The state of happiness arrives when you stay preoccupied deeply with the moments of your life, professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote in his book titled “Flow.”
In the early 1990s when I studied at the University of Chicago, I first got to learn what psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as “flow,” meaning a psychological state of being fully focused even losing track of time, space, and even self-consciousness. It seemed unfamiliar at first glance, but I could grasp the concept by thinking of being in a trance. He argued that being focused or “flow” can lead you to a happy life. His message was well-received by U.S. readers from all walks of life. Highly acclaimed, his book became one of the bestselling books.
With that in mind, I want to ask a question. Is South Korean society a happy place to live in? The country ranked 59th in the World Happiness Report 2022 issued by the United Nations. The results imply that South Korean people are not as happy as generally expected for the country’s economic status. Since several years ago, the Millennials and Zoomers have led the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) and YOLO (You Only Live Once) movements to find the magic of happiness in little things in life. The followers of the former movement aim to lead a happy life by earning large amounts of money as early as possible so that they can retire at an earlier age. Those in the latter focus on what makes them happy immediately and in the present, such as traveling, hobby activities, pastimes, and dining experiences, because we only live every moment just once. The contemporary tendencies represent the younger generations’ mentality that working is all about earning money, unlike their parents who put their work life first.
However, happiness is not the same as a mere feeling of joy and excitement. You never feel truly happy by merely having some rest and enjoying pastimes. Professor Csikszentmihalyi also found that you are more likely to be engrossed in your life while working than during free-time activities. Indeed, you can reach an absolute level of happiness and satisfaction only when you are focused on work. The ability to concentrate comes from the strength of your inner ego. Furthermore, that power from within is the key to turning growing pain into a pleasant and worthy experience.
In a nutshell, the ultimate level of happiness comes when you throw yourself into a state of focus, exerting your physical and mental strength and stamina to the fullest to achieve a difficult but valuable goal.