappointed, since they overcstimate their chances by about
500-fold. Minority children from the inner city look forward
to professional careers at the same rate as affluent suburban
children, despite the fact that the unemployment rate for
young African-Americans in some cities has been near 50
The lack of realism about fumre career options i s in part
due ro the rapidly changing nature of adull jobs, but it is also
caused by many young people's isolation from meaningful
job oppornmities and aduh working models. Contrary to
what one might cxpect, ;lfflucnr teenagers :lctu;l lly work
more often in high school than poorer students, even though
thc)! don't have to. And exposurc ro productive tasks in the
home, the neighborhood, and the community is llluch
greater for children who grow up in wealthy and stable envi­
ronmcnts. There one can actually find fifteen year olds who
plan to become architects and who have learned LO draft in a
realtivc's archirectunll firm, who have helped design an ex­
requjres high concentration, and induces high self-esteem.
tension to a neighbor's house, who have interned with a local
YCt they are also less happy and motivated lhan average
construction company-although overall such opporrunities
when what they do is like work. On the othcr hand, when
arc infrequcnt. In an inner ciry high school, the most popular
they are doing something they label as play, they see it as
informal c;ueer counselor was a school guard who helped
having low import,li1cC and requiring little concentration,
sharp young boys find jobs with the gangs, and directed
but thcy are happy and motivated. In other words, the split
good-looking girls tOward so-called modeling jobs.
between work that is necessary but unpleasant, and pleasant
According to the ESM results, it seems that young peoplc
but useless play, is well established by late childhood. It docs
learn tht!ir elders' :lmbiv.llence roward work quite early. By
g€[ even more pronounced as adolescents go through high
age ten or eleven, they have internalized the pattern that is
typical of sociery at large. "'hen they arc asked to say
vVhen the same adolescents evcntually start working, they
whether what they are doing is more like "work" or more
rcport exactly the samc pattern of experience from their
like "play" (or like "both" or "neither") sixth graders almost
workplace. In the U.S., almost nine out of ten teenagers are
invariabl}' say that ac,ldemic classes in school arc work, and
employed sometime during high school, a much higher pro­
doing sports is play. Thc interesting thing is that whenever
portion than in other technologicall}' advanced countries like
adolescents are doing something they label as work, they
Germany or Japan, where there arc fewer opportunities for
typical1y say that what they do is important for their future,
part-time work-and where parents prefer their children
spend ;\s much time as possible studying, rather than being
distracted by jobs irrelevant to their future careers. In our� 3
\oVhatJobs Do American Teenagers Expect to Have?
The ten most frequently expected future jobs, b,lsed on interviews
with :1 sample of 3,891 U.S. :ldolescenrs
The}' sec what they do as important and requiring great con­
as unhappy as in school), ,md they don't enjoy thcmselves. In
other words, the pattcrn of ambi v,llcilce is set by dlC very
Act:ountalll, CPA
Source: Ad�ptcd from Bidl<cll. CsikS'"entmih�lyi, l lc{lges, and Schneider '997. in
clerks or salespersons, or as bab},-sit't'ers. \Vhcn tccn agcrs arc
paged on thcir jobs, thcy rcport very elevatcd self-esteem.
graders have held paying jobs, usually serving fast food, as
% of sample
Business Person
study, 57 percent of tenth graders and 86 percent of twelfth
centration . But they are less happy than usual (although not
first steps of thcir working lives.
But work is definitely not the worSt thing adolescents ex­
perience. The worst condition they report is when what they
do is neither like work nor like pia}'. "'hen this is the case­
usually in maintenance activities, passive leisure, or socializ.­
ing-their self-esteem is lowest, what
cllCY do has no
importancc, and cllcir happiness and motivation are also be­
low avcragc. Yet for adolescents "neither work nor play"
takes up on the averagc 35 percent of tile day. Somc, cspe-
cially children whose pa rents have little education, feel tllat
ders to their jobs is generally different. Leaving aside those
half or more o f what they do is o f this kind. A person who
still relatively few career women whose primary identifica­
grows up experiencing most of the day as neither important
tion is with their jobs, most women who work at cleric.ll, ser­
nor enjoyable is unlikely to find much meaning in the future.
vice, and even managerial occupations tend to think of their
outside job as something they want to do rather than some­
The attitudes set in the early years continue to color how we
thing they have
experience work during the rest of our lives. On the job, peo­
women; it is more like play, something that they could take
ple tend
do. Work is more voluntary for many
use their mind and body to it<; fullest, and conse­
or leave. lvlany of them feel that whatever happens on the job
quently fed that what they do is important, and feel good
is not that important-and thus, paradoxically, they can en­
about themselves while doing it. Yet their motivation is
joy it more. Even if things go wrong and they are laid off it
worse than when they are at home, and so is the quality of
will not hurt their self-esteem . As opposed to men, their self­
their moods. Despite huge differences in salary, prestige, and
image depends more heavily on what happens to their fami­
freedom, managers tend to feel only somewhat more creative
lies. Having a destitute parcnt or a child who has trouble i n
and active on thc job, whjle clerical and assembly-line work­
school i s a much greater load o n their minds than whatever
ers are no more unhappy and dissatisfied.
can happen at work.
i\1en and women, however, tend to experience work out­
a result, and especially in comparison with the work
side the home in diffcrent ways. Traditionally, men's identity
they have to do around the house, women generally experi­
and self-respect have been based on the ability
ence employment more positively rhan men. For instance, in
obtain en­
ergy frolll the environment for their own and their families'
an ESM study conducted wicll couples where both partners
usc. \¥bethel' the satisfaction a man gets from doing a neces­
worked, Reed Luson found that women reported relatively
sary job is partly genetically programmed, or is entirely
more positive emotions than men when doing clerical work,
learned from the culture, the fact is dlat more or less every­
computer work, sales, meetin,6TS, working on clle phone, read­
where a man who is not a pro\Tider is to some extent a misfit.
ing work-rehired material, and so on. The only job-related
\"'omen's self-esteem, on the other hand, has traditionally
activity women cxperienced less positively than men was
been based on their ability
create a physical and emotional
when cllCY worked at home on projects brought back from
environment suitable for the rearing of children and the
the office, no doubt uecause in those situations they felt re­
comfort of grown-ups. No matter how enlightened we have
sponsible also for the household task� in addition to those re­
become in terms of trying to avoid these gender stereotypes,
they are far from gone. Teenage boys still wish to become
the job.
The double jeopardy a f unily and a career imposes can be
police officers, firefighters, and engineers, while girls look
a heavy burden on dle self-esteem of women. 1n a shuiy of
forward to becoming homemakers, nurses, and teachers-al­
mothers of small children who worked either full time, part
though girls nowadays also expect to become professionals,
time, or only a few hours a week, Anne \"'eBs found that the
such as doctOrs and lawyers, at a rate that is even higher than
highest levels of self-esteem were reported by women who
for boys.
worked least, and the lowest by those who worked most­
Because of the different role of paid work in the psychJC
economy of men and women, the response of the two gen-
this despite the fact that all women enjoyed working outside
for pay more than they enjoyed working at home. Again this
finding suggests the ambif,'1lous meaning of self-esteem.
ployed s<lid that they were satisfied with their lives. The
Full-time, professional women with families might have
Bible's suggestion that man was made to enjoy the bounty of
lower self-esteem not because they are accomplishing less,
creation without having to work for it does not seem to jibe
but because they expect more from themselves than they can
with the facts. \Vithout the goal and the challenges usually
possibly deliver.
provided by a job, only a rare self-discipline can kecp the
These issues bring into focus how arbitrary the division is
mind focllsed intensely enough to insure a meanjngful life.
between work done for pay, and the housework women have
been traditionally expected to do for their families. fu Elise
Boulding and other social economists have pointed out,
The finding th.rough our E5Nl studies tha[ if one looks at the
sources of flow in the lives of adults, one finds more occasions
maintenance work might not be productive, but if it had to
of it on the job than in free time, seemed quite surprising at
be paid for as a service, the bill would run close to the GNP.
first. The moments when a person is in a high-challenge,
The cost of mothers' nurturance of children, care of the sick,
high-skjll situat.ion, accompanied by feelings of concentra­
cooking, cleaning, and so forth at the market rate would dou­
tion, creativity, and satisfaction, were reported more often at
ble the national payroll, and perhaps force us to adopt a more
work than at home. After further thought, however, this
humane economy. in the meantime, however, while doing
finding is not that surprising. \-\That often passes unnoticed is
housework may bolster a married woman's self-esteem, it
that work is much more like a game than most other things
does not contribute much to her emotional well-being.
we do during the day. It usually has clear goals and rules of
Cooking, shopping, driving the family around, and caring for
performance. It provides feedback either in the form of
children arc accompanied by only average emotions. Bur
knowing that one has finished a job well done, in terms of
cleaning the hOLlse, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, fix­
measurable sales, or through an evaluation by one's supervi­
ing things around the house, and balancing the checkbook
sor. A job usually encourages concentration and prevents dis­
are generally among the most negative experiences in a
tractions; it also allows a variable amount of control, and-at
woman's day.
,111 -
least ideally-its difficulties match the worker's skills. Thus
work t.ends to h:1\'e the structure of other int.rinsically re­
cient philosophers had Illuch good to say in favor of idleness,
warding activities that provide flow, such as games, sporrs,
'Nark has severe drawbacks, but its lack is worse. The
but what they had in mind was the idleness of a landowner
music, and art. In comparison, much of the rest of life lacks
with many serfs and slaves. When idleness is forced on some­
these elements. \\Then spending time at home with the fam­
one without a handsome income, it just produces a severe
ily or alone, people often lack a clear purpose, do not know
drop in self-esteem, and general listlessness. As John Hay­
how well they are doing, arc disrracted, feel that their skills are
worth, a psychologist at the University of Manchester, has
underutilized, and as a result feel bored or-more rarely­
shown, young men out of work, even when paid relatively
generous unemploymenr compensation, have a very hard
So it is no wonder that the quality of experience at work is
time finding satisfaction in their lives. In a compilation of
generally more positive than one would expect. Neverthe­
studies involving 1 70,000 workers in sixteen nations, Ronald
less, i f we had the chance we would like to work less. \>\Ihy is
lngelhart found that 83 percent of white-collar workers, 7 7
this so? Two major reasons seem to be involved. The ti rst is
percent of manual workcrs, but only 6 1 pcrcent of tlle unelll-
based on the objective conditions of work. It is rrue that since
time immemorial those who paid another person's wages
were not particularly concerned with rhe well-being or their
to make it difficult for many persons to admit, even to them­
selves, that work can be enjoyable. Yet when approached
flow while digging a mile below ground in a South African
without too many cultural prejudices and with a determina­
tion to shape it so as to make it personally meaningful, even, or cutting sUbrarcanc on a sweltering plantation. Even
the IllOSt mundane job can enhance the quality of life, radler
in OUf enlightened days, with all the emphasis o n "human re­
than detract from it.
sources," management is all too often disinterested in how
But of course the inrrinsic rewards of work are easiest to
see in the highly individualized professions, where a person is
employees. It t;lkcs extraordinary inner resources to achieve
employees experience work. Therefore it is not surprising
provide the intrinsic rewards in their lives, and that they have
free to choose his or her goals and set the difficulty of the
task. Highly productive and creative artists, entrepreneurs,
to wait until rhey are our of the factory or office before they
statesmen, and scientists rend to experience their jobs like
can begin to have a good timc-even though this turns out
our hunting ancestors did theirs-as completely imcgrated
with thc rest of their lives. One of the most common tropes
that many workers assume that they cannot COlint on work to
not to be true.
The second reason is complemcntary to the first one, but
is based less on contemporary reality, and more on the his­
torical disrepute of work, which is still transmitted by the
culture and learned by each of us as we grow up. There is no
question that during the Industrial Revolution of two and a
in the nearly hundred interviews I conducted with such per­
sons as Nobel Prize-winners and other creative leaders in
differen t fields was: "You could say that I worked evcry
minute of my life, or you could say with equal justice that I
never worked a day." The historian John Hope Franklin ex­
the most precious of cOlllTllodities. \.vorkers assumed that if
pressed this blending of work and leisure most concisely
when he said: "I have always subscribcd to the expression:
'Thank God it's Friday' because to me Friday means I can
only they had more of it, they would automatically be hap­
work for the next two days without interruptions."
h:lIf centuries ago factory workers had ro labor under inhu­
man conditions. Free time was so rare that it became one of
pier. The trade unions fought heroically to shonen the work
For such individuals, flow is a constant part of their pro­
week, and their success is one of the bright accomplishments
fession,ll activity. Evcn though operating at the edges of
in the history of humankind. Unfortull<lteiy, while free time
knowledge must necessarily include much hardship and in­
might be a necessary condition (or happiness, by itself it is
ner turmoil, the joy of extending thc mind's reach into new
not sufficient to guarantee it. Learning how LO use it benefi­
territories is the most obvious feature of their lives, even past
cially turns our to be more difficult than expected. Nor does
the age when most people are usually content to retire. The
inventor Jacob Rabinow, with over twO hundred patent<; to
it seem that more of a good thing is necessarily better; as is
true of so many other things, what enriches life in sl11:111
quantities might impoverish it in larger doses. This is why by
mid-cellmry psychiatrists and sociologists were putting up
warning signals
the effect that roo much free time was
th reatening to become a social disaster.
Both of these reasons-the objective work environmenrs
and the subjective attitudes we learn toward them-conspire
his name, describes his work at age eighty-three: "You have
to be willing to pull the ideas, because you're interested . . . .
lPleople like myself like to do it. It's fun to come up with an
idea, and if nobody wants it, I don't give a damn. It's just fun
to come up with something strange and different."
Ed Asner of "Lou Grant" famc was still looking for new
challenges to his acting skills at age sixty-three:
" 1 dlirsr
. . . burst at the seams, eager for the chase:' The double No­
bel laureate Linus Pauling, intenriewed when he was eighty­
nine, said: "I don't think 1 ever sat down and asked myself,
now wha[
what I liked
I going to do in life? I just went ahead doing
do." The eminent psychologist Donald
Campbell advised young scholars: "Don't go into science if
you are interested in money. Don't go into science if you will
not enjo}1 it even if you do not become famous. Let fame be
something that you accept graciously if you get it, hut make
sure that it is a career that you can enjoy." And Mark Strand,
former poet laureate of the United States, describes flow well
in the pursuit of his vocation: "you're right in the work, you
lose your sense of time, you're completely enraptured, you're
completely caught up in what you arc doing . . . when you arc
working on something and you are working well, you have
the feeling that there's no other way of saying what you're
Of course, people like these arc very fortunate in having
attained the pinnacle of glamorous professions. But it would
also be easy to nnd a great number of famous and successful
people who hate their jobs, whereas one can find business­
men, plumbers, ranchers, and even assembly-line workers
who love their work and describe it in lyrical terms. It is not
the external conditions that determine how much work will
contribute to the excellence of one's life. Ir is how one works,
and what experiences one is able to derive from confronting
its challenges.
No Ill,Hter how satisfying, work alone cannot make a life
complete. Most creative individuals we interviewed said that
their families were more import:l.llt to them than their ca­
reers-even though their actual habit... often belied these
sentiments. Stable, emotionally rewa rding marriages were
the norlll among them. vVhen ilsked what accomplishments
in life they were mOSt proud of, one of the most typical re­
sponses echoed that of the physicist Freeman Dyson: " 1 sup­
pose it is JUSt to have raised six kids, and brought them up, as
far as one can see, all to be interesting people. I think that's
whar I am most proud of, really." John Reed, CEO of Citi­
corp, claimed that the best investment he ever made was the
year he took off from his successful career to spend with his
children as they were growing up: "Raising kids is far more
rewarding than earning money for a company, in terlllS of a
sense of satisfacti on." And most such individuals fill whatever
free time they have with interesting leisure activities, from
playing public concerti to collecting rare namical maps, from
taking up cooking and cookbook writing to volunteering to
teach in underdeveloped countries.
Thus love and dedication to one's calling does nor have to
have the negative connotations of "workahol isll1." That term
could legitimately be applied to a person who is so immersed
in work as to give up other goals and responsibilities. A
workaholic runs the risk of seeing only the challenges related
to his job, and learning only the skills appropriate to it; he is
unable to experience flow in any other activity. Such a person
misses a great deal of the opportunities that contribute to the
excellence of life, and often ends life miserably, when after an
all-consuming addiction to work, he is left with nothing he
can do. Forrunately there are many examples of persons who,
although dedicated to their work, have more multifaceted
can aspire to. \Vhile work is seen as a necessary evil, being
able to relax, to havc nothing to do, seems to most people the
royal road
happiness. The popular assumption is that no
skills are involved in enjoying free time, and that anybody
-::: FIVE
can do it. Yet the eVldence suggests the oppositc: free time is
morc difficult to cnjoy than work. Having leisure at one's
disposal does not improve the qualjty of life unless one
knows how to use it effectively, and it is by no means some­
thing one learns automatically.
The psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi at the turn of the cen­
The Risks and
Opportunities of Leisure
wry 'llready noticed that on Sundays his patients came down
with bouts of hysteria and depression more often than during
the rest of the week; he called the syndrome "Sunday neuro­
sis." Ever since, i t has been reported that holidays and vaca­
tions are periods of increased mental dishlrbance. For
workers who have identified with their jobs aU their lives, re­
tirement is often a transition
chronic depression. In our
ESNI studies we find that even physical health is berrer when
person focuses on a goal. On weekends, when alone, and
with nothing to do, people report more symptoms of illness.
It sounds somewhat ridiculous ro say that one of the prob­
lems we face at this point in history is that we haven't learned
how to spend free time in a sensible way. Yet this is a concern
that many have expressed ever since the mid-cenmry. In
'958, the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry ended
irs annual report with the conclusion: "For many Americans,
leisure is dangerous." Others have claimed that whether
America succeeds as a civilization will depend on the way we
lise free time. \-Vhat could justify such grave warnings? But
before answering this question abom the effects of leisure on
society, it makes sense to reflect on how a typical person is
affected by leisure. The historical effects in this case are the
sum of individual experiences, so in order to understand the
former it helps to understand the latter.
For a variety of reasons discussed earlier, wc have come to
assume that free time is one of the most desirable goals we
All of this evidence poinrs to the fact that the average per­
son is ill equipped to be idle. \,Vithollt goals and without oth­
ers to interact with, most people begin to lose motivation
and concentration. The mind hegins to wander, and more
often than not it will foclis on unrcsolvable problems that
c.:ause anxiety. In order to avoid this undesirable condition,
the person resorts to strategies that will ward offthc worst of
psychic entropy. \-Vit1lOlIt necessarily being aW:lrc of it, one
will seek Ullt stimulation that will screen out the sources of
:lllxiety frorn consciousness. ·rhis might be watching TV, or
reading redundant narratives such as romances or mysteries,
engagiJlg in obsessive gamhling or promiscliOus sexuality,
or getting drunk or taking drugs. These are quick ways to re­
duce chaos in consciousness in the short run, but usually the
only residue they lea\'c behind is a feeling of listless dissatis­
Apparently, our nervous system has evolved to attend to
experience flow (defined as high-challenge, high-skill mo­
external signals, but has not had time to adapt to long peri­
ments) about 1 3 percent of the time that they spend watch­
ods without obstacles and dangers. Few people have learned
ing television, 34 percent of the time they do hobbies, and 44
to strucfilre their psychic energy autonomously, from the in­
percent of the time they are involved in sports and brames
side. 1n those successful societies where adults had time on
table 4). This suggests that hobbies arc about two and a
their hands, claborute cultural practices evolved to keep the
half times more likely to produce a state of heightened en­
mind busy. These included complex cycles of ceremonial rit­
joyment than TV does, and active g;l111CS and sports about
uals, dancing, and competitive tournaments that occasionally
three times more. Yet these sallle teenagers spend at least
lasted for days and weeks on end-such as the Olympic
four times more of their free hours warching TV than doing
games that s[aned toward the dawn of European history.
hobbies or sport.'i. Similar ratios are also true for adults. \.vhy
Even if lacking religious or aesthetic activities, at least each
would we spend four times more time doing something thar
village provided endless oppotnillities for gossip and discus­
has less than half the chance of making us feel good?
sion; under the largest tree of the square, men not otherwise
When we ask the participants of our studies this question,
occupied sat smoking their pipes or chewing mildly hallu­
a consistent explanation bcgins
cinogenic leaves and nuts, and kept their minds ordered
teenager admits that biking, or playing basketball, or pla
through redundant conversation. This is still the pattern fol­
the piano are more enjoyable than roaming through the mall
lowed by men at leisure in the coffee shops of the Mediter­
or watching TV. But, they say, to get organized for a basket­
ranean, or the beer halls of northern Europe.
ball game takes time---one has to change clothes, make
appear. The typical
yi ng
Such methods of avoiding chaos in consciousness work to
a certain extent, but they rurely contribute to a positive qual­
ity of experience. As we have seen earlier, human beings feel
best in flow, when they are fully involved in meeting a chal­
lenge, solving a problem, discovering something new. Most
activities that produce flow also have clear goals, clear niles,
immediate feedback-a set of external demands that focuses
our attention and makes demands on our skills. Now these
arc exactly the conditions that are most often lacking in free
time. Of course, if one uses leisure to engilge in a sport, an
Table 4
How Much Flow [s There in Leisure?
Percentage of time each leisure activir), provides flow, relaxation,
apathy, and anxicty". Results are from a study of 824 U.S. teenagers
yielding about 27,000 responses. Terms are defined as follows:
Flow: high challenges, high skills; Relaxation: low challenges, high
ski lls; Apathy: low challenges, low skills; and Anxiety: high chal­
lenges, low skills.
3rt form, or a hobby) then the requirements for flow will be
present. But just free time with nothing specific to engage
one's attention provides the opposite of flow: psychic en­
tropy, where one feels listless and apathetic.
NOl all free-time activities are the same. One major distinc­
tion is between active and p;lssive leisure, which have quite
different psychological effects. For example, U.S. teenagers
Gaines and sports
I lobbies
Listening to music
Television watching
SoUTO": Bid\\'ell, CsiksKnnnihal),j, 1·ledges, and Schneider 1997, in press.
arrangclllcnrs. It takes at least half an hour of often dull prac­
tice each timc one sirs down at the piano before it begins to
be fun. In other words, each ohhe flow-producing activitics
rcquires an initial investment of attention before it begins to
be enjoyable. One needs such disposable "activation eneq,ry"
to enjoy complex activities. I f a person is too tired, anxious,
or lacks the discipline to overcome that initial obstaclc, he or
she will have to settle for somethiJlg that, although lcss ell­
joyable, is more accessiblc.
This is where "passive leisurc" activities come in. To just
hang out with friends, read an unchallenging book, or turn
on the TV set does nor require much in the way of an up­
front energy outhlY. It does not demand skills or concentra­
tion. Thus the consumption of passive leisure becomes all
too often the option of choice, not only for adolescents, but
for adults as well.
In table 4, we C<ln see a comparison of the major types of
leisure activities in terms of how frequently they providc !low
to a cross section of Americ:m teenagers. \Ve sce that g'Hlles
and sports, hobbies, and socializing-the three active andlor
social activities-provide more flow experiences than the
three more solitary and less structured activities, listening to
music, thinking, and watching 'IV. At the same time, the ac­
tivities that produce flow, being more demanding and diffi­
cult, also occasionally produce conditions of anxiety. The
three passive leisure ,lctivities, on the other hand, sddolll
cause anxiety: their contribution is (0 provide mainly relax­
ation and apathy. If you fill your leisure time with passive
leisure you won't find much enjoymcnt, but you will also
avoid getting in over your head. Apparently this is :l b:lrg<lin
that many find worth Iluking.
It is not that relaxing is bad. Everyone needs time (0 un­
wind, (0 read trashy novels, to sit on the cOllch staring in
space or watching a 'lV program. As with the other ingredi­
ents of life, what matters is the dosage. Passive leisure be­
comes a problem when a person uses it as thc principal--or
the only-strategy to fill up free time. As these pancrns turn
into habits, they begin (0 have definite effects on the quality
of life as a whole. Those who learn to rely on gambling to
pass the time, for instance, ma)' find themselves caught in a
habit that imerferes with their job, their family, and eventu­
ally with their own well-being. People who view television
more often than the average tend also to have worse jobs and
worse relationships. In a large-scale srudy in Germany, it was
found that the more often people report rcading book", the
more flow experiences they claim to h.lve, while thc opposite
trcnd was found for watching television. The Illost !low was
reported by individuals who read a 10[ and watched little TV,
the Icast by those who read seldom and watched often.
