Will to Relevance
At no waking moment do the streams of thought and feeling stop flowing in our minds. There’s always something happening. We’re constantly considering ways to affect our surroundings, we continuously conceive a sense of our future selves, and we’re always imagining actions that might make those thoughts reality.
There doesn’t have to be a specific purpose to these thoughts; they may simply occur because we can’t stop thinking and feeling, so we must think and feel something.
When a single idea seems to stick in one’s mind, it isn’t just sitting there like an inert stone (and even a stone doesn’t just sit, but is held by an equilibrium of forces). Persistent and “stable” ideas are actually refreshed and held in place by thoughts streaming around. Even meditating “on nothing” is not a cessation of thinking but rather a channelling of consciousness into recurrent and regulated patterns (e.g. by focusing on the breath).
As discussed in the previous chapter, the fact that we tend to think of ideas as concrete, fixed objects is due more to cognitive bias than any real evidence. This essay is an attempt to correct, or overcome those — to think about thinking, knowledge, creativity, and motivation more effectively.
In itself, thinking can be a way to experience a sense of efficacy and relevance — specifically when opportunities in the physical environment aren’t as accessible or fruitful, i.e. when there is nothing around to act on, or when circumstances are too difficult to engage in, or when some insight has just occurred that generates thoughts that are more compelling than what’s happening in the real world.
On another level, there seems to be a natural tendency for people to interpret events as being more relevant to one’s self than what might actually be the case (especially if outcomes are positive).
Such “self-centredness” is understandable, given that we’re each irremovably placed, essentially, at the centre of our own unique world (or frame, or horizon, or whatever you want to call it). Most of what you experience does have something to do with you because you’re the one factor that’s constantly there. You’re the “usual suspect” who happens to be at the scene of virtually every event you experience.
But we learn to appreciate that even though we happen to always be at the centre of everything we experience, our world isn’t there because of us, or for our sake. We understand that things happen for other reasons, which don’t necessarily relate to us; but there are still other biases preventing us from making our explanations completely accurate. Factors like availability, salience, and vividness are what determine our immediate explanations (which isn’t to say we can’t learn to generate more objective patterns of thought that happen to be just as available, salient, and vivid as subjective ones).1
Conventional models of motivation and choice don’t handle these facts very well. This is where the Web as a metaphor becomes more useful. Specifically I use the concept of relevance — emphasizing the connotations coming from Google’s use of “relevance” as their scale for ranking web pages — as a metaphor for the connections we make and the meanings we derive from them.
Socially, commercially, and intellectually we constantly construct webs of connections through our lives, trying to place ourselves where the connections have the greatest continued effect, but the results or reasons for our connections are secondary — not ends-in-themselves, but rather means — to forming relationships with and among people, objects, and ideas, the process of which is purposeful in itself.
It’s as if we’re motivated by a kind of “will to relevance” that compels us to pursue the most meaningful relationships. Even placing ourselves in a position of contrast, tension, competition, dominance, and submission is a way of being conceptually or cognitively relevant — though perhaps not the most effective way (in the same way that electricity will flow through poor conductors, if poor conductors are the only means available for conduction).
The concept of will to relevance was the answer to a problem that had obsessed me on and off since my early high school years: What motivates us? Why do we do what we do? What makes us happy? I didn’t just want an inventory of various hungers and drives; I wanted to know the secret of human nature.
A second year university course pointed me to Nietzsche and his concept of “will to power.”2 For several years I referred back to that as a provisional solution — but not one that was ultimately satisfying.
Maybe I wasn’t satisfied because I didn’t fully grasp Nietzsche’s meaning (I’m not sure I do now, even). I tended to conceive it with excessive overtones of Hobbes and Machiavelli, who themselves had also been simplified by interpreting statements like “warre of every man against every man”3 too narrowly. I literally took “power” to mean objective power over people and things. Altruism was thus conceived as a “selfish” (and self-deceptive) kind of act with a selfish purpose (i.e. I wondered if good deeds are performed in order to feel superior to others, or to make others indebted for future benefits).
I was never totally confident about that “selfish” formulation of human nature, but I also wasn’t comfortable rejecting (or even ignoring) it merely because it was unpleasantly cynical. I was still very much open to the possibility that people gain something by being altruistic; I refused to accept the blindly optimistic fantasy that some people are often just nice and good (while others are just evil) without asking questions — as if no explanation would be needed or even wanted.
