“When people try to achieve happiness on their own, without the support of a faith, they usually seek to maximize pleasures that are either biologically in their genes or are out as attractive by the society in which they live. Wealth, power, and sex become the chief goals that give direction to their strivings. But the quality of life cannot be improved this way. Only direct control of experience, the ability to derive moment-by-moment enjoyment from everything we do, can overcome the obstacles to fulfillment.” (8)

“The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer.” (31)

“Attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.” (32)

“It is by becoming increasingly complex that the self might be said to grow. Complexity is the result of two broad psychological processes: differentiation and integration. Differentiation implies a movement towards uniqueness, toward separating oneself from others. Integration refers to its opposite: a union with other people, with ideas and entities beyond the self. A complex self is one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies.” (41)

“Pleasure is an important component of the quality of life, but by itself it does not bring happiness. Sleep, rest, food, and sex provide restorative homeostatic experiences that return consciousness to order after the needs of the body intrude and cause psychic entropy to occur. But they do not produce psychological growth. They do not add complexity to the self.” (46)

“We can experience pleasure without any investment of psychic energy, whereas enjoyment happens only as a result of unusual investments of attention. A person can feel pleasure without any effort, if the appropriate centers of the brain are electrically stimulated, or as a result of the chemical stimulation of drugs.”

“Loss of self-consciousness does not involve a loss of self, and certainly not a loss of consciousness, but rather, only a loss of consciousness of the self. What slips below the threshold of awareness is the concept of self, the information we use to represent to ourselves who we are.” (64)

“When not preoccupied with our selves, we actually have a chance to expand the concept of who we are. Loss of self-consciousness can lead to self-transcendence, to a feeling that the boundaries of our being have been pushed forward.”

“Paradoxically, a self-centered self cannot become more complex, because all the psychic energy at its disposal is invested in fulfilling its current goals, instead of learning about new ones.” (85)

“To avoid [psychic entropy], people are naturally eager to fill their minds with whatever information is readily available, as long as it distracts attention from turning inward and dwelling on negative feelings.” (119)

“The more a job inherently resembles a game – with variety, appropriate and flexible challenges, clear goals, and immediate feedback – the more enjoyable it will be regardless of the worker’s level of development.” (152)

“Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback, rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed.” (162)

“If a person does not know how to control attention in solitude, he will inevitably turn to the easy external solutions: drugs, entertainment, excitement – whatever dulls and distracts the mind.

“But such responses are regressive – they do not lead forward. The way to grow while enjoying life is to create a higher form of order out of the entropy that is an inevitable condition of living. This means taking each new challenge not as something to be repressed or avoided, but as an opportunity for learning and for improving skills.” (172)

“One way to describe the skills that every man and woman has is to divide them in two classes: the instrumental and the expressive. Instrumental skills are the ones we learn so that we can cope effectively with the environment…Expressive skills, on the other hand, refer to actions that attempt to externalize our subjective experiences…When involved in an expressive activity we feel in touch with our real self.” (188)

“Inner conflict is the result of competing claims on attention.” (225)

“Action helps create inner order, but it has its drawbacks. a person strongly dedicated to achieving pragmatic ends might eliminate internal conflict, but often at the price of excessively restricting options…the goals that have sustained action over a period [may] turn out not to have enough power to give meaning to the entirety of life.” (226)

“Activity and reflection should ideally complement and support each other. Action by itself is blind, reflection impotent.”