Books that Inspire Me: #13 Letters to a Young Poet
October 25, 2021
Books that Inspire Me: #15 On the Frontiers of Management Apparent Failure in the Middle
November 1, 2021

Books that Inspire Me: #14 Good Business Making Meaning in Times of Challenge

This is the 14th in a series of posts in which I share thoughts on a book that has inspired me over the years. 

The pioneering psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi recently passed away at the age of 88. He was a leading thinker and author on positive psychology and optimal experience. In my presentations on self-empowerment, I often refer to the research he shares in his book The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the New Millennium showing that if you are not consciously structuring your own inner dialog, it will automatically gravitate toward negative, frightening, and depressing thought patterns. Self-empowerment begins with being deliberate about the speech that you give to yourself all day every day.

In his book Flow on the science of optimal experience, Csikszentmihalyi says being in a state of “flow” is the most rewarding mental and emotional state. Consistently attaining that state, he wrote, is more motivating than either money or status. He characterized nine component states of achieving flow including: a balance between the magnitude of the challenge and the skill set required to meet that challenge; being acutely aware of the work at hand, both mental and physical; having a goal that inspires you and that that has a meaning bigger than your own personal benefit; immediate and unambiguous feedback; intense concentration on the task at hand, losing track of the passing of time; and autotelic (joy in the work for the sake of the work itself) experience. 

The flow state, he said, is reflected by the child in the playground who, when told it’s time to come home for dinner, can’t believe how the time has flown and begs for just another hour to play.

In a world where everything from Facebook to the shopping mall (or Amazon) to the gossips in the breakroom is trying to steal your attention, the ability to achieve flow by concentrating on one activity for an extended time is the key to achieving your most important life goals – and to finding joy in the process.

This coming Thursday I will be one of the final speakers at the 2021 Congress of the International Council of Nurses (ICN). It will be attended by thousands of nurse leaders from around the world. Nearing the end of the second year of the pandemic, many are overwhelmed and exhausted. I’ll be reminding them that “we’ve been here before” with lessons from Florence Nightingale’s invention of the modern hospital during the Crimean War, 

And I’ll remind them that, like Florence before them, they are called upon to be the sort of visionary leaders described in this week’s book excerpt.


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