As my thinking matured (and as I actually read more of Nietzsche and tried to understand what he wrote, rather than just adorning my thoughts with misappropriated Nietzschean slogans), I began to rely less on over-simple dichotomies (like good-evil, selfish-unselfish); I started my own attempt at a “revaluation of all values” aimed at getting “beyond good & evil.”
The problem with the simplified good-evil accounts of human nature is that they ignore much of life’s temporal aspect. They treat people as hard, fixed, well-defined mechanical units, and once we conceptualize people this way, we feel compelled to attribute inherent, permanent qualities. But our behaviour is affected by all kinds of dynamic, ongoing, subjective processes and interactions that are difficult to define and control, and we should be prepared to adapt our conceptions according to events playing out over time.
So I stumbled on the term “relevance” to replace “power.” In my original notebook entry from March 1, 2005, I defined this unified idea of motivation, the “will to relevance,” as “the tendency of individuals is to persist to an (unknown) end of maximum social relevance — peer-level connections.”
Google’s search engine acts as a metaphor for this theory the same way that mechanical engines provided metaphors for early 20th century psychology, and, for that matter, the same way that older computing vocabularies in the mid-to-late 20th century provided metaphors for cognitive psychology.
A site’s ranking in Google is affected by how many links it has to it. The more links, the more important it is supposed to be — especially when those links come from sites that also rank high by attracting a lot of links themselves.4 So a substantial aspect of doing things online involves generating as many links to and from your site as possible, which means constantly updating the site with content that people will find useful.
It isn’t altogether different from what I suspect Nietzsche meant — it essentially means optimizing self-assertion — but “relevance” changes the connotations from domination and control (which have further become too saturated by mechanical metaphors), to something more organic like connectedness and meaning.
Mind you, connectedness and meaning may happen to manifest themselves as domination and control, but they don’t have to. Connectedness may also manifest itself as altruism, and sometimes it can occur via sympathy, or curiosity, or imagination — for example, coming up with explanations for behaviour, making predictions, and rehearsing for anticipated events. The key is that everything a person does gravitates, or is conducted towards optimizing our personal sense of autonomy and self-assertion — or, to paraphrase the U.S. Army’s old recruiting slogan, we’re all just trying to be all we can be.
It’s tough to appreciate the process because a person’s state of “being” is always becoming something else. We’re always occurring. It’s difficult to capture and convey this with words and images. Various philosophers — going all the way back to Guatama Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Heraclitus — have tried explaining that “being is becoming,” but these temporal explanations never seem to stick. Our spatial bias keeps drawing and anchoring us to fixed concepts. Our metaphors eventually fail; to appreciate being-as-becoming we have to practice using our own intuition and judgement.
Fortunately everybody can observe the process internally (albeit with varying degrees of accuracy); we all experience for ourselves how something difficult or off-putting one moment can become simple and desirable via a few intervening thoughts and experiences (incentives, rhetoric, rationalization — any information that changes a situation’s choice architecture or fitness landscape5), occurring in the appropriate order, and vice versa.
It’s important to conceive these influences not simply as pushes and pulls, but rather as walls and channels that direct, conduct, and regulate our attention and energy as we move through the temporal world, without ever stopping. We never act from an inert state, and we never face a choice of doing something versus doing nothing; we’re constantly, currently in the process of doing or thinking something, and the choice is always among different ways to direct our attention and energy — which in a lot of cases means turning our attention inwards, to our own thoughts and stories, which we work over until an appropriate thought or circumstance compels us to direct our energy back outwards again.
What compels us to do one thing rather than something else is the relative difference in the feelings of personal efficacy we feel going into the decision. In other words, it’s as if we need to be constantly reminded we exist, and the way we accomplish that is to constantly do things and make connections that produce evidence of our own existence. We make choices that optimize the probability of continuing to feel relevant and effective through to the next instant — the way fluid and electrical currents always manage to find whichever route optimizes their flow.