Of course, such correlations do not necessarily mean that
habits of passive leisure cause bad jobs, bad rei:ltionships, and
so on. It is likely that the causal links start from the other
end: lonely people with dissatisfying jobs will fill their free
timc with passive leisure. Or those who cannot find flow oth­
erwise in their lives rum to undemanding leisure activities.
Bm in human development causation is usually circular: what
was an effect in the beginning eventually turns into a cause.
An abusive parent may force his child to adopt a defense
based on repressed aggression; as the child grows up, it is this
style of defense rather than the initial traullla that might
make it ea�1' for him in turn to become all abusive parent. So
adopting habits of passivc leisure is nOt JUSt an effect of pre\�­
ous problems, but becomes a cause in its own right, which
cuts off further options for improving the quality of life.
The phrase "bread ,md circuses" has become a commonplace
to describe how the Roman Empire managed to keep the
populace contclHcd during the long centuries of its decline.
By providing enough food to keep the bodies satisfied, and
enough spectacles to keep the Illinds entertained, the ruling
classes were able to avoid social unrest. It is unlikely that this
policy was consciously adopted, but its widespread applica-
rion seems to have worked. It would not have been either rhe
and seek to recapture it in leisure activities that mimic the
first or the last time that prmfjding leisure oppornilliries kept
carlier enjoyable lifestyle. Young Navajo men used to feel at
a community from unraveling. III the Persian Wars, the first
their best when riding after their sheep over the Illesas of the
hjsrorian of the \Vest, the Greek Herodotus, describes how
Southwest, or when participating in week-long ceremonial
Atys, king of Lydia in Asia Minor, introduced ball games
singing and dancing. Now that such experiences are less rele­
some three thousand years ago as a way to distracl his sub­
vant, they anempt to recapture flow by drinking alcohol and
jects when a series of bold crops caused unrest in the hungry
then racing down ule desert highways in souped-up cars.
population. "The plan adopted against the famine was to en­
The number of traffic fatalities may not be higher than ulOse
gage in games one day so entirely as not to feel any craving
sustained earlier in tribal warfare or while shepherding, but
for food" he wrote, "and the next day to eat and abstain from
they seem more pointless.
The lnuit are going through a similar dangerous transi­
games. In this way they passed eighteen years."
A similar pattern developed in Constantinople during the
tion. Young people who can no longer experience the excite­
waning of the Byzantine Empire. To keep the citizens happy,
ment of hunting scal
great chariot races were held in the city. The best drivers be­
automobile as a tool for escaping boredom and focusing on a
came rich and fa mous, and they were automatically elected
purposeful goal. Apparently there are communities in the
to the Senate. In Central America before the Spanish con­
Arctic that have no roads connecting them to any other
quest, Ole Maya developed elaborate games similar to hasket­
place, but have built miles of roads for the exclusive purpose
baU, which kept spectators bus}' for weeks on end. In our
of drag racing. In Saudi Arabia the spoiled young scions of
times, disenfranchised minorities depend on sports and en­
oil barons find riding camels passe, and try to revive their in­
tertainment as avenues to social mobility-basketball, base­
terest by racing brand-new Cadillacs in the trackless desert,
ball, boxing, and popular music absorb surplus psychic
or on the sidewalks of Riyadh. "then productive activities
energy while promising wealth and fame. Depending on
become too routine and meaningless, leisure will pick up the
one's perspective, one can interpret this in twO quite oppo­
slack. It will take up progressi\'eJy more time, and rely on in­
site ways. One can see in thest: instances leisure being used as
creasingly more elaborate artificial stimulation.
an "opiate of the masses," to paraphrase what Marx said
about religion. Or one can see them as creative responses
dangerous situations impervious to more effective solutions.
There arc individuals who, confronted with the sterility of
their jobs, escape productive responsibilities altogether to
pursue a life of flow in leisure. This docs nOt necessarily re­
The record seems to suggest that a society begins to rely
quire a great deal of money. There arc well-trained engi­
heavily on leisure-and especially on passive leisure-only
neers who leave their jobs and wash dishes in restaurants
when it has become incapable of offering meaningful pro­
during the wimer so they can afford
ductive occupation
its Inembers. Thus "bread and cir­
slimmer. There afe colonies of surfers on all the beaches
cuses" is a ploy of last resort thM postpones the dissolution of
with good waves who live hand-to-mouth so t1wy can cram
society only temporarily. Contemporary examples provide
in as much flow as possible on their boarels.
do rock climbing all
some insight into what happens in such instances. For exam­
An Australian social scientist, Jim Macbeth, interviewed
ple, many indigenous people in North America have lost the
dozens of ocean sailors who spend year after ycar navigating
oppornlllity ro experience flow in work and communal life,
among the islands of ule South Pacific, many of them own-
ing nothing except the boat into which they've invested all
able to bring to their lives. They search until they find a pro­
their savings. \·V hen the)' run out of moncy for food or re­
ductive endeavor that also allows them
pairs, they StOp in a port to do odd jobs until they call replen­
ish their supplies, then they cast off on the next journey. IIJ
possible into dlcir lives. The odler options seem less satisf
there is just too much one misses by hecoming a workaholic, or
was ahle to throw off responsibility, CJsr off a humdrum life,
by escaping into leisurc ful l timc. Most of us, however, are con­
be a bit advenmrolls. I had to do something with life besides
tent to comparnnenralize our livcs into boring jobs and routine
vegetate," says one of these modern argonauts. "It was a
entertainment. An interesting example of how flow seeps out of
chance to do one really big thing in m)' life; big and memo­
work and into leisure is provided in the study of an Alpine com­
rable," says another. Or, in the words of another sailor:
munity by Anronella Delle Fave and Fausto Massimini of the
build as much Aow as
University of Milan. They interviewed forry-si.\: members of an
Modern civilization has found radio, TV, nightclubs and a
c,xtended family in Pont Trental" a remote mountain village
huge vari ety of Illcch:lIlized entertainment to titillate our
where people h;lve cars and relevision set<;, but still work at tra­
senses and he lp us escape from the apparent boredom of
ditional tasks such as herding cattle, growing orchards, and
the carth :md the sun and wind and stars. Sailing returns to
woodworking. The p..�ych()lob';st<; ,lsked the three generations
of villagers to describe when and how they experienced How in
thcsc ancicnt rC;llities.
their lives (see figure
Some individuals do not abandon jobs altogether, but shift
thc emphasis from work to leisure as the center of their lives.
Figure !2
One seriolls rock climber describes the exhilarating sc1f­
discipline of his sport as training for the rest of life: "Uyou win
these battles enough, that bame against yourself . . . it becomes
easier to win the battles in the world." And another formcr
businessman who moved to the mountains to be a carpenter:
I would have made a great deal of money in corporate life,
bur I realized one day that I wasn't enjoying it. I wasn't
having the kind of e,xperiences that make life rewarding. I
Distribution of Flow AI.:t:ivities in a Thrcc-Gcncr.ltional
Family (N"'46) from Pont Trentaz., Gressonc), Valley, haly
80 ,-----
oo +-��---)0
S,lW that Illy priorities were mixed up, spending IllOst of
. . The ye,us were slipping by. I
my hours in the office . .
enjoy being a carpenter. I live where it's quiet and beauti­
(11 1, and
climb most every night. 1 fi�,rure that my own re­
laxation and avail abi l ity will mean more to my f.ullily than
the material things I can no longer gi ve them.
The career move from businessman
c3'l>enter is an exam­
ple of the kind of creative readjustment that some people arc
Soun:;e: Ad3jlU:d from Delle fllIe lind ,\iassimini 1988.
L'�,,,c 1-_
The oldest generation reported the most frequent flow expe­
riences, and the majority of them involved work: cutting hay in
the meadows, fixing the bam, baking bread, milking cows,
tence? Or is it possible to reinvent
li festy le th:lt combines
these traits within continuing evolution.l ry change?
To make the best use of free time, one needs
devote as
worki ng in the garden. The middle generation-which in­
much ingenuity and attention to it as one would to one's job.
cluded those between forty and sixty years old-reported equal
Active leisure that helps a person grow does nor come easy.
am ounts of flow from work and from leisure activities, such as
In the past l eisure was j ustified b�cause it gave people an op­
watching movies, going on vacations, reading books, or skiing.
portunity to experiment and to develop skills. tn fact, before
The grandchildren in the youngest generation showed a pat­
sc.ience and the arts became prof essional ized, a great deal of
tern opposite to that of their grandparents: they reported the
scientific research, poetry, painting, and musica l composition
fewest occurrences of (Jow, and most of it came from leisure.
was carried out in a perso n's free time.
Mendel did
Dancing, motOrcycle racing, and watching TV were some of
his famous genetic experiments as a hobby;
the most frequent avenues of enjoyment. (Figure
does not
Franklin was led by interest, not a job description , to grind
show how much flow each group reported; it only shows the
lenses and experiment with lightn i ng rods; Emily Dickinson
percentage of flow that was reported in either work or lei sure.)
wrote her superb poetry to create order in her own l i fe.
Nor all of the generational differences in Pom Trentaz are
Nowadays on ly experts arc supposed to be interested in such
due to soci al change. Some of it is a feature of nonnal devel­
issues; amateurs arc derided for venwring into fields resenred
opmental patterns that every generation passes through:
for the specialist. But amateurs-those who do som ething
young people arc always more depen dent f or en joyment on
because they love to do it-add en joyme nt an d interest
artificial risk and stimulation. But it is almost certain that
their own life, and to everybody else 's.
these normal differences are magnified in communities un ­
dergoi ng social and economic transition. I.n such cases the
It is not just extraordi nary individuals who arc able to
make creative use of leisure_ AJI folk art-the songs, the fab­
older generations still find a meaningful chal lengc in tradi­
rics, the pottery and carvings that give each culture its partic­
tional productive tasks, whereas their children and grandchil­
ular identity and renown-is the result of cOlllmon people
dren, increasingly bored by what they see as irrelevant chores,
striving to express their best skill in the time left free from
to entertainment as a way of avoiding psychi c entropy.
work and maintenance chores. I t is difficult to imagine how
In the United States, traditional communities like the
dull the world would be if our ancestors had used free time
keep work and
simply for passivc entertainment, instead of findi ng in it an
Amish and the Mennonites have been able
flow from getti ng sepaTllted . hI the everyday routines of their
opportunity ro explore beauty an d knowl edge.
farmi ng life, it is difficult to know when work stops and
Currently about 7 percent of all the nonrenewable energy
leisure btgins. Most "frtc time" activities, such as weaving,
we use-e lectrici ty, gasoline , paper, an d metal products-is
carpentry, singing, or reading are useful and productive ei­
bein g used primarily for lei su re. Con structi ng and watering
ther in a Ill'lterial, social, or spiritual
golf courses, pri nti ng ll1<lgazincs, flying jets to vacation re­
sense. or course
achievement has been at the price of remaining embalmed in
sorts, producing and di stributi ng TV shows, buildi ng and fu­
amber, as it were, arrested at a point of technolo gical and
eling powerboats and skidoos takes up a good deal of
spiritual development that now seems quaint. Is this the on ly
pla netary resources. Iron ica lly, it seems that how much hap­
piness an d enjoymen t we get from leisure has no relation at
prese rve the integrity of a j oyful and productive exis-
all-if anything, a
'11egll1ivl' rclation-to the amoum of mater­
ial energy consumed while doing it. Low-key activities thal
require invcstlnents of skill, knowledge, and emotions on our
part are just as rewarding as those that use up a 10[ of equip­
mem and external energy, instead of our own psychic energy.
I-laving a good conversation. gardening, re.ading poetry, vol­
unteering in a hospital, or learning something new exhaust
few resources and arc at least as enjoyable as things that con­
sume ten times as many resources.
J list as the excellence of an individual life depends to a
large extent on how free time is used, so the qualilY of a soci­
ety hjnges on what it<; members do i n their leisure time. Sub­
urban communities can be so depressingly bland because one
has reaSon to believe th,l[ behind the impressive facades ris­
ing from dle emenlld lawns nobody is doing anything inter­
esting. There arc entire countries where one gets dle
impression from talking even with members of the societal
elite that besides money, f:Hllily, fashion, vacations, and gos­
sip there is not that much else that engages their attention.
\,Vhereas there arc still some areas in the world where one
finds retired professionals enchanted with classical poetry
who collect ancient volumes in d1eir library, or farmers who
pby musical instruments or write down the stories of their
village, preserving rhe best creations of their ancestors while
adding to them.
In any case, we have seen that at the social as well as the in­
dividual level habits of leisure act as both effects and as causes.
\OVhen the lifestyle of a social h,1TOUp becomes obsolete, when
work rums into a boring routine and community responsibili­
ties lose their meaning, it is likely that leisure will become in­
creasingly more important. And if a society becomes toO
dependent on entertainment, it is likely that ci1cre will be less
psychic energy left
cope creatively with d1C technological
and economic challenges that will inevitably arise.
It may seem contrarian to raise alarms about the entertain­
ment industry at a time when it is so successful in the U.S.
Music, movies, fashion, and television bring in hard curren
from all over the world. Video stores mushroom on
cally cvery block, reducing dlC ranks of the unemp
loyed. Our
children look to media celcbrities as models ro
steer their
lives by, and our consciousness is filled with inform
about cl1e doings of athletes and movie stars. l low can
all this
success be harmful? if we assess trends only from the point
view of a financial bottom line, then there is nothing
Bur if one count" also the long-term effects of gener;l
addicted to passive entertainment, the rosy picture
will look
grim indeed.
How to avoid the danger of polarizing life into work
is llle;lIlingless because it is unfree, and leisure that
is mean­
ingless because it has no purpose? One possible
way out is
suggested by t.he example of the creative individuals
cussed in the previous chapter. In their lives, work and
arc indivisible, as they are for people living in traditional
cieties. But unhke the latter, creative persons have not
trenched into a frozen moment in time. They use the
knowledge from the past and the present to discover a
way of being in the future. To the extent that we can
from them, cilerc is no longer any reason to dread free
\¥ork itself becomes as enjoyable as leisure, and when
needs ;1 break from it, leisure is likely to be true rccreat
instead of a scheme for dulling the mind.
I f one's job is beyond redemption, the othcr solution
is to
make sure that free time at least will be a real opportllllily for
flow-for exploring the potential of the self and the environ­
ment. Luckily, the world is absolutely fll11 of interesting
things to do. Only lack of imagination, or hIck of energy
stand in the way. Otherwise each of LIS could be a
poet or
musician, an inventor or explorer, an amateur scholar,
tist, artist, or collector.
ing was sitting alone in her k
itchen, having breakElst and
reading the paper. "'hen the pager signaled, she rated her
happiness 5 on a scale where , is sad and 7 very happy. \¥hen
the next signal arrived at
� S IX
I I :30,
she was still alone, smoking a
cigarette, saddened by the thought dlat her son was about to
move away
a different city. Now her happiness had fallen
to a � At 1 :00 in the afternoon, Sarah was alone, vacuuming
the liVing room, happiness down to I . By 2 : 3 0 P.M. she is in
the backyard, swimming with the grandchildren; happiness is
a perfect 7. But less than an hour later, as she is taking the
sun a,� d trying to read a book while her grandchildren splash
Relationships and the
her With \�'ater, the happiness rating is down
[0 2
again: "My
da� should rake those brats in hand more," she
Quality of Life
wmes �n �he ESM response sheet. As we move through the
day, thinking about people and interacting with them play
constant riffs on our moods.
Tn most societies, people depend on the social context to an
even grearer extent than in the technological \Vest. We be­
lieve that the individual should be left free
develop his or
her potential, and at least since Rousseau we have come to
\\!hen thinking about what causes the best and the worst
moods in life, chances are you would think of other people. A
lover or spouse can make you feci wonderfully dated but also
irritated and depressed; children can be a blessing or <l pain; a
word from the boss can make or break a day. Of all the things
we normally do, interaction with others is the least pre­
dictable. At one momcm it is flow, the next apathy, 3l1xiety,
relaxation, or boredom. Because of the power that interac­
tions have on our mind, clinicians have developed forms of
psychotherapy that depend on max
imizing pleasant encoun­
ters with others. There is no doubt that well-being is deeply
attuned to relationships, and that consciousness resonates
the feedback we receive from other people.
For example, Sarah, one of the people we snldied with rhe
Experience Sampling Method, at 9: 10 on a Saturday morn·
think of society as a perverse obsracle ro personal fulfillment.
Ln contrast, the traditional view, especially in Asia, has been
that the individual is nothing until shaped and refined
through interaction with others. I ndia provides one of the
clearest examples of how this works. The classical Hindu cul­
ture has taken great pains to ensure that from infancy to old
. members confornl to appropriarc ideals of behavior.
age Its
uT e Hindu person is produced consciously and deliberately
dunng a senes of collective events. These events are sa1ll­
:kal'lls, l.ire c)'cle rituals that are fundamental and compulsory
III the hf� of a Hindu," writes Lynn Hart. Samsklfl'lls help to
shape chddren and adults by giving them new rules of con­
duct for each successive step in life.
As the Lndian psychoanalyst Sadhir Kakar wrote half face­
tiously, sll1l1skaras arc the right rite at the right time:
The conceptualization of the human life cycle unfolding
Illunity interaction such a person would be mentally incom­
in a series of stages, with each stage having its unique
petent. In contemporaty preliterate societies this knowledge
"tasks" and rhe need for an orderly progression through
is so deeply ingrained that a person who likes ro be alone is
the stages, is an est,lblished part of traditional Indian
assumed to be a witdl, for a normal person would not choose
thought . . . one of the major thrusts of these rinmls is the
to leave the company of others unless forced to do so.
gradual integration of the child into society, with the
Because internctions are so important for keeping con­
sciousness in balance, it is important to understand how they
movement that takes the child away from the original
affect us, and to learn how to turn them into positive father
mother-infant symbiosis into the full-fledged membership
than negative experiences.
of hls community.
not enjoy relationships for free. \Ve must expend a certain
But socialization not only shapes behavior, it also molds
we risk finding ourselves in the shoes of SartTe's character in
it were,
beating time to a
As widl everything else,
one can­
amount of psychic energy to reap their benefits. If we do not,
consciousness to the expectations and aspirations of the cul­
No Exil who concluded thllt hell was other people.
ture, so that we feel shame when others observe our failings,
A relationship t1ut leads ro order in consciollsness instead
and guilt when we feci that we have let others down. Here
of psychic entropy has to meet at least two conditions. The
roo cultures differ enormollsly in terms of how deeply the
first is to find some compatibility between our goals and th,lt
self depends on internalized community expectations; for in­
of the other person or persons. This is always difficult in
stance, the Japanese have several words to describe fine shad­
principle, given that each participant in the interaction is
ings of dependence, oblib'<ltions, and responsibility thilt are
bound to pursue his or her self-interest. Nevertheless, in
difficult to translate into English because in our social envi­
most simations, if one looks for it, one can discover at least a
ronment we have not learned to experience such feelings to
shred of shared goals. 'rhe second condition for a successful
the same extent. In J;lpan, according to Shinraro Ryu, a per­
intenlCtion is that one be willing to invest attention in the
ceptive Japanese journalist, the typical individual "wants to
othcr person's goals-not an easy task either, considering
that psychic energy is the most essential and scarce resource
swim, he avoids the uncrowded place but chooses a spot
we own. \Vhen these conditions are met, it is possible to get
where people arc practically on top of one another."
the most valuable result from being with other people�to
go wherever others go; even when he goes to the beach
It is not difficult to see why we are so enmeshed in our so­
experience the tlow that comes from optimal interaction.
cial milieu, both mentally and physically. Even our primate
rclations, the apes that live in d,e African jungles and savan­
The most positive experiences people report are usually
nas, havc learned that unless they afe accepted by the group
those with friends. This is especially true for 3dol escents
they won't live long; a solitary baboon will soon fall prey to
(see figure 3), but it remains true also in the later years of
leopards or hyenas. Our ancestors reallzed a long time ago
life. People are generally much happier .1Ild more motivated
that they were social animals, that they depended on the
when with friends, regardless of what they are doing. Even
group not only for protection but also for learning the ameni­
studying and household chores, which depress moods when
ties of life. The Greek word "idiot" originally meanr someone
done alone or with the fa mily, become positive experiences
who lived by himself; it was assumed that cut off from corn-
when done with friends. It is not difficult to see why this
shouJd be the case. \,vith friends the conditions for an opti­
mal interaction arc usually maximized. We choose them be­
Figure 3
How Teenagers' Quality of Expcrience Changes in Different
Social Contexts
cause we see their goals as compatible with Ollrs, and thc
relationship is one of equality. Friendships are expected to
provide mutual benefits, with no external constraints that
might lead
exploitation. ldeally, friendships are never sta­
tic: they provide ever new emotional and intellectual stimu­
lation, so that the relationship does not fade into horedom
or apathy. We try new things, activities, and advennlres; we
develop new attitudes, ideas, and values; we get to know
friends more deeply and intimately. vVhile many flow activi­
ties are enjoyable only in the short run, because their chal­
lenges are soon exhausted, fri ends offer potentially infinite
stimulation throughout life, honing our elllotional and in­
tellectual skills.
Of course, this ideal is not achieved very often. Instead of
promoting b'Towth, friendships often provide a safe cocoon
where our self-image can be preserved without ever having
to change. The superficial sociability of teenage peer groups,
suburban clubs and coffee klatches, professional associations,
drinking buddies, gives a soothing sense of being part of a
like-minded set of people without demanding effort or
growth. One indication of this trend is shown in figure 3 ,
where we see that concentration i s usually significantly lower
with friends than in solitude. Apparently mental effort i s
rarely involved i n typica l friendly imeractions.
In the worst cases, when a person witham other close tics
comes to depend exclusively on other rootless individuals for
emotional suppOrt, friendship can be destructive. Urban
gangs, delinquent groups, and terrorist cells are usually made
up of individuals who----either because of their own fault or
because of circumstances�have not found a niche in any
community and have only each other to confirm their identi­
------------+-0.) +-0. ' +
0.' +-Strong
0. ; ,
0 ·4
COllcenlrn!ion Motivation
• \.\Iith Parents
With friend�
point in this fi!01re refers to the average quality of experience re­
l>Orted throughout the week. The feelings of happiness and strength are
very significantly worse alone, and bener with friends; motivation is very
significantly bener with friends. Similar trends are ohtained from all ESM
studies, whether with adults or teenagers, in this country or abroad.
Source: CsiLtszentmihalyi �nd L�rson 1984.
Compared to the other main fcatures of ule social environ­
ment, however, fricndships offcr bOUl the most emotionally
rewarding contexts i n U1C immediate present, and the greatest
opportunities for developing one's potential in the long
Contemporary life, however, is not very suitable for sustaining
friendships. In more traditional societies a pcrson remains in
contact throughout all of his or her life with the friends made
in childhood. The geographical and social mobility in clle
United States Ilukes this almost impossible. Our high school
friends are not the same as ulOse we made in grade school, and
in college friendships are reshuffled once more. Then one
moves from one job to another, from one city to cllC next, and
ties. In sllch cases growcll also happens as a result of cllC rela­
WiUl age, transient friendships become ever more superficial.
tionship, but from the point of view of the majority it is a
Lack of true friends is often the main complaint of people con­
malignant growth .
fronting an emotional crisis in the second half of life.
Another frequent calise of complaint is the lack of reward­
ing se;\,Jal relationships. One of the cultural achievements of
this century has been the rediscovery of the importance of
"good sex" for a good life. However, as usual, the pendulum
has swung 'too far: sexuality has been decontextualized from
the rest of experience, and people have accepted the erro­
neous notion that liberal doses of sex will make them happy.
Variety and frequency of sexual encounters have taken prece­
dence over the depth and intensity of the relationship in
which they arc embedded. It is ironic that on this issue the
traditional teachings of the churches are closer to a scientific
position than the up-to-date beliefs of the populace, for an
evolutionary approach confirms that the original purpose of
sexuality is Im.king children and binding the paremal couple.
Of ('ourse this docs not mean that these functions need to be
the only purpose of sex. For cxample, the adaptive function
of taste buds was
distinguish between wholesome and
spoiled food, bur with time we developed complex culinary
arts based on subtle nuances of taste. So also wh:aever wcre
the original reasons for sexual pleasure, i t can 'llways be lIsed
to yield new possibilitie s for enriching life. But just as glut­
into consulllption that gives them the illusion of sexual ful­
fillment. In either case, a force that could result in some of
the deepest and most intimate joys of life is taken over �llld
manipula ted by outside interests.
