I came across a little nugget of gold in the otherwise dross-filled YouTube recently. It’s a live discussion between Mih√°ly Cs√≠kszentmih√°lyi and Martin Seligman on the Charlie Rose show on the subject of happiness.
This is a little like overhearing a conversation between Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler talk about playing the guitar…
For those of you who don’t know, these gentlemen are two of the biggest names in the contemporary self-help movement. Having said that, they are both professional psychologists and respectable academics, so don’t be too sore on them.
Cs√≠kszentmih√°lyi is famous for discovering the concept of ‘flow’. Flow is a mental state of complete concentration, when a task requiring skill totally absorbs the person undertaking it. In such a state they are intrinsically motivated to accomplish their task, and as such gain a feeling of great fulfillment, freedom and enjoyment. In a word, flow makes people happy. Very happy.
Seligman is the leader of the Positive Psychology movement in the US. He attempts to focus his research on human wellness rather than the usual emphasis on mental illness. ‘Learned helplessness’ is contrasted with the counter-intuitive concept of ‘learned optimism’. Seligman insists that happiness is a skill that can be acquired through training, just like any other.
The first part of the video is about the Palestinian Presidential elections. So move on to 28 mins to get to the relevant stuff. It makes for fascinating viewing!
2 thoughts on “The Sultans of Happiness”
[…] on the helpfulness of the ‘reality versus game’ dichotomy we live by after re-reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Here’s what he says: “The more a job inherently resembles a game – with variety, […]
[…] …whose energy comes from within and who is satisfied with their own company; utter boredom is rare. They are not necessarily quiet, though some are. But, then they are not usually the centre of attention either. They may strongly prefer to be alone; alternatively they may like regular company, but of their own choosing, and often limited. But, they will normally feel exhausted after hours in the company of others, especially in large, loud groups. They may or may not be a Highly Sensitive Person. I am greatly emotionally affected by music, smells, places, memories, the atmosphere in a room and the emotions of others; this can be occasionally debilitating and embarrassing. Introverts may read or listen to music frequently or enjoy creating with their hands. They will generally demonstrate longer attention spans than average, and find it easier to get into the flow. […]