The notion of efficacy was originally brought forward by psychologist Robert White in a classic article on what he called “effectance motivation.” White focused on children and animals engaged in exploration and play. He determined from existing experiments and observations that motivation in those activities can’t be understood in terms of primary drives (conceptions I would dismiss as too subject to spatial bias). He made a case for conceiving motivation as more of a process in which the subject interacts with one’s environment.
If anything is being “satisfied” in this process it’s our intrinsic need to feel effective and build competence. The whole notion turns on this insight: “Dealing with the environment means carrying on a continuing transaction which gradually changes one’s relation to the environment. Because there is no consummatory climax, satisfaction has to be seen as lying in a considerable series of transactions, in a trend of behaviour rather than a goal that is achieved.”6
It’s an obvious precedent to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s now-well-known concept of flow, which refers to the process of being fully absorbed in a challenging-yet-doable activity that requires concentration and skill but seems effortless, involves goals, and generates constant feedback and growth.
Complementing both effectance and flow is the notion of “intrinsic motivation” — or more specifically “self-determination theory” described by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. As with the ideas of White and Csikszentmihalyi, the need for competence is essential in self-determination theory. Deci and Ryan emphasized the importance of personal autonomy — i.e. to recognize that outcomes result from personal decisions, not from external interference.
Deci and Ryan also include the need for relatedness, or “organismic integration” — a process of assimilating from the environment, developing internal structures through a complex process of integration and differentiation, and accommodating oneself back out to the environment.7
At first glance these theories fail to address significant aspects of human psychology and behaviour — conscious planning and deliberation, for example — but I think we can overcome these apparent insufficiencies by considering that so-called “internal” experience is continuous with external experience. As Thomas Schelling put it, “the mind [is] a consuming organ.”8
We don’t have to be out interacting in the world to experience relevance (though when the opportunity is readily available, it tends to be the most effective way), because we can reminisce and reorganize our thoughts to maintain a sense of relevance despite the absence of external stimuli. When external circumstances aren’t satisfying our need to feel effective and relevant, we may still keep ourselves occupied by re-interpreting our memories and forming new associations in our minds.
We remind ourselves of things that happened to us in the past, we anticipate things that might happen to us in the future, and we conceive stories and reasons that place things in relation to each other — and ourselves in relation to them — and we develop a sense of ourselves as being relevant through stories and theories that we constantly maintain to assimilate and accommodate new experiences.
Both introspection and empirical research indicate that daydreaming and other cognitive experiences can feel as fulfilling as real events. Dan Ariely and Michael Norton dubbed this process “conceptual consumption,” describing it as so compelling that people are even willing to sacrifice the quantity and quality of real, physical consumption for the sake of a story or an idea. They suggest several examples: buying less-favoured food for the sake of variety, being seduced by product features to buy impractical devices, not repeating special experiences for the sake of preserving memories, feeling disgust due to imagined contamination, charitable giving, and thrill-seeking.9
Even suicide fits into this model10 — my interpretation of it, at least (perhaps not Ariely & Norton’s notion of conceptual consumption, which I mention merely for corroboration). It’s important to conceive suicide not as an opposition or denial of life, but as a kind of corrupted and pernicious attempt at self-assertion. When every idea and initiative seems to generate negative or non-corresponding feedback for a person, suicide becomes a last-ditch option to assert personal autonomy. It doesn’t exactly “generate a sense of relevance through the next instant,” but at least it doesn’t generate a frustrating (and eventually intolerable) sense of irrelevance and inefficacy.
Applying the notion of “learned helplessness” — the sense of inefficacy or lack of control learned through negative or arbitrary feedback — is essential to understanding this process. Psychologists like Martin Seligman, Chris Peterson, and Steve Maier who’ve studied learned helplessness have paid special attention to how people’s “explanatory styles” can affect personality. Depressed people, for example, are more likely to blame themselves for negative outcomes.11
More interesting to me is the process by which explanatory styles — or more precisely, the explanations themselves — might crystallize and become persistent through a person’s life, and in a sense take on lives of their own, as memes, acting “selfishly” (to use Dawkins’s metaphor) to replicate and perpetuate themselves, thereby affecting future ideas and actions.12
For example, even suicide can be profoundly influenced by ideas and stories that emerge from prior experiences and explanations. Religious ideas, cult affiliations, notions of military honour, and the prospect of after-death rewards are well known to affect people’s willingness to terminate their own lives. The value that stories and ideas generate in the form of meaning, or relevance in our lives, is so important that in many cases we literally prefer to sacrifice ourselves, rather than sacrifice our ideas.