,",VhM can one do? As with other aspects of life, the impor­
ram thing is to decide for oneself, to realize what is at stake,
and what are the imercsts th:u try ro control our sexuality for
theIr own ends. It helps to rc.llizc how vulnerable we arc i n
this respect. It i s a very universal condition: we were told in
our part of the Rockies that coyotes sometimes send a female
in heat to lure unsuspecting male farm dogs into the llinbush
of the pack. "''hen realizing our vulnerability, the d,lI1ger i s
falling into the opposite extreme and becoming paranoid
about sex. Neither celibacy nor promiscuity arc necessarily
our advantage; whar counts is how we wish to order our
lives, and what part we wish sexuality to play in it.
Ln partial compensation for the difficulty of having friends,
we have discovered in the United States a new possibility: to
be friends with parents, spollses, ,md children. In thc E ro­
pean tradition of courtly love, friendship with one's husband
hunger seems unnatural, an
or wife was considered an oXYllloron. "Vhen marriages were
obsession with sex that is divorced from other human needs
such as intimacy, caring, :md commitmenr becomes equally
children depended on their parents for inheritance and sta­
wny that has no relationship
\·Vhen the daring pioneers of instinctual liberation h'liled
free sex as the solution to the repression of society, they did
nOt dwell on the possibility that half a cenmry later sex would
be llsed to sell deodorants and soft drinks. As Herbert M;lr­
cuse and others nlefully noted, Eros was bound to be ex­
ploited one way or another; it� eneq,,), was too strong for it
be co-opted by the powers of church, state, or if nei­
ther of these, then the advertising industry. In the past, sexu­
ality was repressed so that the psych ic energy attracted to it
could be channeled into productive goals. Now sexuality is
encouraged so that people will channel their psychic energy
largely at the service of economk or political alliances, and
tus, the conditions of equ:llit}' and reciprocity thar make
friendships possible were lacking. In the last few generations,
howc\'cr, the family has lost most of its role as an economic
neccssity. And the less we depcnd on it for material benefits,
the more we C:ln enjoy its potential for emotional rewards.
Thus the modern family, with all its problems, opens up new
possibilities for optimal experiences that were much more
difficult co come by in previous times.
In the laSt few decades, we have come to realize that the
image of the family we have been cherishing since at" least
Victorian times is only one of many possible alternatives. Ac­
cording to the historian Le Roy Ladurie, a rural French fam-
ily in the late tVtiddle Ages was made up by whoc\rer lived un­
that a health}' social system can exist without the emotional
der the Sl1me roof and shared the same meals. This might
support and nurturance thal parents alone seem able
have included people actually related by blood, but also
growing children. For no matter how much variety there i s
farmhands and other persons who strayed in to help with the
in the form families have taken, one constant has been that
farm work and were given shelter. Apparendy no further dis­
ciley included adults of the opposite sex who took on responsi­
tinction was made among these individuals; whether related
bilitics for each others' welfare, and for that of their offspring.
domas, or house
It is for this reason thar marriage is such a complex institu­
or nOt they were seen to belong to the same
made of stOne and mortar, which was the unit that really
tion in aU societies. 'The negotiations involved in it, which
mattered, rather than the biological family. A thousand years
have included fine calculations of dowries and bride-price,
earlier, the Roman family was a very different social arrange­
were intended to b'l.larantee that children born of the union
ment. Here the patriarch had the legal right ro kill his chil­
would not become a public burden. In all societies, the par­
dren if they displeased him, and biological descent mattered
ents and relatives of the bride and groom took on the respon­
almost as much as it did later for the aristocratic families of
sibility of supporting and training the offspring of the union,
the nineteenth cenrury.
both in terms of material needs and of socialization into
And these variations were still within the same cultural
commun.ity values and rules. So far no society-not the So­
tnldition. In addition, anthropologists have l1lilde us familiar
viet Union, not Israel, not Communist China-has been able
with a huge variet}' of other family forms, from the enor­
to finesse the family and substitute other social institutions in
mously extended Hawaiian family where every woman of the
its stead. It is one of the great ironies of our times that widl
older generation is considered ro be one's "mother," to vari­
all good intentions liberal capitalism Ius succeeded in weak­
ous forms of polygamous and polyandrous arrangements. All
ening families more than they ever had been before-with­
of which has prepared us to see the dissolution of the nuclear
out being able to invent a substitute for them.
family, with 50 percent divorce nlteS and the nl<ljority of chil­
The effects of family relationships on cile quality of life are
dren growing up in father-absent or reconstituted families, as
so extensive that volumes could be written aoout it. In fact
not so much
tragedy as a normal transition to new forms
many great works of literanlre, from OedipllS Rex
adapted to changing social and economic conditions. At the
extremes, we hear claims that the family is an obsolete, reac­
theme. Family interactions affecl the qualit}, of experience in
liona�r institution destined to disappear.
Desire Under the £Ims have i t as their
different" wa}'s for each member. Fathers, mothers, and chil­
An opposite view is proposed by conservatives who aim
uphold "famil}' values," llleaning a rerurn
dren will respond to the sallle event :lccording to their per­
the conventional
ception of the situation, and the history of past vicissirudes in
patterns enshrined in mid-cennll), television sitcoms. \"'ho is
their relationship. Rut to make a vcr}' broad generalization,
right in this controversy? Cleari}' bot.h sides are right to
the family acts as a flywheel for the emotional ups and downs
some extent, and bDl.h are wrong i n t.aking a rigid view of an
of the day. Moods at home are rarely as dated as wilh
evolving pattern. On the one hand, it is disingenuous to ar­
fTiends, ,md rarcl}' as low as when one is alone. At the same
gue that an ideal family pattern evcr existed, and that we can
time, it is at home that one can release pent-up emotions
hold on to this chimera while the rest of social conditions are
with relative safety, as shown by the unfornmate abuse and
changing. On the other hand it is equally mistaken to argue
violence that are a feanlre of dysfunctional families.
In an extensive smdy of family dynamics with the Experi­
ence Sampling Method, Reed Larson and Maryse Richards
found several interesting p:ltterns. For instance, when both
parents are employed, husbands' Inoods are low at work, bur
improve when they get home, while the opposite is true for
wives who have to face household chores when they return
from the outside job, thus creating opposite cycles of emo­
tional well-being. Contrary
what one would expect, there
are more arguments in families that are emotionall)1 close;
when the family is in real trouble, parents and children avoid
each other instead of arguing. Even in contemporary families
gender differences among the spouses are still strong: the
moods of the father affect the moods of the rest of the f:lInily,
and the children's moods a ffect the m other, but the mothers'
moods have little discernible effect on the rest of the family.
Also, about 40 percent of the fathers and less than 10 percent
of the mothers say that their teenagers' achievement puts
them in a good mood; whereas 45 percent of the mothers
and only 2 0 percent of the fathers say that the teenagers' be­
ing in
good mood improves their own. Clearly men arc still
more concerned ,1bout what their children do, and women
abollt how their children feel, as gender roles require.
Much has been written about what makes families work.
The consensus is that families that support the emotional
well-being and growt.h of their members combine two almost
opposite traits. They combine discipline with spontaneity,
rules with freedom, high expectations with unstinting love.
An opt.imal family system is complex in that it encoumges the
unique individual development. of its members while uniting
t.hem in
web of affective tics. Rules and discipline arc
needed ro avoid excessive waste of psychic energy in the ne­
gotiation of what
or cannOt be done-when the ch ildren
should come home, when
do homework, who is to wash
the dishes. Then the psychic energy released from bickering
and arguing can be invested in the pursuit of each member's
goals. At tile same time, each person knows that he or she can
dmw on the collective psych ic energy
of the family if needed.
Growing up in a complex family, child
ren have a chance to
develop ski lls and recognize challenge
s, and thus arc more
prepared to experience life as flow.
In our society, the average person spen
ds about one-third of
his or her waking time alone. Persons
who spend much more
or much less time by themselves
often have problems.
Teenagers who always hang Out with
peers have trouble in
school and are unlikely ro learn to
think for themselves
while tlose who arc always a lone are easy
prey to depressiol
and a henatl n . Suicide is more frequ
ent among peop le
whose work Isolates them phys ically, such
as lumbermen in
�he North , o� emotionally, like psychiatrists. The excep
IIlvolve SIt I�1tIons where the days are so
strictly programmed
that psychiC entropy has no chance to take
hold of conscious­
ness. Chartousian monks may spend
most of their lives in
their secluded cells without ill effects,
or, at the other ex­
treme of sociability, the same is true
of submarine crews,
where the sailors might never have any
privacy for months
on end.
In many prelirerate societies, the optim
al amount of soli­
tude was zero. The Dobuans of Mebnesia
described by the
antllrop logist Reo Fortune are typical
in that they tried to
�)elllg alone like the plague. In Dobu, when
people had
t� go m o the bush to relieve them selve
s, they always went
fnen d or relative, for fear of being harm
ed by witch­
craft If they went alone. That sorcery is
most effective against
a lonely person is not an entirely
fanciful idea. �Vhat it de­
scrib s is a real fact, although its expla
nation is allegoric.. l. It
descni )cs what many social scientists
have noted, namely that
the mllld of a solitary individu:tl
is vulnerable to del usions
and irrational fears. �Vhen we talk
to another person, even
about the most trivial subjects such
as the weather or last
night's ball game, the conversation
introduces a shared real­
ity into our consciollsness.
Even a greeting such as "Have a
nice day" reassures us that we exist hecause other people no­
tice us, and are concerned about our welfare. Thus the fun­
damental function of even the most routine encounters is
rrnlity 71l11illtf!1lnl1ct', which is indispensable, lest consciousness
disintebrrarc intO chaos.
In line with such reasons, people in general report much
lower moods when alone than when they are with others.
They feel less happy, less cheerful, less strong, and mOTC
bored, more passive, more lonely. The only dimension of ex­
perience that tends to be higher alone is concentration.
\-\fhen first hearing about these patterns, many tllOughtful
persons :tre incredulous: "This canllot be true," they say, "/
love to be alone and seck Ollt solitude when
is possible
can." I n fact it
learn to like solitude, but it does not come eas·
ily. I f one is an artist, scientist, or writer; or if one has a
hobby, or a rich inner life, then being alone is not only en­
joyable but necessary. Relatively few individuals, however,
master the mental tools that will make this possible.
Most people also ovcrestimare their ability to tolcT'J tc soli·
tude. A sun'ey conducted in GeTmany by Elizabeth Noelle­
Neumann shows the amusing lengths to which we go to
delude ollrseh'es in this respect. She showed thousands of
respondents twO picmres of a mountain landscape. One pic·
ture featured a meadow crowded with hikers, the othcr the
same scene but with only a few people. Then she asked twO
questions. The first was: "tn which of these two pia(.'es
would you prefcr
spend your holidays?" About 60 per­
cent chose the descncd meadow and only 34 percent the
cTOwded one. The second question was: "In which of these
two places do you think most Germans would prefer
spend their holidays?" To this, 6 1 percent answered that
the crowded scene would be their compatriots' first choice,
and l 3 pcrcent the lonely one.
1 Iere
as in many similar situ­
ations, onc C;1n learn more about true preferences by listen­
ing to wh:1t people say others want, rather than to what
they claim they w;1l1t themselves.
H'hcther we like solitude or not, however, in our
times we
must be able to put up with somc of it. It is difficu
lt to learn
math, or practice the piano, or program ;1 comp
uter, or fig­
ure out die purpose of one's life when other
people are
around. The conccntration required to order
thoughts in
consciousness is easily imcrrupted bY ;111 extraneous
word, by
the necessity to pay attention to ;1l1other persun
. Thus we
find that adolescents who feel that they must always
be with
friends-and these ;1re usuall), youngsters whose
provide little emotional support-tend nOt to have
the psy­
chic energy necessar}' for complex learning. Even
with supe­
rior mental aptitude, the dread of solitude preven
ts them
from developing their talents.
If it is true that loneliness has been a constant threat
to hu­
mankind, strangers have been no less of a prohle
m. Gener­
ally we assume that people who differ from lis-b
y kinship,
lanbruage, race, religion, education, social classwill have
goals at cross-purposes from ours, and therefore
must be
watched with suspicion. Early human groups
usually as.
sumed that they werc the only true humans, and
those who
did not share their culture were not. Even though
we are all related, cultural differences h,lVC served
to rein­
force our isolation from each other.
Because of this, whenever different groups have come
contact, they have been all toO often able to
ignore each
other's humanity and treat the "Other" as an
enemy th;1t in
case of need could be destroyed without tOO much
tion. This is true not only of headhunters
in New Guinea,
Lilt of Bosnian Serbs and M.uslims, Irish
Catholics and
Protestants, and an in�ln.iry of other conflicts bctwe
en races
and creeds barely simmering under thc
surface of civiliza­
The first real mclting pots of diverse trib;l l identit
ies were
the great cities that arose about eight
thousand years agu in
many different parts of the world, from
China to India to
Egypt. Here for the first time people from differ�m b;lck­
grounds lC;lrned to cooperate ;lnd to tolerate foreign ways.
But even the cosmopolitan metropolis has been unable to
eliminate the fear of Slr:mgers. [n medieval Paris, smdents as
young as seven yellrs old had to we;lr d;lggers when they
walked to and from the cathedml schools, to defend them­
selves against kidnllppers and thieves; now sfildents in �he in­
ner city wcar guns. In the seventeenth cenmry, It was
extremely COllllllon for women walking the city streets to be
raped by gangs of roaming youth. In the urban jungle, :l ma�l
with a different skin color, different clothes and demeanor IS
still a potential predatOr.
Ln this case too, however, there is another Side to the COin.
For while we are repelled hy differences, we arc also fasci­
nated by the strange and the exotic. The metropolis is so at­
tractive in pan because the clash of cultures scts lip an
atmosphere of excitement, freedom, and creativity that is dif­
ficult to fi nd in an isolated, homogeneous culmre. As a re­
sult, people report some of their most positive experiences in
public spaces where they are surrounded by strangcrs­
parks, streets, restaurants, theaters, clubs, and beaches.
. sha e � ur basl c
long as we can presullle that the "Others" wlil
. ll111 lts, their
goals, and will behave predictabl}' within cen�m
presence adds a great deal of spice to the quality of Me.
The current push toward pluralism and a global culture
(admittedly not the same thing, but both tending reward in­
tegration rather than differentiation) is one way re reduce
the strangeness of strangers. Another is the "restoration" of
communities. The quotation marks in thc pre\'ious sentence
are there to indicate that ideal communities, like ideal fami­
lies, may never have really existed. \Vhen reading histori�s of
private lives, one is hard put to find any place, at .IIlY Ollle,
where people went about their business in serene coopera­
tion, without fear of enemies from inside or outside the COIll­
Illunity. There might have been no racial minorities or
organiz.ed crime in small Chinese, lndian, or European
towns, but one found misfits, deviants, hereti
cs, inferior
castes, political or religious animosities that exploded in civil
war, and so on. In the United States the earliest communitie
must have had a great deal of cohesion-provided they
not split by witch hunts, Tndian wars, conflicts between
for and against the British Crown, or for and against slaver
I n other words, the ideal community that inspire
d Nor­
man Roch
.... e1l's brushes was no more typical than his pink,
well-fed families sitting with bowed heads and comp
smiles around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Nevertheles
this does not mean that trying to create wholesome comm
nities is a bad idea. Rather, it suggests that instead of lookin
for models in the past, we should figure out whilt a safe
stimulating social environment could be like in the future.
From the beginnings of Western philosophy, thinkers have
conceived of two main ways of fulfilling human potentials.
The first involved the vita fie/iva, or the expression of one's
being through action in thc public arena-paying attention
to what goes on in the social environmcnt, making decisions,
engaging in politics, arguing for one's convictions, taking a
stand even at the cost of one's comfort and reputation. This
is what some of the most influential Greek philosophers saw
as the ultimate fulfillment of one's essence. Later, under the
influence of Christian philosophy, the vitll (oll/cmplllf;va
gained ascendancy as the best way to spend one's life. It was
through solimry reflection, prayer, communion with the
supreme being, that one was thought to achieve the most
complete fulfillment. And these two s tra tegi es were usually
seen as mutually exclusive---one could not be a doer and a
thinker at the same time.
This dichotomy still pervades our understanding of hu­
lTlan behavior. Carl Jung introduced the concepts of extro­
version versus introversion as fundamental and opposite
traits of the p�)'che. The sociologist David Rjeslllan
described a historical change frolll inner-directed to otlter-
directed personalities. In current psychological research, ex­
troversion and introversion are considered the mOSt stable
personality traits that differentiate people from e ch other
,md that can be reliably measured. Usually e,lch 01 us tends
to be one or the other, either loving
interact with people
but feding lost when alone, or finding delight in solitude but
unable to relate ro people. vVhich one of these 1}l)es is the
most likely to get the best out of life?
Current studies provide consistent evidence that outgoing,
extroverted people arc happier, more cheerful, less stressed,
more serene, more at peace with themselves than introverts.
The conclusion seems
be that extroverts-who are
thought to be born, not made-get a better deal in life all­
around. In dUs case, however, I have some reservations about
how the data have been interpreted. One of the manifesta­
tions of extroversion is to put a positive spin on things, while
introverts are more prone to be reserved in describing their
inner states. So the quali1}' of experience might be similar in
both groups, and onl}, the reporting differs.
A better solution is suggested by the study of creaove mdl­
viduals. instead of being either extrovert.'i or introverts, such
people seem
express both traits in the process ?f going
about their lives. True, the stereotype of the "sohtary ge­
nius" is strong and does have a basis in fact. After all, one
must generall), be alone in order to write, paint, or do exper­
iments in a laboratory. Yet over and over again crcative indi­
viduals stress the importance of seeing people, hearing
pcople, exchanging ideas, and getting to know another per­
son's work. The physicist John Archibald "" heeler expresses
this point with great directness: "If Y0tl don't kick things
around with people, you are out of it. Nobody, I always say,
can be anybody without somebody being around."
Another out'itanding scientist, Freeman Dyson, expresses
with a tine nuance the opposite phases of this dichotomy in
his work. He point.'i to the door of his office and says:
Science is a very gregarious business.
It is essentially the
difference between having trus door
open and having it
shut. \A/hen 1 am doing science I h'lVe
the door open . . . .
You want to be, all cilC time, talking
with people . . . because it is only hy interacting with
othcr people that you
get anything interesting done. It is essen
tiallv a communal
enterprise. There are new things happ
ening all the time,
and you should keep abreast and keep
yourself aware of
what is going on. You must be constantl
y talking. But, of
course, writing is different. vVhen I am
writing I have the
door shut, and even then roo much soun
d comes through,
so very often when I am writing I go
and hide in the li­
brary. It is .1 solitary game.
John Reed, the CEO of Citicorp who has led his company
succcssfully through some mrbulent times, has built the al­
ternation between inner-directed reflection and intense so­
cial interaction into his daily routine:
I'Ill an early morning brtly. J get up at ; always, get out of
the shower about 5:30, and I typiC'llly try to work either at
home or at the office, and that's when I do a good bit of
my thinking and priority setting. . . . I try
keep a rea­
sonably quiet time until 9:30 or 10:00. Then you get in­
volved in lots of transactions. If you arc chairman of the
company it's like being a tribal chieftain. People come into
you r office and talk to you.
Even in the very private realm of the arts the ability to in­
teract is essential. The sculpror Nina Holton describes well
the role of sociability in her work:
You really c;m't work entirely alone in your place. You
want to have a fellow artist come and talk things over with
you: "How does that strike you? " YOll havc to have some
of feedback. You can't be sin:ing lhere entirely by
yourself. . . . And thcn cven ntally, you know, when you be­
gin to show, you have to have a whole network. You have
to get to know gallery people, you have to get to know
people who work i n your field who are involved . And you
may want to find out whether you wish
be part of it or
--==S EVE N
not be part of it, but you cannot help being part of a fel­
lowship, you know?
The way these creative individuals confront life suggests
that it is possible to be both extroverted and introverted at
the same time. In fact, expressing the full range from inner­
to outer-directedness might be the normal way of being hu­
man. \"'hat is abnormal is to get boxed in at one of the ends
of this continuum, and experience life only as a gregariolls,
or only as a solitary being. Certain ly temperament and so­
Changing the Patterns
of Life
cialization will push uS in one or the othcr direction, and af­
ter a while it becomes easy to fall in with these conditioning
forces and learn to relish eithcr social interaction or solirude,
but not both. To do so, however, clirtaiis the full range of
what humans can experience, and diminishes the possibilities
of enjoyment in life.
A few years :lgo, an cighty-three-year-old Illan wr
ote one of
the most touching letters I h:lve ever rcceived
frolll a readcr.
After "" orld \V
, ar I, he wrote, he had been a soldier
in the
field artillery, stationed in the SOllth. They
used horses to
p �dl the gun carriages, and after maneuvers
they often un­
hitched them and played games of polo. Durin
g those games
he fclt <In exhilaration that he had never felt befor
e or after­
he assumed that only pl<lying polo could
make him feci s
g?od. The next sixty years were routine and
1 hen he read Flow, :lIld realized that
the thrill he had experi­
�nced as a young man on horseback was not
necessarilr lim­
Ited to the game of polo, and began to
do some things he had
thOtlght Iligh� be fun ro �o, but never
tried. He [Oak up gar­
denlllg, hstelll ng to mUSIC, and other activi
ties that, 10 and
behold , revived the e.,\citement
of his youth.
It is good that in his eighties this man had
discovered that
he need nO[ accept passively a boring life. Still, the interven­
would have come
ing sixty years seem to have been unnccessaril}1 barren. And
how many people never realize that they can shape their psy­
oppressed, by becoming a subtle writer and brilliant theo­
chic eneq;,'y so as to get the most out of experience? I f the
finding that about 1 5 percent of the population arc never in
flow is accurate, that means that just i n this country tens of
millions of people
dcpri\Ting themselves of what makes
life worth living.
Of course, in many cases onc can well understand why
may experience flow rarely, or nO[ at all. A deprived
childhood, abusive parents, poverty, and a host of other ex­
ternal reasons may milkc it difficult for a person to find joy in
everyday life, On the other hand, there are so many examples
of individuals who overcame such obstacles that the belief
that the qunlity of life is determined from the outside is
hardly tennble. Some of the most vocal disagreements to
what I have written about flow came from readers who
claimed to have been abused, and who wanted me to know
that contrary
abused children
what I had said, it was perfectly possible for
enjoy their adult lives.
Examples are too many to mention. One of my favorites
involves Antonio Gramsci, the philosopher of humanistic so­
cialism that had such a strong influence on the development
of European thought in this century, and on the eventual
Born in 1891 to a destinlte
family on the poor island of Sardinia, Antonio had a de­
demise of Leninism-Stalinism.
formed spine and was sickly all through childhood. Their
poverty became almost intolerable when his father, arrested
on false charges, was imprisoned and could no longer sup­
port his large family. In an unsuccessful llttempt to cure his
hUllchback, Antonio's uncle would hang the child by his an­
kles from the r;.lfters of the hovel in which they lived. Anto­
nio's mother was so sure thH the child W:1S eventually going
to pass away in his sleep that every night she set out his one
good suit and a pair of candles on dlC dresser so that the fu­
neral preparations would take less time. Given these facts, it
as no surprise that Cramsci grew up full of
hatred and spite. Instead he dedicated his life to helping the
retician. Although one of the founders of the hal ian Com­
munist Party, he never compromised his humanitarian values
for the sake of expediency or party dog:ma. Even after Mus­
solini had him imprisoned in a medieval jail so that he would
die in solitary confinement, he kept writing letters and essays
full of light, hope, and compassion. All of the extern;ll factors
conspired to twist Gramsci's life; he must tah all the credit
for achieving the intellectual and emotional h:mnony that he
left as his heritage.
Another example, from my own researches this time, con­
cerns the life of Linus Pauling. 1-Ie was born in Portland,
Oregon, at the him of the century; his father died when Linus
was nine years old, leaving the family impoverished. AJ dlough
he was an omnivorous reader and collected minemls, plants.
and insects. Linus did not think he would go past high school.
FOrhmatcly, the parents of one of his friends almosr forced
to enroll in college. Then he received a scholarship CO get
into Cal Tech, became involved in research, was awarded the
Nobel prize i.n chemistry in 1954, and the Nobel peace prize
in 1962. He describes his college years as follows:
I made a little money by odd jobs, working for the college,
killing dandelions on the lawn by dipping a stick in a
bucket containing sodium arsenate solution and then scab­
bing dlC stick into the dandelion plant. Every day I
chopped wood, a quarter of a cord perhaps, into lengths­
they were already sawed-imo ,1 size th;lt would go into
the wood-burning stoves in the girls' dormicory. Twice a
week I cut up a quarter of a beef into steaks or roasts, and
every day 1 mopped the big kitchen, the very large kilchen
area. Then at the end of my sophomore year, I gOt a job as
a paving engineer, laying blacktop pavement in the moun­
tains of Southern Oregon.
