Strange as it may seem, life becomes serene and enjoyable precisely when selfish pleasure and personal success are no longer the guiding goals. When the self loses itself in a transcendent purpose—be it to write great poetry, craft a beautiful piece of furniture, understand the movement of galaxies, or help children be happier—it becomes largely invulnerable to the fears and setbacks of ordinary existence. Psychic energy becomes focused on goals that are meaningful, that advance order and complexity, that will continue to have an effect in the consciousness of new generations long after our departure from this world, even after we are long forgotten.

The knowledge that we are not alone, that we don’t have to defend our isolated selves against the rest of the universe, results in an intoxicating feeling of relief. We can act with joyful abandon, trying with the strength of all our fibers to reach the goals we have set for ourselves, yet ready to face failure with serenity. After all, why should our own goals take precedence in the enormous complexity of the universal mosaic? If they work out, so much the better. But we cannot really lose as long as our ultimate goals are at one with those of the cosmos. It is not only while playing an exhilarating game of touch football, or singing a beautiful tune, or becoming lost in painting a canvas that we will experience flow; flow will become the normal experience of everyday life, permeating everything that we do.

— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Evolving Self: A Psychology For the Third Millenium, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc, New York, 1994, pp. 292-293