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Complex Personalities: The 5 C’s

Posted by BestPractices on June 28 2011

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a brilliant psychologist began studies in the mid-1970s designed to identify the root sources of happiness in individuals from varying educational, financial and societal backgrounds. He made an observation that those who are able to replicate flow experiences have what he called complex personalities, which he describes as comprising five fundamental characteristics known as “The 5 Cs.”

1.Clarity. Those with complex personalities have a deep ability to retain a clear and intense realization, both as a whole and moment to moment, of their goals, real-time feedback concerning those goals, and the ability to read that feedback immediately as to their progress-or lack thereof-toward attainment of the aim.

2.Center. The ability to center, focus, distinguish feedback from distraction, and fuel feedback while extinguishing distraction is a key feature of complexity in pursuit of flow.

3.Choice. Of all the possible choices of action to be taken, which among them proceeds to flow? Complexity involves a continuous (if tacit) dialogue asking, “Why?” and “Why not?” The choice to accentuate flow experiences arises out of this dynamic tension.

4.Commit. Attaining flow consistently occurs for those who can not only follow clear, centered actions that have been chosen but also have the ability to care for and commit to the course of action. They never “go through the motions,” but are instead deeply invested in the outcome.

5.Challenge.The final characteristic of complexity is a seemingly innate ability to constantly “up the ante” in seeking further challenges and levels of attainment of more advanced goals over time. Having gotten to one level by meeting or exceeding difficult challenges, those with complex personalities then “reset the thermostat” to the next level and the next set of challenges. Or, as the saying goes: “There is no finish line-the victory is in the running!”

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