\Nhat was so amazing about Linus Pauling is that even at
ninety years of age he kept the enthusiasm and curiosity of a
young child. Everything he did or said was bubbling with en­
ergy. Despite the early adversity and the later hardships, he
exuded 3n obvious joie de vivre. And there W;IS no secret"
abom how he did itj in his own words: "I just went ahead do­
ing what I liked to do."
Some will find such :111 attitude irresponsible: how C;Hl
someone afford the self-indulgence of doing only what he
likes to do? But the point is that Pauling�and the many oth­
ers who share his attitude-like to do almost everything, no
matter how difficult or trivial, including the things they are
forced to do. The only thing they definitely don't like is
wasting time. So it is nOt that their lifc is objectively better
than }Iours or mine, but that their enthusiasm for it is such
that most of what they do ends up providing them with flow
Recently there has been a lot written about how people are
born either with a happy or a sad tell1peramenr, and there is
not that much one can do to change it. If you happen to be a
happy person, you will stay that w;IY no matter how much
bad luck you encounter. If you are not, a strike of good luck
ma}1 lift your mood for a short while, but you will soon re­
turn to thc lukewarm, average moroseness doomed by the
genes. I f this were true, then it would be hopeless to try
changing the quality of one's life. But this deterministic scc­
nario is correct only insofar as the extroverted exuberance
that is oftcn mistaken for happiness is concerned. That seems
indeed to be a fairly stablc trilit of a person's character. lr is .1
different stOry, however, if by happiness we mean the less
obv10us enjoyment of life that flow provides .
In a rare ESM longitudinal study of teenagers, for in­
stance, Joel Hektner found that about 60 percent of the ado­
lescenrs reported the same frequency of flow over a
one-wcek period measured two years apartj those who had
much of it earlier still had it later, and those who had little
early had little two years bncr. But the remaining 40 percent
changed over the samc period, half reporting significantly
more flow (measured as high-challenge, high-skill experi­
cnces), half less. Those whose frequency of flow increased
[\\:0 years later �pcnt more timc studying and less in passive
leisure, and lhelr levels of concentration, self-esteem, enjoy­
ment, and mterest
was significantly higher than that of the
teenagers whose frequem.,' of flow decreased-although two
. t.I e �\'o b'TOUPS had reported th e S;lille quality of
years earher
J t IS Important to note that the teens whose flow
increased did not report "happier" than the ones who
decreased. But because of the great differences in the other
dimensions of experience, i t i s safe to conclude that the hap­
piness reported by the low flow group was more shallow and
less authentic. This suggests that it is indeed possible to im­
pr�v� the quality of one's life by investing psychic enerb'Y in
. tl,at are more likely to produce flow.
Because for most of US ;1 job is such a central part of life, it is
essential that this activity be as enjoyable and rewarding as
possible. Yet many people feel that as long as they get decent
p:�y and som � �ec":rity, it docs not matter how boring or
ahena ttng their Job IS. Such an attihlde, however, amounrs to
t rowing away almost 40 percenr of one's waking life. And
slllce no ol,e else is going to take the trouble of maki ng sure
that we enJoy our work, it makcs scnse for each of us to take
on this responsibility.
Generally there are three main reasons that jobs arc re­
sented. The first is that the job is pointless-it docs no good
to anyone, and i n fact i t may be harmful. Some government
cmployees, high-pressure salesmen, and even scicntisrs work­
ing i n fi e1ds like armamcnrs or the tobacco industry have [Q
cn�age In some heavy denial to tolerate what they do for a
iI. vmg . The second reason is that the work is boring and rOLl­
It proVides no varict}' or challenge. After a few years,
one can do i t in one's sleep, and aU it provides is a feeling of
1 03
stagnation rather than growth. The third problem with jobs
the refuse, started a school and a clinic, and became k
nown as
is that they are often stressful; especially when one can't get
the "Queen of the Dumps."
along with one's supen'isor or colleagues who expect roo
Short of making such a dramatic switch, there <1re <1 great
much or do not recognize one's contributions. Contrary to
Illany ways to make one's job more meaningful b)' adding
popular opinion, concerns for more money and security arc
value to it. A supermarket clerk who p<1)'s genuine attention to
usually not as important as these three in determining
whether one will be satisfied with one's job or nOt.
physician concerned about the total well-being of
patients rather than specific symptonls only, a news reporter
Even if we don't want to admit it, the ability to overcome
who considers truth at least as important as the sensational in­
most obstacles is within our hands. vVe can't blame family,
terest when writing a story, can tr:msform a routine job with
society, or history if our work is meaningless, dull, or stress­
ephemeral consequences into one cllat Illilkes a difference.
ful. Admittedly, there are not too Illany options when we re­
"Vith increasing specialization, most occupational activities
ali:lC that our job is useless, or acrually harmful. Perhaps the
have become repetitive and one-dimensional. It is difficult to
only choice is to quit as quickly as possible, even at the cost
build a positive self-concept if all one does is stock supermar�
of severe financial hardship. In terms of the bottom line of
ket aisles or fill our forms from morning to night. By taking
one's life, it is always a better deal to do something one feels
the whole context of the activity into account, and understand­
good about than something that may make us materially
ing the impact of one's actions on the whole, a trivial job can
comfortable but emotionally miserable. Such decisions are
tlIrn into a memorable perform,Hlce that leaves the world in a
notoriously difficult, and require great honesty with oneself.
better shape than it was before.
As Hannah Arendt has shown with regard to Adolf Eich­
Like everyone else, I could make a long list of encounters
mann and the other employees of the Nazi extermination
with workers who, in addition to doing their job, helped re­
camps, it is easy to disguise the responsibility for even the
duce entropy around them. A service station attendant who
cold�blooded murder of thousands with the excuse:
"I only
fixed a windshield wiper with a smile and refused to be paid
The psychologists Ann Colby and \Vil1iam Damon have
ing years after he sold the house; a flight attendant who was
work here."
for sllch a minor effort; a real-estate salesman who kept help­
described many individuals who have gone to extreme
willing to stay after the rest of the crew left the airport to lo­
lengths to make their work meaningful, people who have left
cate a missing wallet . . . In all such cases, the vallie of the job
a "normal" existence in order to dedicate themselves to mak­
performance was increased because the worker was willing to
ing a difference in the lives of others. One such person is
invest extra psychic energy into it, and thus was able to with­
Susie Valdez, who was drifting from one low-paying and
draw from it additional meaning. But the meaning we derive
boring service job to another on the West Coast, with no
from a job docs nor come free. As these examples show, one
prospects for anything better. Then during a visit to Mexico
must do some thinking and caring beyond what. t.he job de­
she saw the garbage hills at the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez,
scription calls for. And this in tllrn requires additional atten­
where hundreds of homeless urchins survived by scavenging.
tion, which, as has been said again and again, is the most
Susie found here people who were even more desperate than
precious resource we have.
she was, and discovered she had the power to show ule chil­
A similar argument holds for turning a job that lacks chal­
dren a better way to live; she built a mission house among
lenge and variety into one that satisfies our need for novelty
and achievement. Here too one needs to expend ,ltldition:1t
psychic energy to reap the desired benefits. \Vithout some
effort a dull job will just sta}' dull. The basic solution is quite
simple. It im'olvcs paying dose attention to each step in­
voked in the job, and then asking: Is this step necessar)'?
"Vho needs it? I f it is reall), necessary, can it be done better,
faster, more efficientl),? H'hat additional steps could make
my contribution more valuable? Our attitude to work usuall),
involves spending a lot or effort trying to cut corners and do
as little as possible. But that is a shorr-sighted strategy. Lf one
spent the same amounr of attention trying to find ways to 11C­
complish morc on the job, one would enjoy working more­
and prob.1bly be more successful at it, too.
Even some of the most important discoveries come about
when the scientist, paying attention to a routine process, no­
tices something new and unusual that needs
be explained.
As minute changes can result in great discoveries, so slllail
adjustments can turn a routine job one dreads into a profes­
sional performance one can look forward to with anticipation
each morning. First, one must pay attention so as to under­
stand thoroughly what is happening and WhYi second, it is cs­
senti:'!1 not to accept passively that what is happening is the
ani}' way to do ule job; then one needs to entertain alterna­
tives and to c.xperiment with them until a bellcr way is found.
\-\fhen employees are promoted to more challenging posi­
tions, it is usually because they followed thcse steps in their
previous jobs. But even if no one else notices, the worker who
uses psychic energy this way will have a more satisfying job.
One of the clearest examples I have ever seen was when I
did research in a factory where audiovisual equipment was
being assembled on a production line. Most of the workers
on the line were bored and looked down on uleir job as
\Vilhehn C. Roentgen discovered radiation when he noticed
that some photographic negatives showed signs of being ex­
something beneath them. Then J mel R.ico, who had a com­
posed even in the absence of light; Alexander Fleming dis­
covered penicillin when he noticed that bacterial culUires
thought his job was difficult, and that it took great skill to do
were less dense on dishes that had not been cleaned and were
moldy; Rosalyn Yalow discovered the radioimmunoassay
technique after she noticed that diabetics absorbed insulin
slower than normal patients, instead of faster, as it had been
assumed. In all these cases-and the records of science are
full of simibr ones-a humdnllll event is transformed into a
major discovery that clunges the way we live because some­
one paid Illore attention to it than ule sitmltion seemed to
warrant. If Archimedes, towering himself into the bath, had
only thought, "Darn, I gor the floor wet again, wlut will the
missus say?" humankind might have had to wait another rew
hundred years to understand the principle of fluid displace­
ment. As Yalow describes her own experience: "Something
pletely different take on what he was doing. J Ie acrually
it. It mrned Ollt he was right. Although he had
to do the same
sort or boring task as everyone else, he had trained himself to
do it with the economy and the elegance of a virnloso. About
four hundred times each day a movie camera would stop at
his station, and Rico had fony-three
seconds to check am
whether the sound system met specifications. Over a period
of years, experimenting with tools and p:merns of motion, he
had been able ro reduce the :Iverage time it rook him to
check each camera
twenty-eight seconds. He w.1s as proud
of this accomplishment as an Olympic athlete would be if, af­
ter the same number of years spent preparing, he could break
the forty-four second mark in the 400 meter sprint. Rico did
not get a medal for his record, and reducing the time to do
his job did not improve production, because the line still kept
comes up, ,1I1d ),Oll recognize that it has happened." Sounds
simple, but most of liS are usually too distracted to recognize
moving at the old speed. But he loved the exhilaration of us­
when something h'lppens.
lot better than watching TV." And because he sensed that he
ing his skills fully: "It's better than anything else-a whole
was getting close to his limit in the present job, he was taking
itively. The important thing is to develop a personal strateb'Y
evening courses for a diploma that would open llP new op­
to produce some kind of order. After priorities are set, some
tions for him in electronic engineering.
people will confront first the easiest tasks on the list and dear
It will come as no surprise that the same type of approach
the desk for the more difficult ones; others proceed in re­
is needed for solving the problem of stress at work, since
verse order because they feel that after dealing with the
stress is detrimental to achieving flow. I n common usage, the
tough items the easier ones will take care of themselves. Both
word "stress" applies both to the tension we feel, and to irs
strategies work, but for different people; what's important is
external causes. This ambiguity leads to the erroneous as­
for each person to find our which one fits best.
sumption that external stress must inevitably result i n p!>l'­
Being able to create order among the various demands
chic discomfort. But here again, there is no one-to-one
that crowd upon consciousness will go a long way toward
relation beh\'een the objective and the subjective; external
preventing stress. The next step is to match one's skills with
stress (which to avoid confusion we might call "strain") need
whatever challenges have been identified. ·rhere will be tasks
not lead to negative experiences. It is true that people feel
we feel incompetent to deal with-can they be delegated to
anxious when they perceive the challenges in a situation as
someone else? Can YOll learn the skills rcC]uired in time? Can
far exceeding their skills, and that they want to avoid anxiety
you get help? Can the task be transformed, or broken up into
at all cost. But the perception of challenges and skills rests on
simpler parts? Usually rhe answer to one of these questions
a subjective evaluation that is amenable to change.
will provide a solution that transfomls a potentially stressful
At work, there are as many sources of strain as there are in
simarion inro a flow experience. None of this will happen,
life it..elf: unexpected crises, high expectations, insoluble
however, if one responds to the strain passively, like a rabbit
problems of all sorts. How docs one keep them from becom­
frozen by the headlights of an oncoming car. One mUSt in­
ing stressful? A first step consist.. in establishing priorities
vest attention into the ordering of tasks, into the analysis of
among the demands that crowd into consciousness. The
what is required to complete them, into the strategies of so­
more responsibilities one has, the more essential it becomes
lution. Only by exercising control can stress be avoided. And
know what is truly imponant ,llld what is not. Successful
people often make lists, or flowchans of all the things they
while everyone has rhe psychic energy needed to cope with
strain, few learn to use it effectively.
have to do, and quickIy decide which tasks they can delegate,
The careers of creative individuals give some of the best
or forget about, and which ones they have to tac,kIe person­
examples of how one can shape work to one's own require­
ally, and in what order. Sometimes this activity takes the
ments. Most creative persons don't follow a career laid out
form of a ritual, which like all rimals serves in part as a reas­
for them, but invent [heir job as they go along. Artists invent
surance that things are under control. John Reed, CEO of
their own style of painting, composers their own musical
Ciricorp, spends time each morning setting his priorities. "1
styles. Creative scientists develop new fields of science, and
am a great lister," he says, "I have twenty lists of things to do
make it possible for their successors to have careers in thcm.
all the time. If I ever have five free minutes I sit and make
There were no radiologists before Roentgen, and there was
no nuclear medicine beforc Yalow and her colleagues pio­
lists of things that I should be worrying about. . . . " But it is
not necessary to be so systematic; some people trust their
neered that ficld. There were no auto workers before entre­
memory and experience, and make their choices morc intu-
prencurs like Henry Ford built llP the first production lincs.
Obviously vcry few people can start entirely new lines of
flow-producing. If it i s something one feels one has to do, it
work; most of us will follow the job description of cOllvcn­
would perhaps be better to look at the clouds below, read a
magazlIle, or chat with a fellow passenger instead.
tion;ll careers. But even the most routine job can benefit
from the kind of transform ing energy that creative individu­
Beside� \\'ork, the othcr major area that impacts on the qual­
IlY of hfe IS the kind of relationships we have. And there is of­
research departmem at the Karolinska Institute in Stock­
ten a connicr between these two, so thar a person who lovcs
holm, illustrates well how such people approach their work.
work lllay neglect family and friends, and vice versa. The in­
Klein likes whH he does enormously, yet there are twO :lS­
peets ofilis job that he hates. One is waiting at airport termi­
�entor Jacob Rabinow, in describing how his wife feels often
Ignored, echocs whar all people dcvoted to their work would
nals, which he has to do often because of his very busy
als bring to what they do.
George Klein, a nJlllO" biologist who heads
schedule of international meetings. The other aspect he de­
tests is writing the ine\,itable brrant proposals to government
I ' m so involved in an idea I'm working on, 1 get
agencies that provide the funding for his research team.
away, that I'm all by myself. I'm not listening to what any­
These two boring tasks were depleting his psychic energy,
body says. . . . 1110u're not paying attemion to anybody.
and building up dissatisfaction with his work. Yet they could
And YOll tend to drift away from people . . . . mt could bc
not be avoided. Then Klein had a flash of inspiration: \-Vhat
tasks? If he could write his grant
that if I werc not an inventor but had a routlne job, J'd
spend more tJme at home and I'd pay more attention to
applications while waiting for planes, he would savc half the
them. . . . So maybe people who don'r like their jobs love
time previously devoted
their home morc.
if he combined thesc
boring tasks. To implement this
stratcb'Y he bought the best pocket tape recorder he could
find, and startcd to dict:tte grant proposals whilc waiting or
inching forward at airport wsroms lines. These aspects of his
job are still objectively what they were before, bur because hc
rook control Klein transformed them almost into a b'Ullle. rt
is now a challenge to dictate as much as possible while wait­
ing, and instead of feeling that he is wasting time at a boring
task, he feels energized.
On every airline night one sees dozens of men and women
working on their laptop compurers, or adding columns of
fib'llrcs, or highlighting technical anicles they are reading.
Docs it mean that like George Klein they feel energizcd by
having combined travel with work? It depends on whether
they feel obliged to do so, or whether they have adopted this
strategy to save lime or gain efficiency. In the firsl case,
working on the plane is likely to be stressful rather than
There is quite a bit of truth to this remark, and the
is simple . Given that :mentlon is a limitcd
resource, when
one goal takes up all Our psychic energy, there
is none left
Nevcrtheless, it is difficult to be happy i f one neglec
rs ei­
� �n e of these two dimensions. Many people married ro
their Jobs are aware of it, and find ways of
compensating ci.
ther by choo l1l
or by being very
� �
careful 111 ratl nJ lg their attention. Linus
Paulin g was very
� �
o en about t
iS Issue: "I was fortunate, I believe, that my
Wife felt her duty in life and her pleasu
re in life would come
from her family-her husband and childr
en. And that the
way she could bcst contribute would
be to see to it that 1
would not be bothered by the probl
ems im'olved in the
househ old; that she would settle all
of these problems in such
a way that I could devote all of my time to illy work." But few
parents-more or less-because t11:lt is how families arc sup­
people-and especially few wOlllen--could call 1hclllsel\'es as
posed to be. Businessmen know that even the mOst successful
fornmate as Pauling in this respect.
company needs constant attention, because external and in­
A more realistic venue is to find ways to balance the mean­
ternal conditions are always changing, and need to be ad­
ingfulness of the rewards we get from work and from rehl­
justed to. Entropy is a cOnst,lnt factor, and i f i t is not
tionships. For despite the fact that almost everyone claillls
th e compan}' will dissolve. Yet many of them as­
the family is the most important concern in their lives, very
sume that families are somehow different-cntropy cannot
few-cspecially few men-behave as if this were the case.
touch them and so they are immune
True, most married men are convinced that their lives are
There were some grounds for such a belief when families
dedicated to the family, and from a material standpoint this
were kept together by external bonds of social control, and
might be tme. But it takes more than food in the fridge and
by internal bonds of religious or ethical commitlncnt. Con­
[\\ro cars i n the garage to keep a family going. A group of
tractual obligations have the advantage of making relation­
people is kept together by twO kinds of energy: material en­
ships predictable and saving energy by excluding options and
ergy provided by food, warmth, physical care, and money;
the need for constant negotiation. \-\fhen marriage was sup­
and the psychic energy of people investing attention in each
posed to be forever, it did not need constant effort
other's goals. Unless parent
'i and children share ideas, emo­
tain. Now that the integrity of the family has become a
tions, activities, memories, and dreams, their relationship
rnatter of personal choice, it cannot sun'ive except through
will survive only because it satisfies material needs. As a psy­
the regular infusion of ps}'chic energy.
chic entity, i t will exist only at the most primitive level.
Amazingly enough, many people refuse to see this point.
The new kind of family i s very vulnerable unless it can
provide intrinsic rewards
to its
members. \-\lhen f.1mil}, inter­
The most widespread attitude seems to be that as long as ma­
action provides flow, it is i n the self-interest of everyone to
terial needs are provided for, a family will take care of itttelf;
continue the relationship. Yet because families .lre taken so
warm, harmonious, permanent refuge in a cold
much for granted, few people have learned to transform the
and dangerous world. It is very common to meet successful
old ties that bound because of cxternal obligations into new
men i n their late forties and fifties who arc stunned when
Olles that hold because of the enjoyment the}' provide. \Vhen
it will be
their wives suddenly leave or their children get into seriolls
parents COllle home exhausted from their jobs they hope that
trouble. Didn't they always love their family? Didn't they in­
being with the family will be an effortless, relaxing, invigo­
vest all their energy to make them happy? True, they never
rating experience. But
had more than a few minutes each day to talk, but how could
quires as lllllch skill as in any other complex activity.
they have done otherwise, wit.h all the demands from the
job . . .
The uSlial assumption we make is that to achieve career
find flow in famil}' relations re­
The Canadian author Robertson Davies describes one of
the reasons his marriage of fifty-four },ears has been so re­
success requires a great deal of continllolls investment of
thought and encrgy. Family rehltionships, by contrast, are
Shakespcare has played an extraordinary role in our mar­
"natural," so they dcmand little mental effort. A spollse will
riage as a SOurce of quotations and jokes and references,
continue to be supportive, children will keep minding their
which are fathomless. I feel that I am uncommonly luck}'
because we've had such a terribly good time together. It's
always been an adventure and we haven't come to the end
yet. \t\'e haven't finished talking, and T swear that conver­
sation is more important ro marriage than sex.
For Davies and his wife, the skill that made joint flow pos­
sible was a common love and knowledge of litcranlre. But
onc could substinlte almost anything for Shakespeare. A cou­
ple i n their sixties revived their relationship by starting to
run marathons together; others have done it through travel,
gardening, or breeding dogs. \<Vhen people pay anention to
each other, or to the same activity together, the chances of
flow binding the family increases.
Parenting is supposed to be one of the most rew.lrdin g ex­
periences in life; but it isn't, unless one approaches it with
the same attention as one would a sport or an artistic perfor­
mance. In a stud}' of flow i n motherhood, Maria AJlison and
Margaret Carlisle Duncan described several examples of how
the psychic enerb'Y invested in a child's growth can produce
enjoyment in p3renting. Here a mother dcscribes the times
she achieves flow:
ing psychic energy into a joint goal, does being together be­
COlne enjoY3ble.
The same holds true for any other type of interaction. For
instance, when there is rcason to cllink that we arc appreci­
ated, job satisfaction is usually high; whereas the grca[Cst
source of stress in the workplace is the feeling that no one is
intercsted in supporting our goals. infighting llillong cowork­
inabiliry to communicatc with superiors and subordinatcs
are the bane of most jobs. The roots of interpersonal conflict
arc often an excessive concern for oneself, and an inabiliry to
pay attention to the needs of others. It i s sad to sec how often
people ruin a relationship bCC'J.use thcy refuse to recognize
that they could serve their own interests best by helping oth­
ers achieve theirs.
In American corporate culture, the hero is a ruthless, com­
petitivc person with a huge ego. Unforrunately some top en­
trepreneurs and C£Os do conform to that image. Yet it is
also reassuring that aggressive selfishness is not the only path
to success. Ln fact in most stable and well-run companies,
leaders try ro promote subordinates who don't invesr all their
psychic enerb'Y in self-advancement, but lISC some of it to ad­
now that if top management is
vance corporate goals. They k
. . . when J'm working with my daughter; when she's dis­
covering something new. A new cookie recipe that she has
filled with greedy egotists the company will evenrually suffer
thing that she's really into, and we read together. She
reads to me, and I read to her, and dlar's a time when [
sort of lose touch with the rest of the world, I'm tOtally ab­
their superiors in order
sorbed in what I'm doing . . . .
�l�arded all the credit he could for his accomplishments, even
accomplished, that she has made herself, and artistic work
that she has done that she's proud of. Her reading is one
To experience such simple pleasures of parenting, one has
to P3Y attention, to know what the child is "proud of," what
she is "into"; then one has to devote Illore attention to share
dIose activities with her. Only when there is harmony be­
tween the goals of the particip:l11tS, when everyone is invest-
for it.
Keith is one example of 1ll3ny managers I have met who
have spent a decade or morc desperately trying to impress
get promoted. l i e worked scventy
hours and morc a week even when he knew it was not neces­
sary, neglecting his family and his own personal growth in
the process. To increase his comperitivc advantagc Keith
If It meant making colleagucs and subordin:ltes look bad. But
despile all his efforts, he kept being passed o\'er for impor­
tant promotions. Finall), Keith resigned himself to having
reached the ceiling of his career, and decided to find his re­
wards elsewhere. He speJl[ more time with the family, took
up a hobby, became involved in community activities. Be­
cause he was no longer struggling so hard, his behavior on
the job became more relaxed, less selfish, more objective. In
fact, he began to act more like a leader whose personal
agenda mkes second place to the well-being of the company.
Now the general manager was finally impressed. This is the
kind of person we need at the helm. Keith was promoted
soon after he had let go of his ambition. His case is b}' no
means rare: To be trusted in a position of leadership, it helps
to advance other people's goals as well as one's own.