Other kinds of self-destructive behaviour have been explained in terms of “self-verification,” originally by William Swann. According to self-verification theory, people actually condition their environment (i.e. choose relationships and cue the people they interact with) in a way that reinforces self-concepts they already have — even if they’re negative — in order to maximize a sense of predictability and control (essentially the same principle underlying the notion of learned helplessness).13
My feeling is self-verification theory can be generalized simply as “verification theory.” People seem to gravitate into circumstances that are most likely to appear to corroborate their ideas about the world in general (and specific objects and people in the world), not just ideas about themselves — though, as I mentioned earlier, one’s self is the centre of one’s experience, and since everything experienced and conceived is experienced and conceived by the person, ideas about everything are infused (or shaded) with notions of personal relevance and at least indirectly contribute to one’s sense of self.
Just as ideas and stories can have ill effects on our subjective well-being, they’re also the means by which we bring ourselves up, make ourselves happier and more competent, and ultimately contribute to a better society. Just as we can use explanatory styles to learn helplessness, we can use them to learn optimism. Just as we can condition our circumstances to reinforce negative concepts, we can condition the world to reinforce positive concepts.
Dan McAdams’s research on “life stories” covers some of these notions together.14 Specifically he has developed the notion of “redemptive” life stories, which reinforce positive notions of overcoming hardship, fostering gratitude, good work, giving back and investing not just for one’s own future (and not just financially) but for the benefit of later generations and purposes greater than themselves.15
An especially vivid example of this (albeit perhaps a fictional one) is found in Plato’s Crito, in which Socrates argues it is better for him to be executed than to flee from Athens. Because he had invested so much of his life in the laws and culture of the city, if he fled he would be severing that connection — not just to Athens, but to the notions of reason and justice for which it stands, and which he spent his life fighting and arguing for. In other words, he sacrificed himself to save his life story — a story explicitly connected to future generations, and which profoundly influenced Western civilization through the personal narratives of its greatest thinkers.
Again, the key is to understand that people aren’t the basic unit of social and psychological development; rather, it’s more effective to appreciate that it’s ideas themselves (i.e. memes) defining the process. The question of altruism, for example, becomes easier to account for by saying that people make sacrifices for the sake of redemptive narratives (i.e. stories that espouse sacrifices for the sake of other individuals and society as a whole) or conceptual consumption, rather than trying to identify individuals as inherently altruistic (or non-altruistic) and then hoping to contrive sophisticated schemes for explaining exceptional behavior.
There’s a bit of a hitch here: I’ve been leaving a lot of ambiguity between “ideas” and “stories.” My definitions for both are very broad: “ideas” means any distinguishable unit of cognitive stuff, “stories” means ideas or combinations of ideas of events (or just one event) playing out over time. A story by my definition could be as simple as a statement of cause and effect. By that definition, “theories” are also stories.
Now there’s another difficulty: conceptualizing stories as memes. Some stories can be very complex and dynamic (especially life stories). Different people often come away from the same event with different stories, and we’re often still within stories while we’re still in the process of narrating them — so the story can change as we tell it, and sometimes it’s the act of telling a story that changes it.
It’s tough to imagine such amorphous stories as being analogous to gene-like replicators; there is too much adaptation occurring within the narrative process itself. But here we can mine digital media for useful metaphors. We can observe how snippets of text (or pictures or sounds or both) can be copied and recombined and propagated across the Web. We can see how comments become reputations, conversations become communities, tweets become blog posts — and perhaps eventually books (which is exactly how a lot of ideas found their way into this book and the story I tell about it; the book is its own metaphor).
We can learn to intuit the processes through which memes proliferate and associate with each other to affect decisions, beginning by determining the choices present in circumstances, then the way in which a person’s attention will be drawn to each of them, the way in which they will be conceived, etc. For example, joining a Facebook group might change the ads you’ll see. Using a specific word on Twitter could lead to a few new followers, which could lead to new friends, which changes the stream of information you see flowing around you, which changes the kinds of comments you’re likely to make in the future, which will change how you appear in searches, and so on. Every click, link, and like we make online changes the system somehow, which reflects back to us.
