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The Autotelic Personality

by Pete on May 15, 2013

In our last post on the subject of flow, we mentioned the autotelic personality as something to be strived for. Flow is the most rewarding state to be in. Therefore, the more often you’re in flow, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of life.

She is not thinking about her tax return right now.

She is not thinking about her tax return right now.

“Autotelic” means “having purpose in and not apart from itself.” To be autotelic is to do thing for the intrinsic value rather than to do something for a rewards. This is one of the requisites for being in flow. As mentioned in the last post, one should not mistake intrinsic value for pleasure. Flow does not have to be pleasurable. A good example would be a rock climber. A rock climber isn’t necessarily feeling pleasure by climbing rocks. Rockclimbing can actually be quite frightening. However, while climbing, the rockclimber is totally immersed in the rockclimbing activity. He or she can’t think about bills to pay, or stresses of life, or whether or not the stove was turned off. The high challenge of rockclimbing requires full attention, and therefore complete immersion. This immersion is flow. This flow is easily found by the autotelic person.

“An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding. Because such persons experience flow in work, in family life, when interacting with people, when eating, even when alone with nothing to do, they are less dependent on the external rewards that keep others motivated to go on with a life composed of routines. They are more autonomous and independent because they cannot be as easily manipulated with threats or rewards from the outside. At the same time, they are more involved with everything around them because they are fully immersed in the current of life.” -Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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