Congenial rclations on the job are important, but the
quality of life depends also on innumerable encounters with
other people outside of work. This is not as simple as it
sounds: eolch time we stop
speak to another person it takes
up some psychic energy, and we become vulnerable to being
ignored, ridiculed, or exploited. Most cultures develop their
own peculiar parrcrns for facilitating social interaction. I n
groups where kinship is the main principle o f organization,
you may be expected
joke with your sisters-in-law but
never talk to your mother-in-law. In traditional hierarchical
societies like that of ancient China, complex fOfms of greet­
inbTS and conventional conversational fommlae insured that
people could communicate without having to waste time fig­
uring out what to say and how to say it. Americans have per­
fected a form of easy conversation that fits the mobile and
democratic nature of our society; its superficial heartiness,
however, is just as formulaic as those of an African tribe. To
gain something from talking to a person, one has to learn
something new, either in knowledge or emotions. That re­
quires both participants
concentrate on the interaction,
which in turn demands p�;ychic energy that generally we are
invest. Yet a genuine flow of conversation is one
of the highlighrs of existence.
The secret of starting a good conversation is really quite
simple. The first" StCp is to find out what U1C other person's
goals are: vVhat is he interested in at the momcnt? W'hat is
she involved in? \Nhat has he or she accom
plished, or is cry_
ing to accomplish? If any of this sounds worth
pursuing, the
next step is to utilize one's own experience
or expertise on
the topics raised by the other person-withou
t trying to take
o\'er the conversation, but developing it jointl
y. A good con­
versation is like a jam session in jazz, wher
e one starts with
conventional elements and then introduces
variations that create an exciting new compositio
If work and relationships are able to provi
de now, the
quality of everyday life is bound to improve.
But there are no
gimmicks, no easy shortcurs. It takes a total comm
itment to a
fully experienced life, one in which no oppornmit
ies are left
unexplored and no potential undeveloped, to
achieve excel­
lence. The organization of the self that make
s this possible is
the topic of the next chapter.
absolutely nothing to do that one felt was worth doi ng
th:n strikes me as a rather desperatc situation to bc in.
\\'hen we :-Ire able to confront life with such involvement
and enthusiasm, we can be said to have achieved an <lutotelic
pe rsonality.
" utotelic" is a word composed of two Creek roots:
(se l f), and
telos (goal).
<1 u totelic
activity is one we do for
its own sake because to cxpe rience it is the main goal. For in­
The Autotelic
stance, if I played
g".lme of chess primari ly to enjoy the
game, that game would be an autotelic experience for me;
whereas if I playe d for money, or to achieve a compe titive
ranking in thc chess world, the same game would be prim,n­
ily exo/rlic, that is, motiv'lted by an outside goal. Applied to
pcrsonality, autotelic denotes an individual who gcncf:llly
does things for their own sake, rather than in ordcr
achieve some btcr external goal .
Of course no one is fully autotelic, because we all have to
do things even if we don't en j oy them, either out of a sense of
Other things being equal, a life tilled with complex flow
tivitics is more w orth living than onc spent consuming pas­
sive entertainment. In the words of a woman describi
what her career means to her: "To be totally
what you are doing and to enjoy it so much that you
want to be doing anything clsc. I don't sec how people sur­
vive i f thcy don't experience somethi n g like thal. . . . " Or
the historian C. Vann vVoodward says of his work, which
involves trying to undersmnd the dynamics of the Americ
S ou th :
duty or necessi ty. But the re is a grad'ltion, ranging from indi­
viduals who almost never feel dut what they do is worth do­
ing for its own sake, to others who feel that most anything
they do is important olnd vllluable in its own right. It is to
these latter individuals that the term aUlOtelic applit:s.
An autotelic person needs few material possessions and lit­
tle e nre nainmen t, comfort, power, or fame because so Illllch
of whln he or she does is already rewarding. Becoluse sllch
persons experience flow in work, in family life, when inter­
acting with people, when eating, and even when alone with
nothing to do, they are less dependent on tile external re­
It interests me. It is ;1 sou rce of satisfaction. Achieving
something that one thinks is important. \Vithout such
consci ou sness or motivation it seems to me that life
be rather dull and purposel ess, and I wouldn't wam to at­
tempt that kind of life. Of complete l eis u re, say, of having
wards tholt keep others motiva ted 1O go on with a life com­
posed of dul l and meaningless routines. They arc more
autonomous and independent, because t.hey cannOt be as eas­
ily manipulated with threats
rewards from the outside. At
the same time, they are morc involved with everything
around them hecause they arc fully immersed in ule current
Figure 4.2
of life.
Percentage of Time Spent in Various Activities by
But how can one find Out if someone is autoteljc? The beSt
Non-Autotelic Teellagers
method is to observe a person over a long period of time, in
many different siruations. A short "test" of the kind psycholo·
gists use is not very appropriate, in part because flow is such a
• Studying
subjective experience that it would be relatively easy for a per­
o !lobbies
son to fake his or her responses. A prolonged inten,icw or
questionnaire may help, but 1 prefer to use a more indirect
o Sports
measurc. According ro the theory, persons should be in flow
. TV
when U1CY perceive both the challenges in a given siruation
and their skills to be high. So one way of mcasuring how au­
totcLc a person is, is by computing the frequency with which
they rcpon being in a high-challenge, high-skill sihmtion over
a week of paging with the Experiencc Sampling Nlethod. "" e
find th;lt there arc pcople who report being in this siruation
over 70 percent of the time, and others less than 10 percent.
We assumc that thc former are more autotelic than the latter.
Source: Adapted from Adlai-Gail [ 994.
Using this method, we can look at what distinguishes pea·
pic whose experiences are mainly autotelic from those who
rarely experience this state. For instance, in one shldy we
Figure 4.1
Pcrcentage ofTil11 c SpCllt in Various Activitics by
took a group of two hundred very talented teenagers, and di.
Autotelic Teenagers
vided them into two groups: fifty whose frequency of high­
challenges, high-skill responses during the week was in the
o I lobbies
upper quartile (the "autotelic" group), and contrasted them
with fifty who were in the lower quartile (the "non-autotelic"
group). Then we asked the question: Are these two groups of
a olescents using their time in different WllyS? The most sig­
nificant ContnlSts between rhe two groups are shown in fig­
ures 4. 1 and 4.2. Each autotelic teenager spent on the
percent of waking time studying, which is 5 per­
centage points more than a teen in the other group spem.
Because each percentage point is roughly equivalent to one
hour, we can say that in a week the autotelic teens spent
eleven hours studying, the others six.
The other differences involve hobbies, where the first
1 20
group spent almost twice the amount of time (6 versus 3 · 5
challenging things is i n part rrue hy definition, since we defined
percent), and sports ( 2 . 5 versus
percent). The one reversal is
being autotelic as being often in challcnging sinlations. The
i. n terms of time spent watching television: the non-autotelic
watched �lV almost twice as often as the autotelic ( 1 5 . 2 \'ersus
real question is whether being oftcn in flow-producing situa­
8,5 percent). Very similar and equally sibrnificaJlt results were
yes. To illustrate U1C rcsults, fi b'1lre 5 . I presents the average
found in a later study of a representative sample of American
tions actually improves subjective experience. The answer is
weekly responses of the two groups of 202 autotelic and 202
adolescents, where 202 autotelic teenagers were compared to
non-autotelic teenagers representative of the national high
202 non-autotelic ones. Clearly all important dimension of
school population, when tllCY are doing either academic or paid
what it means to be autotelic is what one does with one's
work. The results show that when involved in productivc activ­
time. Passive leisure and entertainment do not provide much
ities, the first group concentrates significantly morc, has a sig­
opporhmity to exercise one's skills. One learns to experience
nificantly higher self-esteem, and sees what they are doing as
flow by getting involved i n activities that arc more suited to
very significanuy more important for their future goals. How­
provide it, namely, lllental work and active leisure.
ever, the two groups are not significantly different in terms of
But is the quality of experience of autotelic youngsters better
than that of their peers? After all, the fact that they do more
enjoyment or happiness.
How about the quality of experience in active leisure? Fig­
ure 5 . 2 shows thc pattern of differences. First of all, as one
Figure 5.1
Quality of Experience Over a Week ofESM Sampling for 202
Autotelic and 202 Non-Autotelic Adolescents \-Vhen Involved
in Productive Activities
+..--r----� 0 Autotelic
�-- • Non-Autotelic
Figure 5.2
Quality of Experience Over a Week of ESM Sampling for
202 Autotelic and
Non-Autotelic Adolescents When
Involved in Active Leisure
8 ,-------.--e
+---7 +---
6 ·5
---j • Autotelic
-----j • Non-Autotelic
Conccnrr:!.tioll Enjoyment
to Futurc
fa FUnJre
Source: Adapred from \-\elu;er 199<'·
Source: Adapted from Helmer [996 and Hid\\'cll
at. 1997, in press.
would expect, in leisure all teens repon higher enjoyment
early marurity is not such a great idea. Left to fend for them­
and happiness than they do in productive activities; however,
selves too early, young people can easily become insecure
they concentrate less and feel that what they do is less impor­
and defensive. It could be argued, in fact, that the more com­
[ant for their future goals. The comparisons between the
groups, except for happiness, are all statistically significant.
Autotelic youngsters concentrate more, enjoy themselves
more, have higher self-esteem, and see what they do as more
related to their future goals. All of this fits what we would ex­
pect, except for one thing. Vlhy aren't they happier?
\Vhat I have learned from decades of doing research with
the ESM is that self-reported happiness is nor a very good
indicator of the quality of a person's life. Some people say
plex the adult world in which they have to find a place, the
longer a period of dependence an adolescent needs in order
to prepare for it. Of course this "social neoteny" only works
if the f'lInily is a relatively complex unit that provides stimu­
lation as well as suppOrt; it would not help a child to stay de­
pendent on a dysfunctional family.
if there is one quality that distinguishes 'lutotel.ic individu­
als, it is that their psychic energy seems inexhaustible. Even
they are "happy" even when they dislike their jobs, when
though they have no greater attentional capacity than any­
their home life is nonexistent, when they spend aU their time
one cise, they pay more attention to what happens around
in meaningless activities. \\le are resilient crearures, and ap­
parently we are able to avoid feeling sad even when all the
conditions suggest othe[\vise. If we can't say we are at least
somewhat happy, what's the point of going on? Autotelic
persons are not necessarily happier, but they arc involved in
them, they notice more, and they are willing to invest more
attention in things for their own sake without expecting an
immediate return. Most of us hoard attention carefully. \Ve
dole it out only for serious things, for things that matter;
we only get interested in whatever will promote our wel­
more complex activities, and they feci better about them­
fare. The objects most worthy of our psychic energy are
selves as a result. It is not enough to be happy
ourselves and the people and things that will give us some
have an ex­
cellent life. The point is to be happy while doing things that
stretch our skills, that help us grow and fulfill otlr potential.
This is especially true in the early years: A teenager who feels
happy doing nothing is unlikely to grow into a happy adult.
Another interesting finding is that the autotelic group
spends a significantly higher amount of time interacting with
the family--on the order of four hours a week---compared to
the others. This begins to explain why they learn to enjoy
more whatever they are doing. The family seems to act as a
protective environment where a child can experiment in rela­
tive security, without having to be self-conscious and worry
about being defensive or competitive. American child rearing
has emphasized early independence as a central goal: the
sooner adolescenrs left their parents, emotionally as well as
physically, the earlier they were supposed to mature. But
material or emotional advantage. The result is that we
don't have much attention left over to participate in the
world on its own tcrms, to be surprised, to learn new
things, to empathize, [0 grow beyond the limits set by our
sel f-centeredness.
Autotelic persons arc less concerned with themselves, and
t.herefore have more free psychic energy ro experience life
with. Kelly, one of the teenagers in our study who usually re­
ports high challenges and high skills on her ESM forms, dif­
fers from her classmates in that she is not thinking most of
the time about boyfriends, shopping at the mall, or how to
get good grades. Instead she is fascinated by mythology and
calls herself ,1 "Celtic scholar." She works in a
aftcnloons a week, helping to store and classify artifacts. She
enjo}'s even the most routine aspects of her work, like
"putting everything in cubbyholes and things like that," as
well as being alert to what is going on ..round her and le ..rn­
1 2S
This quote also suggests tllat the interest of an au­
totelic person is not emirely passive and contemplative. It
ing from it. At the same time she enjoys her friends, with
also involves ..n attempt to understand, or, in the of the
whom she has long debates about religion and life ..fter
inventor, to solve problems. The important poilU is that the
schooL This does not mean that she is altruistic or sclf­
effacing. I ler interests are still expressions of her unique in­
dividuality, but she seems ro genuinely care for what she does
least in part for its own sake.
Creative individuals are usually autotelic as well, and they
often ..chieve their breakthroughs because they have surplus
interest be disinterested; in other words, that it nOl be entirel),
at the service of one's own agenda. Only if :mention is to a
certain extent free of personal goals and :1I11bitions do we
have .. chance of apprehending reality in its own terms.
Some people seem
have had this surplus attention avail­
able to them very early in life, and used it to wonder aboul
psychic energy to invest in ..pparently trivial objects. The
everything within their ken. The inventor J ..cob Rabinow
neuropsychologist Brenda Nlilner describes the ..ttitude she
saw his first .. uromobile when he was seven years old, as he
has tmv..rd work, which is shared by other scientists or artist'i
was growing up in a Chjnese provincial [Own, He rcmembers
at the frontiers of their field: "I would say I alll impartial
immediately crawling under the car, to see how the wheels
..bout what is important or great, because every new little
were turned by thc engine, and then going home to can'c a
disco\'cry, even a tiny one, i s exciting at the moment of dis­
transmission and differential gears our of wood. Linus Paul­
covery." The historian Natalie Davis explains how she
ing describes his childhood in terms typical of most creative
chooses the problems to work on: "\\fell, I just get really cu­
rious O1bout some problem. It just hooks in very deeply. . . .
At tile time, it just seems terribly interesting. . . . I may not
\\'hen I was
know what is pcrson ..lly invested in it, otllCr tllan my curios­
read many books . . . when I was just turning 9 . . . rll had
ity and my delight."
The inventor Frank Offner, who .. frer perfecting jet en­
years old, well, first I liked to read. And I
already read the Bible and D..n\'in's
Origin of Species. And
. . . when ' was 1 2 ..nd h.. d a course in ancient history in
gines and EEG m ..chines, at age eighty-one inter­
high school-fi rst year-I enjoyed reading this textbook
ested in studying the physiology of IUlir cells, gives a perfect
so that by the first few weeks of the year had rc..d through
examplc of the humility of autotelic individuals confronting
the whole textbook and was looking around for other m..-
the mysteries of life, even the seemingly most insib'11 ificant
terial about the ancient world. \-\'hen I was I I , 1 beg...,
collecting insects and reading books in enromology. \Vhen
1 was
1 2,
I made an effort to collect minemls. I found some
Oh, , love to solve problems. If it is why our dishwasher
agates-that was about all [ could find and recognize in
docs not work, or why the ..utomobilc does not work, or
tile H'ilJalllctte Valley-but I read books Oil mineralogy
how tile nerve works, or an)'thing. Now I ..m working with
and copied rabies of properties, hardness and color and
Peter on how the hair cells work, and ah . . . it is so very
streak and other properties of the minerals out of tile
interesting. . . . I don't care what kind of problem it is. If I
books. And then when I was 1 3 I became interested in
c..n solve it, it is fun. It is really a lot of fun to solvc prob·
chemistry. I was very excited when I relilized that chemists
[ems, isn't it? Isn't th..t what's intercsting in life?
could convert cenain suhstances into other substances
with quite different properties. . . . Hydrogen and oxygen
If one has failed (Q develop curiosity and interest in the early
gases fonning water. Or sodiulll and <.:hlorine forming
years, it is a good idea to acquire them now, before i t is too
sodium chloride. Quite different substances from the ele­
hac to improve the quality of life.
ments [ha[ combined to fOfm the compounds. So ever
To do so i s fairly casy in principle, but morc difficult in
since then, I have spent much of my time trying better to
practicc. Yet i t is sure worth trying. The first step is to de­
understand chemistry. And this means rt�ally to under­
\'elop the habit of doing whatever needs
stand the world, the nahlre of the universe.
centrated attention, with skill rather than inertia. Even thc
be done with con­
most routine tasks, like washing dishes, dressing, or mowing
It is important to notice that Pauling was not a child
the lawn become more rewarding i f we approach them with
prodigy who astonished his elders with intellectual b rilliancc.
. ,
l Ie pursued his interests on his own, without recogmtl� n �l�ld
little support. \Vhat started him on a long and productive life
to transfer some psychic energy each day from tasks that we
was a determjnation to parricip;ltc a s fully as possible in the
life around him. Hazel Henderson, who has devoted her
adult life to starting organizations for the protection of the
environment, such as Citizens for Clean Air, describes
vividly the attinade of joyous interest such people share:
now, like where you just open
W'hen [ was five-you k
your eyes and look around and say, "\"low, whar an
am I
credible trip this is! \"'hat the hell is going on? ,",Vhat
in me
supposed to be doing here?" I've had that question
. . .
all my life. And I love it! It makes every day very fresh .
And then every mornin g you wake up and it's like
dawn of creation.
But not e\'eryone is fortunate to have as much free psychi
enerb'Y as Pauling or I lenderson. Nlost of us have learned
ds of
save up our attention ro cope with the immediate deman
living, and have little of it left over to be interested in the
ture of the universc, our placc in the COSIll OS, or in anythi
else that will not register as a gain on our ledger of immed
ate goals. Yet withoul disinterested intcrest life is uninte
ing. There is no room in it for wonder, novelty, sllrp�ise�
transcending the limits imposed by our fears and preJud
the care it would take to makc a work of arc. The l1c.'(t step i s
don't Iikc doing, or from passive leisure, into something we
never did before, or something we cnjoy doing but don't do
often cnough because it seems too much trouble. Thcre are
literally millions of porcntially interesting things in tlle world
to see, to do,
learn about. But they don't become acrually
interesting until we devote attention to them.
Many people will say that this advice is useless [Q them,
because they already have so many demands on their timc
that they absolutely c:ll1not afford to do anything new or in­
teresting. Time stress has become one of thc most popular
complaints of the day. But more often than not, it is an ex­
cuse for not taking control of our lives. How many of the
lhings that we do are really neccssary? How lllany of the de­
mands could be reduced if we put some energy into prioritiz­
ing, organizing, and streamlining the routines that now
fritter away our attention? I t is true that if we let time run
through our fingers we will soon have none left. One Illust
husband it carcfull)', not so much in order to achieve
wealth and security in some distant future, but in order to
enjoy life i n the here and now.
Time is what one must find in order
develop interest and
curiosity to enjoy life for its own sake. The Olher equally im­
portant resource is the ability to control psychic energy. In­
stead of waiting for an external stimulus or challenge to grab
1 28
our attention, we must learn to concentrate it morc or less at
Fausto Massimini and his team found that several had
will. This ability is related to interest by a feedback loop of
adapted remarkably to their tragedy, and claimed that their
mutual causation and reinforcement. If you are interested in
lives had become better as a result of their handicap. \.vhat
something you will focus on it, and if you focus attt:ntion on
distinguished such individuals is that they decided to master
anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it.
their limitation through an unprecedented discipline of their
Many of the things we lind interesting are not so by na­
psychic energy. They learned to derive now from the sim­
ture, but because we tOok the trouble of paying attention to
plest skjlls like dressing, walking around lhe house, and dri­
them. Until one Starts co collect thcm, insects and minerals
\�ng a car. Those who did best went far beyond JUSl
are not very appealing. Nor are most people until we find out
negotiating again the basic tasks of life. One became a swim­
about their lives and thought... Running maratllOnS or climb­
ming instnlctor, others became accountants, traveled to pby
ing mountains, the game of bridge or Ratine's dramas are
at international chess tournaments and swimming meets, or
rather boring except to those who have invested enough at­
became archery champions shooting from a wheelchair.
tention to realize their intricate complexity. As one focuses
The same ability to transrorm a tragic situation into at
on any segment of reality, a potentially infinite range of op­
portunities for action-physical, mental, or emotional-is
survive solitary confinemcnt or prisoners in concentration
tolerable one is shown by victims of terrorists who
revealed for our skills to engage with. There is never a good
camps. In such conditions the outside, "real" environment is
excuse for being bored.
so barren and dehumanizing as to induce despair in most
To control attention means co control experience, and
people. Those who survive are able to ignore selectively the
therefore the quality of life. lnfonnation reaches conscious­
external conditions, and to redirect their attention to an in­
ness only when we attend to it. Attention acts as a filter be­
ner life that is real only to themselves. It is easier to do so if
tween outside events and our experience of them. How much
you know poetry, mathematics, or some other system of
stress we experience depends more on how well we control
symbols that allows you to concentrate and do ment;ll work
attention, than on what happens to us. The effect of physical
without any visible, material props.
pain, of a monetary loss, of a social snub depends on how
much attention we pay to it, how much room we allow for it
These examples suggest what one needs
le,un to control
attention. Ln principle any skill or discipline one can master
in consciousness. The more psychic energy we invest in a
on one's own will serve: medit:ltion and prayer if one is so in­
p�linful event, the more real it becomes, and the more en­
clined; exercise, aerobics, martial arts for those who prefer
tropy it introduces in consciousness. To deny, repress, or
ing on physical skills. Any specialization or exper­
misinterpret such events is no solution either, because the in­
tise that one finds enjoyable and where one c�m improve
formation will keep smoldering in the recesses of the mind,
one's knowledge over time. The important thing, however, is
draining away psychic energy to keep it from spreading. It is
the attitude toward these disciplines. If one prays in order to
better to look suffering straight in the eye, acknowledge and
be holy, or exercises to develop strong pectoral muscles, or
respect irs presence, and then get busy as soon as possiLle fo­
learns to be knowledgeable, then a grc:1t deal of the benefit is
cusing on thinb'"S we choose to focus
lost. The important thing is to enjoy the activity for irs own
I.n a study of people who became severely handicapped by
di�ease or by accidents-blind or paraplegic-Professor
sake, and to Imow that what matters is not the result, but the
control one is acquiring over onc's attention.
1 30
Normally, attention is directed by genetic instructions, so­
cial conventions, and habits we learned as children. There­
fore it is nOt we who decide what to
become aware of, what
in formation will reach consciousness. As a result, our lives
are not ours in any meaningful sense; most of what we expe­
rience will have been programmed for us. \.ve learn what is
supposed to be worth seeing, what is not; what to re member
and what to forget; what to feci when we see a bat, a flag, or a
person who worships God by different rites; we learn what is
supposed to be worth living and dying for. Through the
years, our experience will follow the script written by biology
and culture. ·fhe only way to take o\'er the ownership of life
is by learning to direct psychic energy i n line with our own
The Love of Fate
\-\fhether we like it or not, our lives will leave a mark on the
universe . Each person 's birth makes ripples that expan d in
the social environment: parents, si bl ings, relatives, and
friends are affected by it, and as we grow up our actions leave
a myriad of consequences, some intended, most not. Our
consumer decisions make a tiny difference in the economy,
political decisions affect the future of the community, and
each kind or mean act modifies sl ightly the total quality of
human well-being. Persons whose lives arc autotelic help to
reduce entropy in the consciousness of those who come in
contact with them; those who devote all their psychic energy
competing for resources rind to aggrandizing their own
self ;ldd to the sum total of cntropy.
One cannot lead a life that is tru ly cxcellent withom feel­
ing that one belongs to something greater and more pCflna­
nell[ than oneself. This is one concl usion that is common to
all the various religi ons that have given meaning to people's
lives all through the long epochs of human history. Nowa-
days, still heady from the great advances brought
about by
science and technology, we are in danger of forgetting this
insight. In the United Statcs and
the other technologically
advanced societies, individllO.llislll and materialism have al­
mOSt completely prev'liled ovcr ;lllegiance
the community
and to spiritual values.
It is signifiClnt that
Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose advice
about child rearing was so immensely influential among at
be donc: " Act always as i f the fumre of the Uni"crse depended
on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that
whatever you do makes any difference." It is this serious play­
fulness, this combination of concern and humility, that makes
it possible to be both engaged and
at the same time.
\,Vith this attitude one does nor need to win to feel coment·,
helping to maintain order in the universe becomes its own re­
ward, regardless of consequences. Then it is possible to find
least two generations of parentS, in the twilight of his lifc
doubts that the stress placed earlier on training children to
joy even when fighting a losing barrie in a good C,lUSC.
be unfettered individualists was such a good idea. He now
A first step OLit of this impasse is to gain a dearer understand­
ing of one's self-the image each person develops about who
feels that it is at least as essential for them to learn to work
for a comlllon good, and
:lppreciatc religion, art, and the
other ineffable aspects of life.