Our physical, social, and conceptual actions have always occurred like that. Both the content and the manner of our communications can affect what people think and feel about us, consequently influencing how they approach us (if at all) and what sort of opportunities they’re willing to present.
On one level, relevance on the Web isn’t merely a metaphor for motivation; it’s an actual demonstration. The Web is a laboratory where we can watch the will to relevance play out, both in real time and cumulatively, as people click and share links, find and be found, develop relationships, and cultivate communities.
Online relevance means more than just maximizing subscribers and links, it’s also about optimizing the appropriateness, context, integrity, vitality, richness, and reciprocity of those connections: it’s about how effective and alive our relations are. The value of the subjective relevance of Kevin Kelly’s proverbial “1000 true fans”16 and a dozen genuine friends may be far greater than the value of the objective relevance of 1,000,000 Twitter followers or 5000 Facebook “friends.”
There has been some discussion about the value of followers on Twitter who come by way of a list that automatically suggests popular users to new registrants. People popular enough to get on the list saw their follower statistics skyrocket, but at least one prominent blogger made a case that while the numbers are high, the people they apparently represent are not actually engaging.17
Briefly turning the discussion back to political philosophy, consider authoritarian dictators who may have a lot of objective relevance in the number of people under their thumb, but their subjective relevance may be fairly low. They don’t necessarily interact meaningfully — not just despite being able to dictate to anyone, but because of that, there can be a lack of genuine engagement and reciprocity. And in a way, the mass population they rule over relates to them as merely one single connection.
Putting principles aside, it’s interesting to consider authoritarian psychology through the lens of effectance motivation and the will to relevance. Remember that what’s needed is a constant stream of feedback. If you control everything, if your connections aren’t free to generate connections on your behalf or develop more relevance autonomously (which would increase the relevance they feed back to you), then eventually you find yourself on a treadmill of diminishing returns, having to do more and more — likely tending to be increasingly despotic — to maintain the same sense of relevance.
Likewise for all the people living under an authoritarian regime, or even working in a large organization, or just temporarily part of an audience assembled around a common, central or frontal focal point (e.g. attending a movie, a concert, or a lecture): there are connections, but they don’t distinguish any individual from any other so they don’t generate a very deep or enduring sense of relevance.
Comparatively, well managed Facebook and Twitter accounts generate continuous streams of experience that are appropriate, vital, rich, and reciprocal — relevant. But Facebook can still fall way short — especially if it isn’t managed properly. It often favours the immediate and superficial — games like Farmville and Mafia Wars — becoming another hedonic treadmill.
As tools and practices for managing these applications develop, those criticisms are less true now than they were even a year or two ago. Facebook has improved its filtering so people only have to see what’s most interesting and useful — away from games, more towards conversations (or at least comments). This demonstrates my point even further: we need connections that are meaningful, substantial, and dynamic. We may often be seduced by passing fancies and immediate gratifications, but eventually we need relationships and communities that (while they’re impossible to control, and often generate uncertainty) eventually develop a kind of life of their own, extending beyond our own personal will, generating more value than what we put in, working on the principle of investment.
Think about the kind of happiness that comes from love and belonging. Marriage and family relationships generate a lot of personal relevance — relevance that lives and grows with us (rather than more temporary kinds of push-button relevance, which incur constant costs of attention that deliver diminishing returns). When we identify with people so closely there is a lot of high quality relevance experienced vicariously, or in sympathy with them — experiencing their successes (and failures) and growth as part of your own success and growth.
Your kids will grow up to have their kids, proliferating on your behalf the connections and human relevance you have in the world. Think of a grandparent watching a grandchild playing. Think of how much emotional capital and subjective relevance is infused in that experience. While the child is inclined to explore and do all sorts of mischievous, arbitrary things to experience a sense of efficacy, the grandparent experiences the same scene as affirmation. In a way, the child is their effect and a constant source of feedback — a reminder that they’re alive and have a relevant place in the world.
Religious beliefs and other sorts of cultural values and principles are perhaps more interesting. It may be suggested that religious people are happy because they are integrated into a support community, or they tend to live less stressful lives; but consider the sense of relevance experienced by true believers: every event is potentially another reminder and apparent verification of their belief, and a justification of their existence.
