The Google Doodle for today honours Mihály Cskszentmihályi, a Hungarian-American psychologist who invented the term “flow” and pioneered the scientific study of creativity and happiness. Flow is the mental state of fully engrossing oneself in an activity. Focus, pleasure, and fulfilment characterise this condition of optimal performance and wellbeing.
On this day in 1934, in Fiume (then a part of Imperial Italy), Cskszentmihályi was born. The economic depression brought on by WWII made things difficult for his family financially. As a result, Cskszentmihalyi dropped schooling to support his family. Cskszentmihályi committed his life to learning the science of happiness because of the immense suffering he saw during the conflict. He looked to philosophy, art, and religion for guidance. During his research, he came across a Carl Jung lecture in which the psychologist discussed how the traumatised psyches of post-World War II Europeans lead them to imagine UFO sightings in the skies. He got into psychology because of this interesting study.
At age 22, he relocated to the United States to attend the University of Chicago and study psychology. During his graduate studies, he first became interested in flow after observing painters who were so engrossed in their work that they were oblivious to the passage of time and would ignore essential requirements for food, water, and sleep. The phrase “flow state” was born when several of his interview people used the metaphor of a flowing movement to describe their experiences. In 1965, he received his PhD in Positive Developmental Psychology.
The 1990 release of Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience led to its subsequent translation into more than 20 different languages. Presidents, business leaders, and coaches in sports have commended its scientific insights into the nature of productivity and wellbeing.
Cskszentmihályi later rose to fame at Claremont Graduate University as a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management. He founded the Quality of Life Research Centre and acts as co-director. The Clifton Strengths Prize and the Széchenyi Prize were just two of the distinguished honours he received. He was also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Happy 89th birthday, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi!
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