In fact, the warning signs lhat we have become too enam­
ored of ourselves are many. An example is the inability of
foml commitments, which has resulted in half the
urban population in developed countries spending their lives
alone, and in the dissolution of such a high proportion of
marriages. Another is the increasing disillusionment that
people report, in sun'ey after survey, with most of the insti­
rutions that we had previously trusted, and with the individu­
als who lead them.
More and morc, we seem to bury our heads in the sand to
avoid hearing bad news, withdrawing into gated communi­
ties protected b)1 armed response.
But a good personal life is
impossible while staying aloof of a corrupt society, as
Socrates knew and those who havc livcd under recent dicta­
torships have found OLit. It would be so much easier if we
or she is. \IVe couldn't get very far without a self. But the
downside of the self-image is that as soon as it emerges in
early childhood, it begins to control the rest of consciousness.
Because we idemify ourselves with it, believing it to be the
central essence of our being, the sciI' increasingly appears to
be nOt only the most important among the content.o; of con­
sciousness, but-at lease for some people-the only one
worth paying attention to. The danger is that one's entire
psychic energy will go toward satisfying the needs of the
imaginary entity we have ourselves created. This might not
bc too bad, if the self we hring into being is a reasonable en­
tity. But childrcn who are abused may grow up construCling a
hopeless, or vindictive, image of self; children who are in­
dulged without being loved Illay create narcissistic selves. A
self may grow (Q be insatiable, or ha,'c a completely exagger­
ated idea of irs importance. Persons who own such a distOrted
self nevertheless fccl compelled [0 satisfy ito; needs. If they
were responsible only for ourselves. Unfortunarcly, things
think they need morc power, or money,
don't work that way. An active responsibility for the rest of
they will do
humankind, and for the world of which we are a part, is a
is good for them in the long
necessary ingrcdient of a good life.
The real challenge, however, is to reduce entropy in one's
surroundings \\�thout increasing it in one's consciousness.
The BuddhistS have
good piece of advice as to how this can
or love, or adventure,
evcrything to satisfy that need even bcyond what
nlll. In slleh Clses a person's psy­
chic energy, directed by an ill-conceivcd ego, is likely lO cause
clltropy in the environment as well as within consciousness.
Being without a sensc of self, an animal will c.\:ert itself un­
til ito; biological needs are satisfied, but nor much further. It
will attack a prey, defend itS tcrritory, fight for a mate, but
when these imperatives are taken care of, it will rest. If, how­
ever, a man develops a self-image based on power, or wealth,
there ;lre no limits to his exertions. He will pursue the goal
1 35
resist the siren song of its needs, the self can become a friend,
a helper, a rock upon which to build a fuJfilling life. Stern
goes on to describe how, as a writer, hc can tame the unbri­
dled ego and make it do creative work:
set by the self relentlessly, even if he has to ruin his health in
the process, even if he lUIs to destroy other people along the
It is not so surprising, then, that so Jllany religions have
blamed the ego for being the cause of human unhappiness.
The radical advice is to neuter the ego by not allowing it to
Of course there are thin.!:,TS in myself . . . which 1 know are
bad, mean, twisted, weak, this, that, or the other thing. I
can draw strength from that. . . . 1 can transform them.
They're sources of strength. And as I said earlier, the
writer takes dlOse, and they're his material.
dictate desires. If we refuse to heed our needs by giving up
food, sex, and all the vanities that men strive for, the ego wiII
eventually have no say in what to do, and will shrivel and die.
But there is no way to completely do away with the ego and
One need not be an iutist to transform the "n1bbishy
parts" of the self into a deeper understanding of the human
condition. H'e all have the opportunity to use ambition, the
to be lovcd-even aggressiveness-in constrllctive
still survive. The only viable alternative is to follow a less
radical course, and make SUfe that one gets to know one's
ways, wi thotil' being carried away by them. Once we realize
what our demons are, we need not fear thcm any longer. [n­
self, and understands its peculiarities. It is dlcn possible to
separate those needs that really help us to navigate through
life, from those malignant growths that sprout from them
and make our lives miserable.
"'hen asked what has heen the most difficult obstacle to
overcome in his career, the novelist Richard Stern answered:
I think it's that n1hhishy part of myself, that part which is
described by such words as vanity, pride, the sense of not
being treated as I should be, comparison with others, and
so on. I've tried rather hard to discipline that. And I've
been Iud.")' that there has been enough that's positive to
enable me to counter a kind of biliousness and resentment
stead of taking them seriously, we can smiJe with compassion
at the arrogance of these fnlits of OUf imagination. \,ve don't
have to feed their ravenous hunger except on our own terms,
when to do so helps us achieve somcthing worthwh ile.
Of course, this is easier s;lici than done. Ever since the Del­
phic oracle started giving the scnsible advice "Know thyself"
some three thousand years ago, people who thought about
thesc things agreed that one must first come to know and
then master the ego before embarking on a good life. Yet we
have made vcry little progress in the direction of self­
nowledge. All too often those who extol most loudly the
virtues of se1nessness turn out [0 be Illotivated by greed .1Od
. . . which I've seen paralyze colleagues of mine, peers who
ambition .
are morc gifted than L I've felt it in myself. And I 've had
In our century, the project of self-knowledge has been
IllOSt strongly identified with Freudian analysis. Shaped by
learn to coumer that.
I would say that the chief obstacle is--Qneseif.
the radical cynicism of the belween-war years, psychoanaly­
sis set its sights modestly: il offered self-knowledge without
For each of us, the chief obst3c1e to a good life is oneself.
aspiring to tell what one should do with it once attained. And
Yet if we learn to live with it, :lIld like Ulysses find a W3y to
the understanding it offered, profound as it was, was also
rather limited to revealing only some of the snares that the
chic energy in goals and relationships that bring harmony to
ego typically falls into-rhe malignancies that result from
the self indirectly. After experiencing flow in a complex in­
trying to cope with the Eunily triangle and the subsequent
teraction, the feedback is concrete and objective, and we feel
repression of sexuality. lmport,lIlt as this insight h:ls been, it
better :lbout ourselves without having had to try.
had the unfornmate result of providing a false sense of secu­
In order to experience flow, it helps to have clear goals­
rity to people who believed that by exorcising some child­
not because it is achieving the goals that i s necessarily impor­
hood trauma they would live happily ever after. The self,
tant, but because without a goal it is difficult to concentrate
alas, is more c"Unning and complicated than that.
and avoid distractions. Thus a mountain climber sets as her
Psychotherapy relics primarily on recalling and then shar-
goal to reach the summit not because she has some deep de­
ing past experiences with a trained analy-s.t.
his pro ess of
guided reflection can be very useful, and III Its form It does
sire to reach it, but because the goal makes the experience of
not differ that much from the injunction of the Delphic ora-
would become pointless ambling that leaves one restless and
cle. The difficulty comes when the popularity of this form of
therapy leads people
climbing possible. If it were nOt for the summit, the climb
believe that by introspecting and ru­
There is quite extensive evidence showing that even if one
minating upon their past they will solve their problems. This
docs not experience flow, just the fact of doing something in
usually docs not work, because the lenses through which we
line with one's goals improves the state of mind. For e,'(am­
look at the past are distorted precisely by the kind of prob­
pie, being with friends is usually uplifting, especially if we see
lems we want solved. I t takes
that interacting with friends is what we want to do at the mo­
expert therapist, or long
practice, (Q benefit from reflection.
ment; but if we feel we should be working, then the time
Moreover, the habit of rumination that our narcissistic so­
spent with the same friends is much less positive. Conversely
ciety encourages actu:llly might make things worse. 'fhe
even a disliked job makes us feel better if we manage to see it
ESM research shows that when people think about them­
as part of our goals.
selves, their moods are lIsually negative. \"'hen a person
'l'hese findings suggest that a simple way of improving the
starts to reflect without being skilled at it, the first thoughtS
that pop into the mind [end to be depressing. vVhereas in
quality of life is to take ownership of one's actions. A great
flow we forget ourselves, in apathy, worry, and boredom the
things we feel we have to do, or we do because there isn't
self is usuaUv at center stage. So unless one h�ls mastered the
an}'thing else we feel like doing. M.any people spend their
deal of what we do (over two-thirds, on the average) are
skill of refle tion, the practice of "thinking about prohlems"
entire lives feeling like puppers who move only because their
usually aggravates wh�1tcver is wrong instead of :llleviating it.
strings are pulled. Under these conditions we are likely to
Most people only think :lbOllt themselves when things are
feel our psychic energy is wasted. So the question is, why
not going well, and thereby they enter a vicious circle in
don't we want to do more things? The sheer act of wanting
which present :In..x.iety colors the past, and then the painful
focuses attention, establishes priority in consciousness, and
memories make the present even more bleak. One way to
thus creates a sense of inner harmony.
break Out of this circle is to de\felop the habit of reflecting on
There arc many things in life that we must do and don't
one's life when there is reason to feel good about it, when
like doing. It may be sittiJlg in meetings, or taking out the
one is in an upbeat mood. Blit it is even better to invest psy-
garbage, or keeping track of bills. Some of these are unavoid-
13 9
able; no matter how ingenious we are, we still must do them.
ti nllcs: "The fully functioning person . . . not only expcri­
So the choice is either to do them against the grai n, grum­
ences, but utili zes, the mOSt absolute freedom when he spon­
bl ing about the imposition-or do them willingly. In both
taneo llsly, freely, and voluntarily chooses and wills that
cases we are stuck with having to do the activity, bur in the
which is absolutely determined." Thus, as with Nietzsche
second case the experience is bound to be more positive. One
and Maslow, the love of fate corresponds
can set goals for even the most despi sed task: for i nstance, to
accept ownership of one's actions, whether these are sponta­
mow the lawn as quickJy and effici en tly as possi ble. The very
neous or imposed from the outside I t is this acceptance that
act of setting the goal will take much of the sting out of a
This attitude toward one's choices is well expressed in the
a wi ll i ngness to
leads to personal growth, and provi des the feel ing of serene
enjoyment which removes the burden of entropy from every­
day life.
concept of amOJ' fati-or love of fate-a central concept in
Niet7}iche s philosophy. For instance, in d iscussi ng what i t
The qua l i ty of life is much improved if we learn to love what
he writes: "My formula for greatness in a
we have to do-in this Nit!tzsche and company were ab­
takes to live
human being is
a1llorfati: That one wants n othing to be dif­
fere nt, not forward, not backward, not in all ete rni ty. . . .
Not merely bear what is necessary . . . but love it." And:
solutely right. But in retrospect one can begin to see the lim­
itations of the "humanistic psychology" of which M.aslow
and Rogers were such outstanding leaders. In the glory days
want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is nec­
of the mid-century, when prosperi ty rei gned and peace beck­
essary in things; then J shall be one of those who make things
oned around the corner, it made sense to assume that per­
beautiful. "
Abraham Maslow's stu dies led him to similar conclusions
Based on his clinical observations and intenriews with indi­
son al fulfillment could only lead to positive outcomes. There
was no need then to make invidious comparisons about ways
of fulfilling oneself,
question whether one set of goals was
be self-actualizing, i nclu ding cre­
bettcr than another-what mattered was to do one's thing.
ative artists and scientists, he concluded that the processes of
The optimisti c haze blumed al l edges, and we permitted our­
growth resulted in fulfilling peak experien ces. These in­
selves to believe Ulat dle ollly evil came from not
volved a consistency between self and environment; and he
one's porcntial.
viduals he considered
referred to this as harmony between "inner requiredness"
ful fi l ling
The problem is that people also learn to love things that
and "outer requi redness," or between "I want" and "I l11ust."
arc destructive to themselves and
vVhen this happens, "one freely happi ly and wholeheartedly
rested for vandalism or robbery often h,we no other motiva­
others. Teenagers ar­
embraces one's determinants. One chooses and wills one's
tion than the excitement they experience steal in g a car or
fate. "
breaking into a house. Veterans say that they never fclt such
The psychologist Carl Rogers also endorsed a vcry simi l ar
perspective He comments about what he calls the fully func­
intense now as when they were behind a machine gun on the
front lines. "''hen the physicist Robert J . Oppen heimer was
tioning person: "He wills or chooses to follow the course of
developing the atom ic bomb, he wrOte with lyrical passion
action which is the most economical vector in relation to all
about the "sweet problem
the internal and external stimuli because it is that behavior
which will be the most deeply satisfyi ng. " As a result, he con-
he was trying to soh,c. From all
accounts, Adolph Eichmann enjoyed working on the logi stic
proble ms involved in transporti _ng Jews to extermination
camps. The moral implication of these examples is dearl}'
you will, but one that will serve us for the preselll and the
different, but the}' make the point that enjoying what Olle
near future-just as earlicr myths have helped Ollr ,1llCeStors
does is not a sufficient reason for doing it.
to make sense of their existence, relying on the images,
Flow is a source of ps}'chic energy in that it focllses atten­
metaphors, and fans known
them. But just as the elements
tion and motivates action. Like other forms of energy, it is
of P,lst myths were believed to be true to those who used
neutral-it can be used for constructive or destructive pur­
thcm, Wt! have also to believe in the truth of this new dispen­
poses. Fire Coln be used to warm us up on a cold night or it
burn down the house. The same is true of
I n thc past, it was the prophecs who voiced the nwths lhat
electricity or nuclear energy. Making energy available for
gave power to the beliefs of the community. Drawil g on Fa­
can be used
human use is an important accomplishment, bm learning
miliar images, they intimated that a supreme being was
lise it well is at least as essential. Thus in creating a
speaking through them to tell the people how they should
good life it is not enough to strive for enjo}'able goals, but
behave, and what the world beyond our senses was like.
also to choose goals that will reduce the sum total of entropy
There ma}' still be prophets in t e future claiming to know
in the world.
such things, but it is less likely that they will be believed. One
So where is one [Q find such goals? It has been the task of
consequence of depending on science for solving m'lterial
religions to define entropy as it appljes to human affairs. It
problems and on democracy for solving political confliccs is
was called "sin," and it consisted in behavior that harmed the
lhat we have learned to distrust the \,ision of a single individ­
person, the community, or its values. All societies that have
ual, no matter how inspired. or course, the "cult of personal­
survived have had to define positive goals to direct the en­
ity" is still very much alive, bur i t is more tempered by
erg}' of their people; to make them effective, the}' ercaced su­
healthy skepticism. A credible revelation would have to have
pernatural beings who communicated the rules of right and
rh.l[ element of consensus we h.wc come to expect from sci­
wrong behavior through visions, apparitions, and texts dic­
entific truth, and from democratic decision making.
tated to special individuals like Moses, Mohammed, or
Instead of waiting for prophcts, we mal' discover the foun­
n� the knowledge sci­
Joseph Smith. These goals could not be justified only in
dations on which to build a good life fro
terms of our lives here and now, because if the onl}' effects of
entists and other thinkcrs arc slowly accumulating. There are
our actions were the ones we could obsenre in this life, COIll­
enough hincs about how the universe functions to k
now what
mon sense would dictate that we get as much pleasure and
kind of actions support the increase of complexity and order,
material advantage as we call, even if we must be ruthless i n
and what kind lead toward destruction. \,ve arc rediscovering
the process. Yet a community would be destro}'ed i f every­
how all forrns of life depend on each other and on the envi­
one W,lS motivated by sheer selfishness, so all religions had [0
ronment. I low precisely each action produces an equal reac­
provide a scenario for what happens [0 those who act only in
tion. How difficult i t is
create order and useful energy, .md
terms of sclf-interest-such as being reincarnated in a lower
how eas}' it is to waste ir in disorder. \>Ve learn that the con­
form of life, or being forgotten, or going to hell.
sequences of actions ma}' not be immediately visible, but may
One of the main challenges of our time is
discovcr new
have effects in distant connections, because everything thar
bases for transcendent goals that fit with whatever else we
exists is part of an interconnected system . l\11uch of this has
know about the world. A new lIlyth to give meaning to life, if
been already said, in one war or another, in the religions of
the Plains Lldian tribes, the Buddhists, the Zoroastrians, and
complexity has given hope to several scientists that the uni.
innumerable other beliefs based on a careful observation of
verse is not rul�d by chaos, but conceals a meaningful Story.
life. \"'hat contemporary science adds is a systematic expres­
One of the earliest to express this connection was the Jcsuit
sion of these facts in a language that has authority in our
paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose Tile Pbe­
0f' gave
lyrical-and perhaps excessively Iyri­
Bur there arc also Other, perhaps more exciting i_llsights la­
cal--descnptlon of evolution from atomic dust billions of
tent in modem science. For instance, the implkations of rel­
years ago to the unification of mind and spirit in what he
ativity might suggest a way to reconcile the monotheistic
called the Omega Point, his equivalent for the traditional
beliefs that have been so successful in the last hl/o millennia,
concept of souls joining with the sllpreme being in heaven.
and the more fragmented, idiosyncratic polytheistic forms
Teilhard's vision was derided by most scientists, but some
they replaced. The disad\tantage of polytheism has been that
of �he more advennlrolls ones-such as C. H. \IVaddington,
when people actually believed in the existence of separate
Juhan Huxley,
spirits, demjurges, demons, and gods, each with its own char­
seri usly. In one form or other, evolving complexity has the
acter and sphere of authority, it caused a great deal of confu­
making of a myth robust enough to hang a faith on. For in­
and Theodosius Dobzhansky-took it rather
sion and dissipation of attention among the competing
stance, Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine-who
spiritual entities. The postulate of a single God, whether by
saw himself to be as
the Israelites, the Christians, or the Muslims, reordered rhe
tist-spenr the last years of his life struggling to understand
believers' consciousness, releasing a tremendous amount of
how past life may hold the key to the funlIc.
an artist and a humanist as a scien­
his words:
psychic energy, which swept other faiths aside. However, the
downside of monotheism was that by specifying a single
I have continued to be interested in some . . . more funda-
supreme being it tended
mental questions, about creativity itself. . . . I see
develop into rigid dogmatism.
"''hat relativity and the more recent discoveries about
as a
produ�r of the process of evolution, J would say creative
fractal geometries may suggest is that the same reality may
evoluuon. "" e have now become the process itself, or part
be packaged in different
so to speak, and that de­
of the process itself. And so from that perspective I have
pending on the perspective of the viewer, the angle of vision,
become interested in universal evolution, the phenomc­
the time frame, and the scale of observation one might see
evolution in itself as manifest in what I call pre­
blologlC;ll evolution, evolution of the physical, chemical
very different pichlres of the same underlying truth. Thus
there is no need to brand as heresy visions and insights that
world; biological evolution; and meta-biological evolution
differ from the beliefs we learned as children, yet we also
of the brain-mi_nd. And now J'm beginning to write about
know that these arc locally valid, temporary manifes[;ltions
what 1 call teleologic<ll evolution, which is evolution with a
of a single underlying process of enormous complexity.
Many of the relevant strands converge around the process
purpose. So my purpose now, YOll might say, is to try to
understand evolution, creativity, in a purposeful way.
of evolution. Ironically, whilc Dan"in's observations were
justly seen as a threat to fundamentalist Christian religion,
I t is too soon to see dearly what lies beyond these new hori­
the idea that over very long periods of time ecological sys­
Zons that are just opening up. But writers and scientistS are be­
tems and the structure of orb'<lJlislllS tend toward increasing
ginning to piece together the vision that might lead into the
furure. Some of these efforts still seem so fanciful as to be part
faith literally, while the people I am quoting know that they
only of the realm of imagination. For instance, Nladeleine
are speaking metaphorically, using approximations to an un­
T...'Engle has woven tnro her novels for children plot.o; where
derlying reality they believe in, but cannot express ade­
events in the cells of the body parallel historical struggles
quately. They would be tile bst to reify their insights,
alllong human char<lcters, which in hlrll reflect cosmic con­
believing them to be literally true. They know that thcir
flicts between supernatural beings. And she is perfectly aware
knowledge is itself evolving, and in a few years might have to
that tile science fiction she writes has ethical consequences.
be expresscd in entirely different terms.
Even when the characters in the book suffer and are about to
be enbTUlfed by the forces of evil, she believes that: "You have
It is one thing for evolution to help us envision the h.mlre
get them out, into some kind of hope. J don't like hopeless
with reference to the past, and another to give us directions
books. Books that make you tllink, 'Ah, life's not worth living.'
for creating a meaningful, satisfying existence. Surely, one of
I want to leave them thinking, yeah, this endeavor is difficult,
the reasons traditional religions have had such a powerful
but it is worth it, and it is ultimately joyful."
hold on human consciousness is that they personalized cos­
John Archibald \"'heeler, one of the most distinguished
mic forces-for instance, by claiming that God created us in
physicists of this century, spends his time puzzling about
His image, thus ma king it possible for thousands of Christian
how we play a vital pan in bringing about the material world
painters to represent Him as II benign old patriarch. And per­
that seems to exist objectively outside and apart from our­
haps more importantly, they lent each individual's life a dig­
selves. Benjamin Spock, the eminent pediatrician, is trying to
nity and the promise of eternity. This is indeed a hard :lct to
redefi ne spirituality in terms that make sense for our times.
follow. The process of evolution as we understand it now
And then there are those who, like the economist and activist
works statistically on large numbers, and has nothing to say
Hazel Henderson, have adopted a joyously free-form per­
about individuals; it is run by determinism coupled witl1
sonal philosophy in which their identity is seen as a momen­
chance instead of purpose and free will. Thus it appears to be
tary embodiment of the ongoing stream of life:
an arid doctrine with no chance to inspire a person to orga­
nize his or her life with reference to it.
On onc level l feel like an extraterrestrial. I'm here visiting
Yet the findings of science may have hopeh.ll things to say
for a while. And I'm also in hUlllan form. I'm very emo­
to each of us. In the first place, they make LIS increasingly
tionally attached to tile specics. And so I have incarnated
aware of how lllUqUC each person is. Nor only in the particu­
myself at this time. But I also have an infinite aspect to
lar way the ingredients of the generic code have been COlll­
myself. It all kind of hangs together quite easily for me. It
bined, yielding instructions for developing unprecedcnted
sounds flippant, but the thing is that this is ,1 spiritual prac­
physical and mental traits. But also unique in the time and
tice f01" me.
the place in which this particular organism has been set
encounter life. Because an individual becomes a person only
It may seem that such pab'1l1l exuberance is nothing more
within a physical, social, and cultural context, when and
th,1I1 a return to past superstitions, on a par with belief in
where we happen to be born defines :l single coord inate of
reincarnation, <11ien abductions, or extrasensory perception.
existence that no one else shares.
The esscntial difference is thllt New Age believers take their
Thus each of us is responsible for one particular point in
1 46
'HI LOVI 0' fAil
space and time in which Ollr body and mind forms a link
within the toml network of cxjstence. For whereas it is true
that who we are is determined by genetic instructions and so­
cial interactions, it is also truc that having invented the con­
cept of freedom, we can 1ll.lke choices that will determine the
future shape of the network of which we arc a part. ""hat
kind of cosmetics we use will help determine whether the air
will stay fit to breathe, how much time we spend mlking
teachers will affect what our children learn, and the k
ind of
shows we watch will influence the nature of commercial en­
Contemporary understanding of matter and encfb'Y also
suggests a new way of thinkjng about good and evil. Evil in
human affairs is analogous to the process of entropy in the
material universe. \Ve call evil that which causes pain, suffer­
ing, disorder i n the psyche or the community. It usually in­
,'olves tak
ing the course of least resistance, or operating
to let entropy prevail ? \¥hy should one want to suppor
t evo­
lution without the promise of eternal life as a reward? If
we havc said so far is true, eternal life is actually part of
package of existence-not in the way cartoons represent
afterlife, with haloed characters in nightgowns standin
around on clouds, but in the fact that our actions in this
are going to reverberate through time and shape the evolvin
future. "''hether our present consciousness of individuality
preserved in some dimension of existence after death
or dis­
appears completely, the unalterable fact is that our being
forever remain part of the warp and woof of what is.
Illore psychic energy we invest in the funlre of life, the more
we become a part of it. Those who identify with evoluti
blend their consciousness with it, like a tiny creek joining
immense river, whose currents become as one.
Hell in this scenario is simply the separation of the indi­
vidual from the flow of life. It is clinging to the past, to the
to the safety of inertia. There is a trace of this
sense in
according to the principles of a lower order of organization.
For insmnce, when a person endowed with consciousness
the root of the word for "devil": it comes from the Greek din
bol/rin, to separate or break asunder. \¥hat is diabolical is to
acts in terms of instincts alone, or when a social being acts
selfishly even though the situation calls for cooperation.
