Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has spent his career researching creativity, happiness, subjective well-being, and fun. He is currently the C. S. and D. J. Davidson Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University in California. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1965. Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “chick-SENT-me high”) was born in Hungary in wartime Europe. His theories about “flow” and the psychology of optimal experience have transformed psychology as well as other fields, such as business management and leisure sciences. Csikszentmihalyi’s most important books include Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Creativity, Finding Flow, and Good Business: Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning.

Csikszentmihalyi’s research has had wide influence. He has served on boards and commissions such as the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Social Science Research Council. He also has served on editorial boards and reviewed manuscripts for journals in areas such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, business management, and leisure sciences. Csikszentmihalyi has held visiting professorships in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Italy, United Kingdom, and Finland. He is also a member of the American Academy of Education, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Leisure Sciences, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He was the 1990 recipient of the National Recreation and Park Association’s Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Excellence in Research Award and has received two Senior Fulbright Fellowships.

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Csikszentmihalyi is well known for his forays into positive psychology and the examination of constructs like happiness, creativity, and flow. Flow is the term he coined to describe the state of being that results in a ardent involvement in life. Flow has been reported by people in all areas of work and leisure. It is often cultivated through artistic involvements, sports, and meditation arts, but it also can occur in work. Flow is associated with happiness and a desire for a meaningful life. People want to replicate this intrinsic mental state of flow as often as possible. Time changes, slows, and becomes different. People in flow are totally focused on what they are doing. For flow to occur, however, goals, feedback about progress toward the goals, and challenge must be appropriate to an individ-ual’s skills. Csikszentmihalyi demonstrated how work or leisure activities that are enjoyable provide a feeling of accomplishment and competence. If a task is too easy, boredom may occur. If it is too difficult, the result is anxiety. The happiest people spend a good deal of time in a state of flow in which they are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.


  1. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Beyond boredom and anxiety. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.
  3. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Creativity. New York: HarperCollins.
  4. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I. S. (2006). A life worth living: Contributions to positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

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