Seeing our stories and ideas validated by events in the real world is a satisfying experience. Sometimes a little creative interpretation is required to make our beliefs accord with reality (and vice versa), but that creative aspect is largely what makes it so gratifying. It’s like a conversation. It’s about developing a kind of rapport with the universe. Just as a proud grandparent experiences joy in identifying with their grandchildren, a true believer experiences joy in every turn of fate, confident that their God is behind it all.
We’re learning that people aren’t motivated just by money and trophies but by the process itself. People want meaning — i.e. a sense of touching the means to something greater than one’s self — and a sense of relevance that comes not only from static trophies and particular accomplishments (though those are still essential) but from life itself as it occurs.
If you conceive yourself as a stable unit — something like a billiard ball or a car — rolling, bouncing, and “driving” towards goals across a landscape, you’re not leaving much room for personal growth. We’re more complex, ambiguous, and dynamic than our conventional assumptions about our selves. We’re more like snowballs, changing and being changed by the landscape as we move through it. But even that fails to represent life’s fluid and emergent character.
This process also helps us understand learning more effectively. Consider Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of flow again, as it “fosters the expansion of an individual’s set of enjoyed pursuits,” rather than simply satisfying drives.18 In other words, because we’re constantly learning and adapting through the process, it’s difficult to predict from one moment to the next precisely how compelling or doable an experience will be, because different experiences affect a person’s preparedness for other experiences.
When we develop new skills and work up to new challenges, we’re not just experiencing relevance, we’re also making it easier to find and manage relevance in the future. Learning means investing in relevance — which means investing in long-term happiness. It makes us more effective, which doesn’t just mean we increase productivity and reduce anxiety; effectiveness and relevance are essentially ends in themselves.
1The academic book to read is Judgement Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases (1982), by Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic, and Amos Tversky.
2See Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil, especially sections 13 & 36.
3Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651, 1985 Penguin): p. 185.
4Outlined by Larry Page & Sergey Brin (with their thesis advisors, Rajeev Motwani & Terry Winograd) in “The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web” (1998), at http://ilpubs.stanford.edu:8090/422/1/1999-66.pdf
5“Choice architecture” is borrowed from Thaler & Sunstein’s Nudge (2008) referring to how options are presented to, or “framed” for people. “Fitness landscape” is borrowed from biology, referring to peaks and valleys of optimal evolutionary fitness. The concept originated with Sewall Wright, “The Roles of Mutation, Inbreeding, Crossbreeding, and Selection in Evolution” (1931). Also conceived as “design space”; see Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1991) by Daniel Dennett.
6Robert White, “Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence,” Psychological Review, 66 (September, 1959).
7See Chapter 5 of Deci & Ryan’s Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior (1985).
8Schelling, “The Mind As a Consuming Organ,” published in Choice and Consequence (1984).
9Ariely & Norton, “Conceptual Consumption” in the Annual Review of Psychology, 60 (2009): p. 475 – 499.
10This is not clinical psychology, so suicide is something I hesitate to touch on, but because it would very easily be guessed to contradict and disprove my general theory, I can’t simply pass over it.
11Peterson, Maier, and Seligman, Learned Helplessness (1993).
12Daniel Dennett provides a good introduction to the notion of memes, aka “cultural symbionts” in Freedom Evolves (2003): Chapter 6, “The Evolution of Open Minds.”
13William Swann et al., “The Allure of Negative Feedback: Self-Verification Strivings Among Depressed Persons,” in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 101, No. 2 (May 1992): p. 293 – 306.
14Covered by Dan McAdams, “Personal Narratives and the Life Story” in Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research, ed. Robins & Pervin (2008): p. 241 – 261.
15“The Redemptive Self: Generativity and the Stories Americans Live By,” Research in Human Development (2006): p. 81 – 100.
16“1000 True Fans,” by Kevin Kelly at kk.org/thetechnium (March 4, 2008).
17“Nobody Has a Million Twitter Followers” by Anil Dash at dashes.com (Jan. 5, 2010).
18“The Construction of Meaning Through Vital Engagement” by Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi in Flourishing, Haidt, ed. (2003 [my emphasis]. The Evolving Self (1993) is the book to read on flow as it relates to complexity science.