\"'hen scientists work on perfecting means of destruction
they are succumbing to entropy even if they use the latest
and most sophisticated knowledge. Entrop}' or evil is the de­
fault stalc, the condition to which systems rerurn unless work
is done to prevent it.
\-Vhat prevents it is what we
CJIJ "good"-actions that pre­
serve order while preventing rib
ridity, that are informed by the
needs of the most evolved systems. Acts that take into account
the funlre, the common good, the emotional well-being of
others. Good is the creative overcoming of inertia, the energy
that le'lds to the evolution of human consciousness. To act in
terms of new principles of orb''tmization is always more diffi­
cult, :md requires more effort and energy. The ability to do so
is what has been known as '�rtue.
But why should one be virtuous when it is so much easier
weaken the emergiJlg complexity by withdrawing one's psy­
chic energy frolll it.
Of course, this is not the only way to read what science
implies about the furnre. It is also possible to sec nothing but
meaningless chance at work in the world, and be discouraged
by it. III fact. it is easier to do so. Entropy holds also for how
we interpret the evidence of the senses. But this chapter
started with the question: How com we find a goal that
allow us to enjoy life while being responsible to others?
Choosing this interpretation for the current knowledge
ence provides might be one answer to that question. \Vithin
an evolutionary framework, we can focus conscio
llsness on
the tasks of everyday life in the knowledge that when
we act
in the fullness of the flow experience, we are
also building a
bndge to the furnre of our universe.
Chapter 1
,. Audcn. An cxcel lelll set of reflections on Auden's poerry :md
on its place in contemporary literature afC in Hecht ( 1 993).
4· Systematic phenomenology. The theoretical and empirical
bases for the claims Imde in this volulIle can be found, for in­
smllec, in Csikszentmihalyi ( [ 990, ' 993 ); Csikszentmihalyi
and Csikszclltmihalyi (1988); Csikszenunihalyi and Radlundc
( , 993)·
Baboons. A derailed description of the activities of free­
ranging primates is given in Altmann ( [ 980). The daily :lctiv­
ities of peasants in the sOllth of France during the Middle
Ages afe reponed in Le Roy L:ldurie (1979).
Differences in daily life. The French historians associ:ncd
with the review Ali/lilies pioneered the study of how ordinary
people lived in different historical periods. An example of the
genre is O;lvis and Farge ( [ 993).
E. P. Thompson. Thompson ([ 96 3) gives some of the most
\'ivid descriptions of how d;lily life changed as :1 result of in­
dllstri:l lization in England.
Table I. 'rhe sources for the data presented in this table are
as follows: the tillle budget of American adults, lIsing the
ES,\1, has been reported in Csikszenunihal),i and Gr.lef
( 1 980); Csikszenunihal)'i and LeFevre ( 1 989); Kubc), and
Csikszenun iha lyi ( 1 990); Larson and Richards (1 994); for
that of adolescents see Bidwell et ;11. (in press); Csiks7.clltmi­
hal)'i and Larson ( 1 984); Csikszenunihal),i, Rathllndc, and
1 9 . l ial)pincss. One of the first modem psychological studies of
productive activities has been estimated b)' Marshall Sahlins
(1972). Similar results :lrc also reported in Lee and DeVore
( 1 968). For time budgets in the eighteenth century see
Thompson (1963), and in recem times Szalai ( 1 965).
Women carried water . . . The quote is from Hufton
happi ness, The Smlrtllrt' of Psychological Well-Being by Nor­
man Bradburn ( 1 969), originally had the word " happi ness" in
its tide, but this was later changed to " psychological well­
being" to avoid seeming unscientific. Current studi es include
the extensive summary of the topic by Myers (1992), lhe
work by Myers and Diener ( 1 995), and Diener and Ditmer
( 1 996), which finds that people are generally happy; another
source is Lykken and Te llegen ( 1 996). The international
c.:omparisons of income and happiness are in Inglehart ( 1 990)'
The main problem is that such studie.... are based on respon­
dents' global assessments of their own happiness . Because
peoplc are srrongly biased to sec their own life as happy re­
n , Leisure. For a detlilcd hisrory of leisure, see Kelly ( 1 982).
Culrures differ . . . McKim Marriot describes the tradi­
gardless of its content, such a measure does n ot give much in­
formation aoout the quality of a persall' s life.
Psychic entropy or conflict in consciousness, and its op­
Whalen (1993)·
9. Time budgets. I low mueh time hllmer-gathe rers spell[ in
( , 993, p. )0) .
tional Hindu vicw of the individual's position in lhe social
context (Marriott 1 976); for lhe comparison of Caucasian and
East Asian children see Asakawa ( 1 996)·
The public sphere. The argument aoout the importance of
having a public sphe re for the development of individuality
was made by Hannah Arendt (1956).
' 5 ' The Experience Sampling Method. Those who might be
interested in the details of this method should consulr Csik­
szentmihalyi and Larson ( 1 987); M oneta and Csikszclltmiha1); ( ' 996).
Chapter 2
1 8 . Nine basic emotions. Thc main emotions t:h�lt can he differ­
entiated and that are re<.:ognized across culmres :lre joy,
ange r, sadness, fear, interest, shame, guilt, envy, and depres­
sion (Campos and Barren 1 984) '
1 8 . Genetically wired cmotions. Although Charles Darwin
himself realized that emotions served survival purposes and
e\'olved just l ike physical organs of the body did, it was not
until very recently that psychological traits befrdn to be stlld­
ied from an evolutionary pcrspe<.:tive. A recent example is the
work of David Buss ( 1 994)'
posite, psychic negenrropy, which describes states of inner
harmony, are described in Csik:szcntmi halyi ( 1 988, 1990);
Csikszenunihalyi and Csik:szentmihalyi ( 1 988); Csikszenuni ­
halyi and Rathunde (in press) .
13. Self-esteem. vVilliam James' formula for self-esteelll was
published in James ( , 890). "rhe contrast in self-esteem be­
tween ethnic groups is in Asakawa ( 1 996) and Bidwell et al.
(in press). The self-esteem differences hetween mothers who
arc working and at home was st\ldied by Ann "" ells (1988).
15. Mental operations. I discussed the role of attention in
thinking in Csikszentmihalyi ( 1 993). The Yale psychologist
.Jerome Singer has studied daydreaming extensively (J. L.
S i nger 1966, 1981).
17. Varieties of intelligence. The canonical work in this field is
Howard Gardner's analysis of the se\'en main forms t:lken by
human intelligen ce (Gardner '983),
17. The deve lopment of talent. The effort it ta kes to develop a
young person's talent is described in studies by Benjamin
Bloom ( 1 985), and those J conducted with my studen ts (Csik­
sze mmihalyi, Rathunde, and Whalen 1 993).
19. The flow experience. Some of the main sources dealing
with this experience are Csiksze nunjhalyi (1975, 1990); Csik­
szenunj ha lyi and Csikszcntmihalyi ( 1 988); Moneta and Csik-
szen0l1ihal),i ( 1 996). For more speci:lli1.ed studies, see also
Adlai-Gail ( 1 994); Choc ( 1 995); l-:ieine ( 1 996); lIektner
( 1 996); Inghilleri ( 1 995). "Optimal experience" and "psychic
negentropy" are sometimes used interch:mgcabl), for the flow
30. Figure I . The sources for this figure arc in Csikszennnih:llvi
( 1 990) and Massimini and Carli ( 1 988). This representati�n
has gone through sc\'cral revisions over the ycars, as empirical
findings forced us to revise OlLr initial h)'lXlthcsc-<;. For instance,
the most rCl:enr revision has in\'oh'cd the reversal in the place­
ment of the experienccs of "relaxation" and "ooredolll." Origi­
nally ] h,ld thought that low challenges and high skills nlU.�t
result in the experience of boredom. I lowe\'er man\' studies
e.g. Adlai-Gail (1 994), Csibzcntlllihalyi and C n:sze�n nih<ll
( 1 988), and Hekmer ( 1 996), show that people report feel�g
relaxed in such a situation, whereas ooredolll lends to occur
more when both challenges and skdls are low.
33· How often in flow? The large sun'ey of flow among Ger­
m,ms is reported in Noelle-Neumann ( 1 995). Some interest­
ing aCCOUIlL<; of flow i n different activities are the following:
writing, Perry ( 1 996); complll'ers, Tre\.ino and Trevino
( 1 992), \.Vebster :lI1d Manocchio ( [ 993); tC:lching, Coleman
( 1 99-1); reading, McQuilbn and Conde ( 1 996); m:magement,
Loubris, Crous, and Schepers ( 1 995); sports, Jackson ( 1 996),
Stein, Kimiecik, Daniels, and Jackson ( 1 995); g:lrdcning,
Reighcrg ( 1 995) among olhcrs.
Chapter 3
40. Psychop�lhology and flow. The psychiatrist Marten Dc
Vrics ( 1 992) has been one of the first to investigate in close
detail how psychiatric parierHS actually feci, ami discO\'ered in
the process several countcrintuiti\'e findings about psy­
chopathology. For the work of Professor Massimini and his
grQl[p at the Univcrsity of see Lnghilleri ( [ 995); l"lassi­
mini and Inghilleri ( 1986).
41. Creative pcople. The quote from Richard Stern and Ihose
that will follow later in this volullle are taken from my recent
study of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi [ 996), which is based on
interviews with ninety-one artists, scientists, political and
business leaders who h:wc changed the culture in which we
live to some extent. On the relationship between flow and
creativity, see also the collection edited by George Klein
( 1 990)·
4 1 . Solirude. For the deleterious effects of being alone, sec, for
instance, Csikszentmihalyi and Larson ( 1 984); Larson and
Csikszentmihalyi (1978); Larson, Mannell, and Zuzanek
( 1 986).
43· National survey findings that indicate ,\ link between happi­
ness and having friends were reported by Burt ( 1 986).
43· Experience in the family. The recent stlldy b}, Reed Larson
an Mary�e Richards, in which all members of the family par­
111 an ESM study at the same time (Larson and
Richa.rds 1994), reveals many intriguing patterns in fumi ly
expenence: as the title of their book, Divrrgem Realities, im­
plies, parents and children are rarely on the same page when
they interact at home .
44· Driving a cal". That driving is one of the mOSI enjoyable ex­
periences in many ])Cople's lives was suggested by one of our
ESM studies (Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre 1 989); a more
.In-depth ESM study sponsored by
issan USA revealed
many umnticipated details, some of which :Ire reported
dlroughollt this volume.
45· Surroundings and theil" psychological effects. For an ex­
cepti�n to t11e gencN11 neglect of how our surroundings affect
clllonons and thoughts see Gallagher (1993). Other work on
this topic includes Csik.szenunihalyi and Rochberg-Halton
( 1 98 1 ).
46. Time of the week and physical symptoms. Two unpub­
lished pilOl studies, one completed b)' Maria "Vong at the
University of Michigan and the other by Cynthia I l edricks
(in press) at the University of Southern California, find that
significantly morc physical symptoms are reported on Sun.
days, as well as in situations that do nor require focused atten­
tion, suggesting that being occupied to a certai n extent
prevents us from noticing pain.
Chapter 4
49· Americans want to work. These survey results are from
Yankelovich ( 1 981), and they have been replicated by similar
patterns in other COllntries. For the ambivalence about work
sec Csiksze ntmihalyi and LeFevre (1989); and the dialogue
between the German social scientists is in Noelle-Neumann
and Strumpe l ( 1984)' Noelle-Neumann interpreted the link
between willingness to work and a positive lifest}'le as evi­
dence that "work makes you happy," whereas Strumpel Uil­
derstood the general preference for leisure to mean that
"work makes you t1nh:lppy."
as to
50 The history of work. For some interesting insights
how work has r.:hanged over the centuries see, for instUlce,
Braudel (1985); Lee :llld DeVore ( 1968); Norberg (1993);
Ve}'ne ( 1 987).
Table 3. ReslllL� conr.:erning how Americ:ln teenagers learn
attitudes and skills relevant to their future occupations wefe
obtained in the course of a five-yeaf longitudinal study of al­
most fOllr thousand students in middle and high school across
the United States, which was sponsored by dIe Sloan Foun­
dation (Bidwell et a!. 1992). The negative experiences associ­
ated with activities that :lre neirner like work nor like pl:lY
were explored in detail by Jennifer Schmidt ( 1 997)·
56. Women and work. Gender di fferen ces in the experience of
work are reported in Larson :lnd Richards (1994). Anne
Wells ( 1988) found the differences in self-esteem between
mothers who worked full time and part time.
58. Unemployment. ESM studies of unemplo)'ed yourn in the
United Kingdom were conducted by John H:lworth (I laworth and Ducker 1991). The imernational survey studies of
unemploym ent arc reported in Inglehart ( 1990)·
Chapter 5
Leisure is dangerous. The psychiatrists' warning was re­
ported in Psycb;tI',,] ( 1 958); for similar arguments see Gussen
( 1 967); Kubey and Csiksi'.cntmihalyi ( 1 990)·
65· Sunday neurosis . The reference is in Ferenczi (1 950); see
also Boyer (1955); Cattell (1955).
Reading hooks. The di fferences found between indi\'iduals
who were frequellf readers and those who were frequelll TV
viewers are reported in Noelle-Neumann ( 1 996).
7°· Herodotus. See Pers;tln W/lfJ, Book I , Chapler 94.
7 ' - Leisure and cultural decline. For some of the historical ev­
idence see Kelly (1982); some of the clIrrcnr cross-cultural
Ill:lterial is in Inghillcri ( 1 993)'
Leisure-centered lives. The study by lVbcbelh is reported
in Macbeth ( 1 988); the quote from the ocean sailor is in Pir­
sig ( 1 9i7); that from the rock climber is in Csikszentmihalyi
Energy use and l eisure The finding th:lt the usc of nonre­
newable energy in leisure is negath'ely related to happiness,
at least for women, is reported in Graef ct al. (198,).
Chapter 6
Therapeutic effects of companions. The reference is [Q
the work of Lewinsohn ( 1 982).
79· Non-Western emphasis on the social context. The impor
tance of belonging to a social network in India is discussed by
Hart (1992); Kakar ( 1 9i8); Marriott (1976); i n Japan by
Asakawa (1996); Lebra ( 1 9i6); Markus and Ki rayama ( 1 991).
Friends. For the importance of fricndship to :1 satisfying life
sec Myers (1992).
Sexuality. How selective forces throughout evolution have
shaped our sexual emotions, attitudes, and behaviors is well
described in Buss (1 994). For a cultural history of human sex­
uality see L Singer (1 966). The exploitation of scxuality is
discussed in Marcuse ( 1 955)'
Family. The composition of familics in cllC Middle Ages is
described in Le Roy Laduric ( 1 979)' Other forms of family
arrangements are discussed in Edwards ( 1 969); I l erlihy
(1985); Mitterauer and Sicdcr ( 1 982).
88. Moods n
dIe family. These findings arc frolll the research, al­
re:ldy mentioned several times, by Larson and Richards ( 1994)·
88. Complex families. The theoretical notion of complexity was
applied to the family system by Kevin R:lthunde (in press).
See also Carroll, Schneider, and Csikszentmihalyi ( 1 99<» ;
Csiks7-Clltmihalyi ;md Rathunele ( 1 993); Csikszenunihalyi and
100. Frequency of flow. The snldy reported here was done by
Joel Hektner (1996).
1 0 1 . Why jobs are resented. The ideas mentioned in this section
I:trgely derive from the many years of counseling with busi­
ness managers thar I carried out with the Uni\'crsity of
Rathunde (in press); Huang (1996) for other findings that use
this concept.
Sorcery and solitude. The generalized paranoia of the
Chicago summer extension program in Vail, Colorado.
102. Lives dedicated to others. The biographies of individuals
with cxceptional moral sensitivity were collected and ana­
Dobuans is described by Reo Fortune 0 1 93 2 1 [963), The
concept of conversation as a means of reality maintenance
was developed by the sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas
lyzed by Colby and Damon (1992).
1°3. Making jobs more meaningful. One of the earliest and still
most insightful accountS of how workers who arc proud of
Luckman (1967)'
9". Preference for solitary scenery. The survey in question is
reported in Noelle-Neumann and Kocher ( 1 993, p. 504)·
Talent and solitude. D:m that show how students who can­
their jobs think is the series of interviews collected by Smds
Teckel ( 1 974).
106. Stress and strain. The physiologist I lans Selye was the first
to identify "eustress," or the positive value of manageable
not stand being alone have trouble developing their talents is
stress for the organism. ·rhe optimal psychological response
( 1 993)·
9'· Fear of strangers. The French historian Philippe Aries de­
sLTibed the dangers incurred by medieval students in Paris
(Aries, 1962). The threat to women walking the meets in the
seventeenth cenrury is mentioned by Norberg (1993)·
9 3· Vito activo. H:lnnah Arendt (1956) discusses the difference in
worldviews implied by an active as against a colltelilplath'c
life. The distinction between "inner-directed" and "outcr­
directed" ways of life appeared in Riesman, Glazer, and Denney
(1950). The typology of "extroversion" versus "introversion"
was developed by Carl Jung (1954); for its currem measure­
ment, sec Costa and McCrae (1984).
1 57
Extroverts happier. Research suggesting that extroverts
tend to be more satisfied with their lives is reported by Myers
to strain is widely investigated (Selye 1956).
1 1 2.
Flow in relationships. The qllote describing a mother's en­
joyment when playing with her child comes from Allison and
Duncan (1988).
Chapter 8
1 1 6. To be totally absorbed . .
The quote is from Allison and
Duncan ( 1 988).
1 2 3 . Social neoteny. In embryology, "neoteny" refers [Q the re­
tardation of development in human infants as comp:lred [Q
other primates and mammal species. This is supposed to al­
low for more learning ro occur as the nervous system manlres
in interaction with the environment rather than in the isola­
tion of the womb (Lerner 1 984). Soci:ll neoteny is an exten­
sion of this concept to the tendency for some young people
to benefit from a longer period of maturation protected
Chapter 7
98. Fifteen percent of the population . For this figure, see last
note t'O Chapter 2 .
98. Gramsci. A \<cry readable biography o f this Italian political
theorist' is by Fiore (1973)·
within the family (Csiks7..cntmihalyi and Rathunde in press).
128. Attention. The importance of controlling attention, or "psy_
chic energy," is fundamental to taking charge of one's life.
Some of the thinking rele\'ant to this claim can be found in
Csikszentmihalyi ( 1 978, ]993).
1 58
128. Blind and paraplegic. Fausto Massimill.i and his team at the
University of Milan have interviewed a great number of indi­
viduals stnlck by tragedy, such as people who have become
paraplcgic, or blind (Ncgri, Massimini, and Delle Fave [992).
Contrary to whal one might expect, many such indjviduals arc
able to enjoy their lives more after a tragic accident than they
did before. See also Diener and Diener ( 1996). Conversely,
research with lottcry winners (Brickman, Coates, and Janoff­
Bulman 1978) suggestS that braining sudden financial fortune
does not improve h:lppiness. These results confirm the old
wisdom that it is not Wh:ll happens to a person that detcr­
mines the quality of life, but what a person makes happen.
Chapter 9
1 p. Community and individ uality. Some of the most important
recent s(ncmcnts about the lack of involvement with values
gTeater than the indh'idual arc by Bellah et al. (1985, [99[);
L:lsh ( 1 990)' For comments on the n ecessity to creatc new
values as old olles lose credibility see Massimini and Delle
Ewe (1991).
dine De Cru}'ter.
133. Self and evolution. A brief description of how the self
evolves philogenetically and ontogenetically is given in Csik­
szentmihalyi ( 1 993).
138. Nieczsche's concept of
Adlai-Gail, W. S. [994. £\pJoring the tlillolelie persolltlliry. Ph.D.
diss., University of Chicago.
AJexander, R. D. 1987. The biology ofmontl systems. New York: AJ­
amor fati is in
Nietzsche ([1882]
1974). For l\llaslow's thoughts on the same subject, see
Maslow (1971), and for Rogers' see Rogers ( 1 969).
139. R. J. Oppenheimer's quote, and dIe problem of finding
flow in destructive acti\'itics, is discussed in Csikszentmiha lyi
(1985); Csikszcntmihalyi and Larson ( 1 978).
143. Evolution. Some of (he pioneers who have extended evol u­
tion ary thought to the realm of human cultural evolution
have been Bcrf,"Son (1 944); Campbell (1976); j. l l uxley
( 1 947); T. 1-1. I-Iu.xlcy ( [ 894); J ohnston (1984); Teilhard de
Chardin ( 1 965).
146. Good and evil, from the viewpoint of evolutionary theory, is
Allison, M. T., and M . C. Duncan. 1988. "" omen, work, and flow.
In Optimal Experit'l1ct': PS)'chologicul studies ofjlcrdJ in comciollS11t'SS,
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Anxiety, flow and, 3 I , 3 3
Apathy, flow and, 3 1 , 3 3
Bethe, 45
Biological processes, life deter­
Ar ies, Philippe, 1 5611
Blind people, psychic eneq,ry
disciplined by, 1 2 8-29. 1 581/
Bloom, Benj ami n, 1 5 1 11
Aristotle, ' 3. 18, 50, 5 1
Bohr, Niels. 45
Arousal, flow
Boredom, flow and, 3 ' , 33,
Aren dt, H anna h, 102, 1 5°11,
, 5611
3 1 , 32-33
Asia, indi\ridual's position in so-
1 ) 211
cial contexl in, ' 3 , i9-So,
Bradburn, Norman, 15
1 5011, 1 5 511
Buddhism : on abolition of goals
Asian-American srudents, self­
to achieve happiness,
esteem and achievement in,
on reducing psychic entropy,
Asner, Ed, 61-62
Set' Psychic energy
Days o f week, qual ity of experi­
ence and, 46--47, ' 5 311
Delle Fave, Amond la, 73-74
Companionship. See Relation­
Com plex farnilies, 89, 1 5 511
Concentration: e\'eryday activi­
ties and, 37, 39; flow and,
3 1-32; with friends, 82, 83;
solitude and. 90, 91; thinking
needing, 26--28
Buss, David, ' 5°11
Byzantine Empire, passive
Consciousness. See Emotions;
Goals; Thinking
Autotelic personality, 1 16-30; in
adolcscento;, 1 1S-23; in cre­
Calvin, John, 5
ative individuals, 1 24-26; def­
Campbell, Donald, 62
COllversation: flow and, 67, 68,
1 14- 1 5 ;
qual ity of experi·
ence of, 37, 3S-39; reality
Creative indi\riduals: as au­
totelic, 1 2 4-26; extroversi on
94--95; work shaped by,
, "
Dyson, Freeman, 62-63,
1\<lethod srudying, 1 1 8-22;
matched with reducing
4 ' , 1 5 2T1; surroundings and,
family and,
stress, 107
Chemical processes, l i fe deter­
1 2 3-26, 1 2 7-30,
1 5711; psychic entropy re­
dm;ed by, 1 3 I ; quality of ex­
perience and, 1 20-2 2; in
severely handicapped people,
12 8-29, 1 5811; time needed to
develop, 1 2 7 ; in victims of
1 29
Cognitive men tal ope rations.
