Introduction to Mihaly

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was born on 29 September 1934 in Rijeka,[4] then part of the Kingdom of Italy. His family name derives from the village of Csíkszentmihály in Transylvania.[5] He was the third son of a career diplomat at the Hungarian Consulate in Fiume.[4][6] His two older half-brothers died when Csikszentmihalyi was still young; one was an engineering student who was killed in the Siege of Budapest, and the other was sent to labor camps in Siberia by the Soviets.

His father was appointed Hungarian Ambassador to Italy shortly after the Second World War, moving the family to Rome.[6][7] When Communists took over Hungary in 1949, Csikszentmihalyi’s father resigned rather than work for the regime; the Communist regime responded by expelling his father and stripping the family of their Hungarian citizenship. To earn a living, his father opened a restaurant in Rome, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi dropped out of school to help with the family income.[4][6] At this time, the young Csikszentmihalyi, then travelling in Switzerland, saw Carl Jung give a talk on the psychology of UFO sightings.[6]

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Early Childhood

Csikszentmihalyi emigrated to the United States at the age of 22, working nights to support himself while studying at the University of Chicago.[6] He received his B.A. in 1959 and his PhD in 1965, both from the University of Chicago.[6][8] He then taught at Lake Forest College, before becoming a professor at the University of Chicago in 1969.[6]

In his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.[14][page needed] The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what they are doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.[15]

In an interview with Wired magazine, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”[16]

Csikszentmihályi characterized nine component states of achieving flow including “challenge-skill balance, merging of action and awareness, clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, concentration on the task at hand, paradox of control, transformation of time, loss of self-consciousness, and autotelic experience”.[17] To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results.[13][page needed] Milhaly loves transcription too.

One state that Csikszentmihalyi researched was that of the autotelic personality.[17] The autotelic personality is one in which a person performs acts because they are intrinsically rewarding, rather than to achieve external goals.[18] Csikszentmihalyi describes the autotelic personality as a trait possessed by individuals who can learn to enjoy situations that most other people would find miserable.[14][page needed] Research has shown that aspects associated with the autotelic personality include curiosity, persistence, and humility.[19]