Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who described the ‘flow’ of human creativity, dies at 87

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist and best-selling author who coined the term “flow” to describe the sense of creativity that emerges from an intense absorption in a challenging activity, whether in the arts, sports, business or a hobby, died Oct. 20 at his home in Claremont, Calif. He was 87.

The immediate cause of death was cardiac arrest, said a son, Mark Csikszentmihalyi.

Dr. Csikszentmihalyi — his full name is pronounced “me-HIGH CHEEK-sent-me-HIGH” — was of Hungarian descent and came to the United States at 22. He spent much of his career at the University of Chicago, studying adolescent behavior while also searching for the source of creativity and inner satisfaction.

In 1990, he published “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” which became a bestseller and has been translated into more than 20 languages. It was cited as a favorite book by business leaders, President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, who held up a copy after the 1993 Super Bowl and said, “My team has won because of this book.” Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s 2004 TED Talk about the concept of flow has been watched 6.7 million times.

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