See Thin king
Colby, Ann, 102-3
Commitments, inabi li ty to
fonn, 1 3 2
Baboons: activities of, 5; social
context and,
5, 80
Com munity{ies) : individualism
and materialism \'crsus alle-
Eastern reli l,,'ions, on abolition
of goals to achieve happi­
Culture, social context and, 1 3 ,
79-8 1 , 1 5011
mined by. 4
Chronic depression. See De­
Creativite indi\,iduals: flow and ,
for flow, 30-31, 1 5 2 n ; skills
energy and,
usc of leisure time, 65
Duncan, Margaret Carlisle,
Experience Sampling
Chandrashekhar, 45
Richards), 15311
Dobuans (Melanesia), 89
Dobzhansky, Theodosius, 143
Drivi ng : Experience Sampling
Method studyi ng, 15311;
quality of experience of, 37,
Druf,rs: apathy and, 33; as poor
versus introversion in,
happiness and, 1 2 2; psychic
totelic persona lity, 1 2 5-27
38, 39,44, '53"; time spent
Candide (Vohaire), 2 2
1 2 2-23, 1 5711;
D icki n son, Emil}" 75
Disinterested interest, in au-
on, 9
Car. See Driving
Cause and effect, 26
Challenges: skills bal:mccd with
terested interest in, 1 2 5-27;
DeVries, Marten, 40, 1 ) 2 11
1 5 611; ti me spent on, 9, 1 2
determination of, 1 1S-2 3; de­
1 2 7-30; disin­
43; solimde and, 4 1 , 42, 43,
maintenance and, 43, 89-90,
inition of, 1 1 6-- 1 8;
velopment of,
Depression: cOllversation and,
Divt'1-gt'11t Rralities (Larson and
Control, flow and, 3 1 , 32-33
leisure used by, 70
Auden, \V. I-I., I
giance to, 1 )2-33, 1 5 811;
strangeness of strangers re­
duced by, 92--93
mined by, 4
Archimedes, 104
ness, 24-25'
SUIllso Bud­
dhism; Hi nduism
quality of experience of,
5, 36, 37, 38; time spent on,
I):lil)' life. SrI' Experiences
Damon, \Villiam, 102-3
Dante, 5
Darwin, Charles, 142, '5011
Davies, Robertson, 1 1 1 - 1 2
l),lVis, 'atalie Zemon, 6, 1 24,
Daydream ing,
at work,
9, I I
Eating disorders, solitude and,
Education. See \Vork
Ego. St't Self
Eichmann, Adolph, 102,
' 39-40
Eigen, Manfred, 45
1 72
Emotions, I 7-zz, 15; basic, 18,
tionships influencing, 4, 5,
See also Leisure
15 011; concentration and, 17;
13-14, 1 5 011.
duality of, 18; goals and, z6;
activities; Maintenance activ­
heredity and, 18, I 5on; hu­
ities; Productive activities;
mans developing, 18; nega­
Quality of experience
tive, l Z ; objectivity of,
Experience Sampling Method
17-18; psychic energy and,
(ESM), 15-16; autotelic per­
1 5 ; quality of life determined
sonality studied with,
by, 4; subjectivity of, 17-18;
thoughts and, z6. See also
1 5 3 '11; family studied with,
'Y usc, leisure activities
and, 75-76, 1 5 511
I8-Z2; driving studied with,
88; quality of experience
studied with, 40--4 ' ; rela­
tionships studied with,
Entertainment industry, delete­
78-79; work attitudes stud­
rious effects of, 76-77. See
ied with, 49, 53-55, 5 7, 59,
(//so Television
Environment, quality of experi­
ence and, 43-46, 15 311
ESM. See Experience Sampling
ESP, 3
' 5 4"
Extrinsic motivation, 23
Extroversion: happiness and,
2 2 , 94; as hereditary, [ 00; in­
troversion versus, 93-96,
r 56'/1
Everyday activities. See Experi­
Evil and good, matter and en­
ergy and, 146--47, 1581/
Evolution, '42-43, 145,
'46-47, ' 5 8/1
Exercise: quality of experience
of, 3 9 ; time spent on, 3 9
Family, 85-89; autotelic per­
sonality and, [2Z-23, ' 5711;
complex, 89, 156//; Experi­
ence Sampling Method
studying, 88; flow in, 1 10--1 3 ;
forms of, 85-87, 155";
friendships in, 85; moods in,
Exotelic, 1 1 7
43, 44-45, 87-88; psychic
Expectations, self-esteem and,
energy and, 88-89, 1 1 0- 1 3 ;
Experiences: commonalities in,
quality o f experience and, 43,
87-88, [ 5 311; requirements
5-6; differences in, 6-8,
for successful, 88-89,
'4911; goals and, 1 3 ; indi\'id­
I lo-r3; as social conteXl, 14;
uality and, 7-8; optimal, see
work and, 6z-63.
Flow; quality of life deter­
mined by content of, 8; rela-
See also
Marriage; Relationships
Farge, Arlette, 6, 1 4911
Fate, love of, [ 38-40
Feedback, flow activities providing immediate, 30
Feelings. iee
5 Emotions
Ferenczi, Sandor, 65
work and, 36, 37, 3 8 , 59,
t O I-9, 1 5 7"
Flow activities, 30, 3 3-34, 1 5 211
Focus. See Concentration
Folk art, 75
Fleming, A1exander, r04
Ford, Henry, 107
Flow, z8-34; abused children
Fortune, Reo, 89
and, 98- [ 00; adolescents
Foucault, Michel, W
and, r00- l O l ; challenges
Fractal geometries, I4Z
and skills in balance and,
Franklin, Benjamin, 8, 75
30-3 I , ' 5 Z 11; changing pat­
Franklin,John Hope, 61
terns of life and, 97-1 1 5;
Free time. See Leisure activities
concemratioll and, 3 1- 3 1 ;
constructive or destructive
Freud, Sigmund, 4, 1 3 5
Friends, 81-83; adolescents
purposes of, ' 3 9-40; con­
and, 4z, 8 1 , 83; concentra­
versation and, 1 1 4-15; cre­
tion and, 8 2 , 8 3 ; as destruc­
ative individuals, 4 1 , ' 5 1 11 ;
tive, 8 z ; withjn family, 85;
definition of, 28-29; in
flow and, 8 1 -8z; goals and,
family, I [ 0- - 1 3 ; flow activi­
1 3 7 ; mobility and sustaining
tics and, 30, 33-34, 1 5 2 11;
of, 83; quality of experience
frequency of, 33-34, 1 5 zlI;
of, 43, 1 5311. See a/so Rela­
friends and, 81-81; goals
and, 2 9-3 0, ' 3 7-38; growth
and, 3 1 , 3 2- 3 3 ; happiness
and, 3 1 ; Hell as sep:nation
from, [ 4 7 ; illustrations of,
Full}' functioning perSOll,
Rogers on, [ 38-39
Future, psychic cnerf,'Y invested
In, '47
97-1 0 1 ; immediate feed­
back from, 30; leisure activ­
ities and, 3 8-39, 66-69,
7 1 -74, 77; old age :md,
97-98 ; pain and, 46-47,
Gambling, as poor use of
leisure time, 65, 69
Gardner, Howard, 1 7 , 1 5 III
Gender differences: in experi­
[ 5 3'11 ; parenting and,
ence of work, 56-58, [ 5471;
I l Z - I 3; passive leisure and,
experiences shaped by, 6-7;
38-39; prevalence of, 98;
maintenance actlvlues,
psychic energy and, 3 1- 3 2 ;
10-1 1 ; in moods in Ellnilies,
psychopathology and,
43 , 44-45, 87-8 8; in self-es­
40--4 1 , [ 5 Z II ; relationships
and, 42, 8 1 -8 2 , [ 0 9 - 1 5 ;
teem and work, 56-58, ' 5411
Genetics. See Heredity
Glohal culture, strangeness of
strangers reduced by, 92
Goals, 22-25; constructive ver­
flow and, } 2 ; friends and, 43,
1 5 311; in lottery winners,
1 58/1i material well-being
sus destructive, 1 39-4Oi dis­
versus, 20; other feelings in­
covering new bases for
Auencing, 1 1-22; personal
transcendent, '40-47; East­
qualities related to, 2 0 - 2 ' i
ern religions on aoolition of
self and, 1 34-35; self-repons
to achieve happiness, 24-25;
of, ' 9""" ZO, 2 r , I Z 2 , 1 5 "1;
emotions and, 26; flow and,
sexual relationships and,
29"""30, 1 37-38; hierarchy of,
84-85, 1 5511
22-23; motivation and,
Hart, Lynn, 79
22-23, 25; prophets and, 141;
Hayworth, John, 58
psychic energy and, 23, 2 5 ,
Hedrich, Cynthia, 1 5 311
' 36--37; psychic negentropy
I Ieisenucrg, \Nerner, 45
and, 2 2 ; science and, ' 4 1 -47;
I-Iell, as separation from flow,
self-esteem and, 23-24, 1 5 ' 11;
thoughts and, 26
Good and evil, matter and energyand, 146-47, 1 5 8"
Henderson, Hazel, 116, '44
Heredity: emotions and, ,8,
5011; extroversion and, 100
Good life, illustration of, 2-3
Herodotus, 70
Gramsci, Antonio, 98--99
Hinduism: on abolition of goals
Greece. Stt Ancient Greece
to achieve happiness, 14-25;
Grooming: quality of experi-
on individual's position in
ence of, 37. 38, 39; time
social context, 1 3 , 79-80,
spent on, 9
' 5011, ' 5 511
Growth: flow and, 3 ' , 31-B;
Hobbies: Aow and, 67, 68;
ownership of one's actions
quality of experience of, 39i
and, 1 3 7-40
by teenagers, 1 1 8, 1 1 9-10;
time spent on,
Handicapped people, psychic
b disciplined by,
1 2 8-29, ' 5811
Happiness, ,8-22, ' 5 '/; au­
' z,
Holton, Nina, 95--96
I- louse, emotional profile of
rooms of, 44-45
Housework: quality of experi­
totelic personality and, 1 2 1;
ence of, 37, 38, 39; self-es­
as bottom line, 1 8-10i East­
teem and, 58, 1 5 111; time
ern religions on relinquish­
spelll on, 9,
ingofgoals for, 24-25;
everyday activities and, J 7,
39; extrovertS and, 2 2 , 94;
Humanistic psycholoh'Y, own­
ership of one's actions and,
1 3 7-40
Hunter-gatherers, productive
activities of, 1 5 011
Huxley, julilln, 143
7 5 ; flow and, 38-39, 66--69,
7 1-74, 77; lives centered
around, 71-73; nonrenew­
able energy use and, 75-76,
India, indhridual's position in
' 5 5 " ; ps)'chie energy and, 9;
social context in, '3, 79-80,
psychic entrop), and, 65--66;
' 5011, 155"
quality of experience of, 5,
Individuality: community and
37, 38-39; quality of society
spiritu;d values versus,
and, 76-77; societies rel)ring
1 3 2-B, 1 5 81/; experiences
on, 66, 69"""7 1 . 76; time spent
shaped U)" 7-8
on, 1 2 ; work and, 77; work
Ingclhart, Ronald, 58-59
combined with, 74-75, 77;
Inner requiredness, Maslow on,
work separated from, 63,
Intentions, 1 1 , 2 3 .
See also
Srt also Active leisure;
Passive leisure
L'Engle, Madeleine, '44
lmeraction. Srr Relationships
Liszt, Franz, 45
Intrinsic motivation, 2 3
Living: definition of, 2 , 4; past
Introversion, extroversion and,
93-96, 1 561/
Inuit: passive leisure and, 7 1 ;
work and, ) 2
integrated with science for,
3-4; uncontrollable factors
determining, 4.
See also Ex­
Locations, quality of experience
james, \"'illiam, ' S ill
Japan, individual's position in
social context in, 80
jung, Carl, 93, 1 5611
and, 43-46, 1 5 311
Lottery winners, happiness in,
1 5 81/
Love of fate, 13 8-40
Kakar, Sadhir, 79-80
Macberh,Jim, 71-]2
KJein, George, 108
Madonna (singer), 2 3
Maintenance activities, 9,
Ladurie, Le Roy, 5, 85-86,
10-1 ' , I Jj quality of experi­
ence of, 37, 38; time spent
Larson, Reed, 57, 88, 1 5 311
on, '0-1 1 . Su also Driving;
Leisure activities, 9, 12-1 J,
Eating; Grooming; House­
64-77; aeti,'e versus passive,
66--69; common people and,
Marcuse, Herbert, 84
75; difficulty of enjoying,
Marriage, 85, 87; !low in,
65-66, 75, 1 54"; experts and,
' I I- I ! .
Set also Family
,MarriOl, McKim, 1 5011
and, 37, 39; e..:trinsic,
Marx, Karl, 1 9, 5 1 , 70
goals and,
Maslow, Abraham, 138, 1 39
sic, 23; psychk entropy and
Massilllini, F:msto, 40-4 1 ,
lack of,
2- 2 3 ,
2 5 ; intrin·
3; work :md, 56
Movies: quality of experience
73-74, 1 5 211, 1 5811
M:I{crialism: community and
spiriru;ll values versus,
1 3 2-33, 1 581/; happiness ver·
sus, 20
Matler and energy. good and
evil and, 146--H, 1 5811
of, 39; time spelll on, 1 2 , 39
Nlozan, \,volfgang Amadeus,
Music making: flow and, 67--68;
quality of experience of, 39;
time spent on, 12, 39
Maya, passive leisure used by,
Native Americans, passive
Media consumption.
Sre Read·
ing; Television
Melanesia, work and, 5 2
Mendel, Gregory, 75
Mennonites, work and leisure
leisure and, 70-7'
N;l\'ajo, passive leisure and,
Nervous system, experiences
shaped by, j--6
activities combined by,
Nietzsche, 138, 139
Noellt:·Neumann, Elizabeth,
r\ len, productive activities and,
I I . Srt' IIlso Gender differ·
Mcntal operations. Set' Think·
No Exit (Sartre), 8 [
Nonrenewable energy, leisure
activities and, 75-76, [5511
Milner, Brenda, 1 24
Offner, Frank, 1 24
Mone}': happiness and, 20,
Old age, flow in, 97-98
1 5811; time as, 8-9
Monotheism, relativity and,
Oppenheimer, Roben.,!., 139,
1 5811
Optimal experience. Set.' Flow
Moods: in fami ly 43, 44-45,
87-88; solitude and, 90
Mothers: flow in, I l l ; self·es·
tccm in those working full­
time, 24, ' 5 1 11. See,t/so
Parenting; \Vomen
Motivation: adolescents lack­
ing, 5j-56; concentration
and, 27; everyday acth.Jties
Outcr required ness, Maslow
on, 1 38
Pain, flow and, 46--4 7, 1 5 311
Paraplegic people, pS}lchic en­
ergy disciplined by, 1 2 8-29,
Parenting, tlow in, 1 1 2-13. See
also 1\ lathers
1 77
Pascal, Blaise, 4
Prophets, goals and, 141
Passive leisure: active leisure
Psychic energy: autotelic per.
versus, 66-69; flow and,
38-39; as problem, 6-h 66,
68-7 1 , 76-77; societies rely.
ing on, 66, 69-71, 76-77; by
teenagers, 1 1 8-20. See nlso
Reading; Television; Resting
Past: reinterpreting truths of, 3;
science inrCb
J'f'3ted with, 3-4
Pauling, Linus, 62, 99-100,
109-10, 1 2 5-16
People. See Rdationships
Persian W"I"'S (Herodorus), 70
Personal care. See Groom i ng
PhenomenolOgical philosophy,
Pbmommoll ofMall, Tbe (Teil·
hard de Chardin), 143
Pluralism, strangeness of
strangers reduced by, 91
Pont Trentax (Italy), distribu·
don ofOow activities in,
Posrmodernism, self-percep­
li on of happiness criticized
by, 20,
2. '
Preliterate societies: solitude
and, 89, 1 5611; work and, 5l
Primates: tlctivities of, 5; social
conte:\:l and, 80
Priori lies, Stress reduced by set·
ting, 106-7
sonalit)' and, 1 2 3-26,
' 2 7-30, 1 5 711; for concentra­
tion, 27-28; emotions and,
15; experiences shaped by, 6;
family and, 88-89, I 10-1 3;
flow and, 3 1-32; future and,
'47; goals and, 23, 25,
1 36-37; leisure activities
and, 9; maintenance activi·
ties and, 9; parenting and,
I '2;
productive activities
and, 9; relationships and, 8 I ,
1 36-37; thinking and, l5;
work and, 103--6
Psychic entropy: autotelic pcr·
sonality and, ' 3 I ; concern
and humility reducing,
1 32-33; lack of motivation
and, 2. 3; leisure activities
and, 6j-66; negative elllo·
tions and, 22; reducing in
work, 103; solitude and, 89
Psychic negentropy, ' 5 I 'll;
goals and, 2 2 ; positive emo­
tions and, 2 2
Psychopathology, flow and,
40-4 ' , ' 5 W
Psychotherapy, self·k
and, ' 3 6
Public space, as social context,
13-14, ' 5011
Productive activities, 9-10, I I ,
' 3, ' jail; psychic energy
and, 9; quality of experience
Quality of experience, 35-49;
active leisure and, 1 2 1-22;
of, 5, 36, 37, 38; time spem
autotelic personality and,
on, 10.
1 20-2 z ; concentration and,
37, 39; creati\.Jry and, 4 ' ,
See also Conversation;
Eating; Work
1 78
Quality of experience (com.)
1 5011; extroversion versus in­
Sahlins, Marshall, 150"
trovcrsion and, 93-96, 15611;
Salk,jonas, 143
46-47, 1 5 311; driving and, 44,
flow and, 8 ' , 109-15; inabil­
Snmsknras, '-ndia and, 79-80
15 311; Experience Sampling
ity to fonn comminnents
Method snldying, 40-4 1 ;
and, I J ! ; psychic cnergy
Sartre,jean-Paul, 1 9-20, 8 1
Saudi Arabia, passive leisure
1 5 211; days of week and,
and, 7 1
1 79
Social lXlsition, expericnces
shaped by, 6-7
Societies, social context and,
1 3, 79-81, ' 5011, 1 5511
family and, 87-88; flow and,
and, 81, 1 3 6-37; quality of
40-4 1 ; happiness and, 37,
cxpcrience and, 42-43, 1 5 311;
Schmidt, Jennifer, 1 54'1
and, 90, 9 ' j com'ersation
39; leisure activities and, 37,
rcquirements for, 8 1 ; sexual,
Schoolwork. See Work
38-39; locations and, 43-46,
39, 84-85, 155"; societal dif­
1 5 311; maintenance activities
ferencesin, ' 3, 79-8 1, ' 5 011,
Science: goals and, 141-47; past
integrated with, 3-4; truths
and, 89-90, 1 5611; deleteri­
and, 37, 38; motivation and,
155"; strangers and, 91-93,
37, 39; productive aeti\'itics
1 561/; time spent in, 1 3-14,
and, 36, 37, 38; quality of lifc
1 50"; well-being and, 78-79;
and, 39-4 1 ; relationships
in work, 1 1 3-14; work ver­
of, 3
Self: development of sense of,
I B-Hi good life and,
Friends; Marriage; Solitude
self-knowledge and, 1 3 5-37.
Relativity, monotheism and, 142
See also Autotelic personality;
and, 35-36; time of day and,
Relaxation, flow and, 3 I , 15111
Responsibility: for humankind,
Self-esteem: goals and, 23-24,
' 3 1; science and, 145-46
1 5 1 11; housework and, 58,
ity of experience and, 39-41;
relationships and, ' 3-'4,
'5011; thinking and emotions
determining, 4; time alloca­
tion and, 9-13
Restaurants: quality of experi­
ence of, S, 39; time spent in,
12, 39
Resting: quality o f experience
of, 5 , 37, 38; time spent on, 9
15 til; working women and,
56-58, ' 54'1
Self-knowledge, ' 35-37
Spock, Benjamin, 1 3 2 , '44
Sports: flow :tnd, 67, 68; by
and, 84-85, 1 55"; quality of
Stern, Richard, 4', ' 34-35
Riesman, David, 93--94
experience of, 39
Strand, Mark, 62
Singer, .Jerome, 1 5 1 '/I
Skills: challenges balanced with
poor usc of leisure time, 65.
Rogers, Carl, 1 38-39
for flow, 30-3 1 , 1 5 2 11; chal­
15511; qualilY of experience
Romance, quality of experience
lenges matched with reduc­
ence Sampling Method
and materialism versus alle­
giance to, ' 3 1-33, 1 5811
Richards, .Maryse, 88, 1 5 3"
Roentgen, Wilhelm c., 104,
Rebtionships, 78-79; Experi­
Spiritual values, individualism
time spent on, 12
Rabinow,Jacob, 61, 1 2 5
Rccd,john, 63, 95, 106
Spiritual energy, 3
teenagers, 1 18, 1 1 9. 120;
Rathunde, Kevin, 15 611
9, 1 2
Sexual relationships: happiness
Singer, I., I 55t1
of, 37, 38, 39; tillle spent on,
enjoying, 43, 90-9 1 . See also
Selye, Hans, 15711
Rockwell, Norman, 93
Reading: flow and, 68, 69; as
preference for, 90; in prclit­
crate societies, 89; psychic
COntcxt, '4i tolerating and
sus, 1 09-10. See also Family;
and, 41-42, ' 5 311; systematic
riences determining, 8; qual­
153"; historical attinldes to­
ward, 80-8 t ; moods and, 90;
cntropy and, 89; as social
and, 42-43, ' 5 3 11; solimde
Quality of life: cOntent of expe­
ous effects of, 41-42, 89-90,
1 34-3); happiness and,
1 34-35; power and, 134;
rt:lation to other activities
Solitude, 89-93; concentration
of, 39
Roman Empire. See Ancient
Rooms of house, emotional
profile of, 44-45
IIlg stress, 107
Social context, 13-14, 15011; so­
cicul differences in, ' 3 ,
79-8 1 , 1 5 °11, 15511. Serf/Iso
studying, 78-79; c.'l:perienecs
Rousseau, jean-Jacques, 4, 79
Socializing. See Conversation
influenced by, 4, 5, ' 3- 1 4,
Ryu, Shintaro, 80
Social neoteny, 122-23, ' 5 7"
Strangers, 9 ' -9 3 , 1 56n; com­
munities :lnd, 92-93; fascina­
ti on with, 92; fear of, 91--92,
1 5611; pJur:llislll and, 92
Stress: matching skills with chal­
lenges reducing, 107; setting
priorities reducing, 106-7; in
work, 102, 106-7, ' 1 3 , 15711
Strllcture ofPsychological Well­
Being, Tbe (Bradburn), 1 5 ' 11
Studying, by adolescents, I , 8 ,
1 1 9. See ,J/so \-Vork
Suicide, solitude and, 89
Sunday neurosis, 65. 1 ; 511
Surroundings. See Locations
Talent: development of, 2 7-28,
1 5 111; solitude and, 9 1 , 1 5611
Talking. Su Conversation
Teenagers. See Adolescents
leisure activities separated
Unemployment, neb�ti\'e er
feclS of, 58-59, 1 5411. Set also
1 54'/; objective conditions
Valdc7,., Susie, 102-3
Veterans, destructiveness of ac­
tions of, 1 3 9
ing, 1 18, 1 19. 1 20; flow and,
experiencc of, 2-3, 36, 37,
actions and, ' 3 7-40
vVheeler,John Archibald, 94,
38, 39; time spent on, 9. 1 2,
' 44
\;Vomen: housework done by,
58; maintenance activi­
ties and, I I ; self-esteem and
Tcrkel, Studs, 1 5 711
Terrorist victims, psych ic en­
ergy disciplined in,
I T 3-14; rebtiollships versus,
Wanting, ownership of one's
leisure rime, 65. 69, 1 5 511;
quality of experience of, 37.
38, 39; rciuionships in,
Waddington, C . H., 1 4 3
\,Vells, Anne, 57, 1 5 1 11, 1 54'/
Theresa, Mother, 2 3
Thinking. 25-28; cause and ef­
fect and, 26; concentration
and, 26-28; emotions and,
work and. 56-58, 1 5 1 11,
54'1. Srt' also Gender differ­
\¥ong, A1aria, 1 5 311
Woodward, C. Vann, 1 16- 1 7
Work, 4cr-63; ambivalent atti
26; flow and, 67, 68; goals
rude toward, 4cr-63, 1 54'/;
and, 26; intelljgencc and,
daydreaming at, 9, 10; Expe­
27, 1 5 1ft; psychic energy
rience Sampling Method
and, 25-26; quality of life
studying, 49. 53-55, 57, 59,
and, 4
1 54'/; fumil)' and, 62-63;
Thompson, E. P., 8, 149"
finding novelty in, 103-6;
Thoughts. See Thinking
flow and, 36, 37, 38, 59,
Time: allocation of, 8-13,
1 501li autotelic personality
and, 1 2 7 ; money as, B-9
Time of day, quality of experi­
ence and, 46-47, 1 ) 311
61-61, 10 1-9, T 5711; gender
differences in experience of,
56-58, 154'1; goals and, 13/;
historical disrepute of, 60;
history of work and, 50-52,
Transportation. Set Driving
60, 1 54'/; leisure activitics
Truths, 3
combined with, 74-75, 77;
of, 59-60; psychic eller,!,'),
and, 103-6; p�ychi c entropy
reduced in, 103; quality of
Voltaire, 1 2
67, 68, 69; as poor use of
and, 56; negJtive effcct� of
unempIO)'lIIcnr and, 58-59,
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre,
Television: adolescents watch­
from, 63, 72-74; motivation
'09-10; reSentmcnl of,
101-6, 1 5 711; shaping to
one s rcqlllrcmenrs, 107-9;
s ress in, 102, 106-7. I T 3 ;
ume spelll on, 9 , 1 0 ; worka­
holism and, 63, 73; young
people and, 51-56, 15411
WorkaholiSIII, 63. 73
\-\Torry, flow and, 3 1 , 33
Yalow, Rosalyn, 104, 107
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