Book Review: FLOW—The classic work on how to achieve happiness

Author: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Publisher: Rider Books

MRP: INR 599

Pages: 303

My rating: 4/5

Boredom, Anxiety, Dissatisfaction is common among individuals nowadays. You either put all your efforts in overcoming such emotions or you completely surrender to them. This book ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a classic work of winning the constant tussle between the highs and lows of life. It is a magnum opus when it comes to books of the same genre.

Excellently written, extensively researched and well presented, this book deals with human psychology. Mihaly has deciphered human emotions in totality and the examples supporting each situation and the state of mind makes it all the more powerful.

‘Flow’ as the name suggests is the psychic energy that flows effortlessly if your goals are clear. All one needs to do is deviate its psychic energy into something constructive, positive and by repetitively saying, “You are doing alright.” The sub-title of the book—“The classic work on how to achieve happiness” is captivating enough, but more than that are the chapters dealing with various situations relating to one and all. The chapters talk about how one can attain flow in different situations; flow at work, flow in solitude, flow in other engaging activities, and more.

The book does not preach you to do certain things while avoiding others. It rather helps you in confronting the day-to-day situations, reasons and ways to overcome challenges and maintain flow and happiness in life. It suggests that happiness is a constant thing and it should be inculcated. The more you involve yourself in the things you love to do, the closer you are to your goals and happier your life is. Now, these things are not the materialistic things always. You may love sports; get involved. The more you stay busy, the more you are away from the negativity that may otherwise crop up. If you are more into Yoga or meditation; do it often. Similarly, the author talks about simple pleasures in life-like music, sex, spending time with family and kids, relationships, etc. The book quite well depicts both sides of the coin when chasing for happiness and doing the things you love.

Aside to this, the book highlights the different ways in which people cope up in a stressful situation. It says, “The ability to take misfortune and make something good come of it is a very rare gift. Those who possess it are called “survivors,” and are said to have “resilience,” or “courage.” Mihaly has successfully listed down the ways in which one can bring and maintain inner harmony like:

  • setting clear goals,
  • getting deeply involved in the activity,
  • paying attention to what is happening that results in increased concentration, and
  • learning to enjoy immediate experience

The crux of the matter is that if you carefully choose your goals and abide by them courageously despite opposition, you will be so focused on the actions and events around you that you would not have the time to be unhappy.

After completing this book, I realized that happiness is a mere combination of art and science. Just like we use a paintbrush to paint on a canvas, similarly our thoughts paint our mind and force us into gloom or cheer. As the book clearly suggests that as a kid we are happier because we have lesser matters to ponder on and we are carefree. But, as we grow up, our mind has lots of information, experiences and acquaintances to ponder upon.

‘Flow’ don’t ask you to abide by the traditional methods to stay happy, it talks contemporary and practical. It contemplates us to understand the finer developments that the changing time has brought in. Like, earlier women were happier managing the household chores and placing the welfare of her family as her ultimate goal as there were very few choices at her disposal. However, nowadays a woman can be a businessperson, a scholar, an artist, or even a soldier. Mihaly says, “It is no longer “obvious” that being a wife and mother should be a woman’s first priority.

Similarly, mobility has freed us from the shackles to our birthplaces. He beautifully explains a practical approach towards life and happiness by saying, “If the grass looks greener across the fence, we simply move to the other field—How about opening that little restaurant in Australia? Lifestyles and religions are choices that are easily switched.” The only thing that’s important is to do things that keep you happy and in return keep everyone around you happy and positive. Happiness is the key and this book has everything to help you stay.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. On some occasions it seemed over exhaustive, however, it was worth the effort. In the end, I felt that I learned something and my efforts were not in vain.  This book has something for everyone. Read it now to know your happiness mantra.

Some interesting lines from the book

  • “Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.”
  • For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.
  • In the quest for happiness, partial solutions don’t work.
  • “If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”
  • When every aspiration is frustrated, a person still must seek a meaningful goal around which to organize the self.
  • The flow experience that results from the use of skills leads to growth; passive entertainment leads nowhere.
  • Studies on Flow have demonstrated repeatedly that more than anything else, the quality of life depends on two factors: how we experience work, and our relations with other people.
  • “The good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.”

Buy it online

Anupriya Mishra is a writer, an independent blogger, a voracious reader and a freelance journalist. Truly in love with life, she wishes to celebrate each day by contributing to her blog. Her passions such as reading, writing, traveling, and photography have their unending space on the blog, which is a true reflection of her personality. She calls herself, “Wanderer by choice, Writer by passion.” To know more about her travel escapades, take a look at the “Travel & Living” section of the blog. Moreover, she conducts reviews of books, movies, hotels and restaurants. She also has a penchant for Fashion, Lifestyle, Events, Promotions, Books, Music, Features and Poems, all of which find space on the blog.


  1. Ravish Mani July 9, 2015 Reply

Your comments inspire me to write. Do not think twice. :)