What is enjoyment?
No matter who you ask, from surgeons to chess players to dancers, what keeps them motivated is the quality of experience they feel when they are involved in the activity. This optimal experience has been defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, as FLOW.
The FLOW experience is described in almost identical terms regardless of the activity that produced it. Athletes, artists, scientists, surgeons, writers and ordinary working people describe the most awarding experiences with very similar words.
1. There are clear goals every step of the way.
2. There is immediate feedback to one's actions.
3. There is a perfect balance between challenge and skills, balancing the fine line between frustration and boredom.
4. Action and awareness are merged and we are fully focused in what we do.
5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
6. There is no worry of failure, we are too involved to worry.
7. Self-consciousness disappears.
8. The sense of time becomes distorted.
9. The activity becomes autotelic, that is enjoyable and rewarding per se. There is no reason from doing them except to feel the experience they provide.
In many ways, the secret to a happy life is to learn to get flow from as many of the things we have to do as possible. If work and family life becomes autotelic, then there is nothing wasted in life, and everything we do is worth doing for its own sake.