From the impoverished artist to the agile rock-climber, examples of autotelic acts (defined as “having an end or purpose in itself”) surround us in everyday life.
For the Autotelic person, who is described as having “a disposition to actively seek challenges and flow experiences”, the goal isn’t the main objective; it’s the process itself, which bears its own reward.
By seeking out and embracing situations that are highly challenging, and for which there is also a high demand for skill ability, the Autotelic person will always find themselves in a state of Flow.
Researchers have examined the types of personality traits which together create an Autotelic personality. Csikszentmihalyi et al., 1993 and Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2002 found that different, even somewhat opposing traits tend to be simultaneously present within the Autotelic persona.
These personality traits include “enjoyment and persistence; openness to novelty and narrow concentration; integration (seeking connection and union with others) and differentiation (seeking individuality and uniqueness from others); independence and cooperation” (Baumann, 2012: 167).
So, what set’s the Autotelic person apart from the crowd?
Firstly, the Autotelic person will generally have stimulating social networks and engage in activities that provide “challenge and support” (Baumann, 2012: 168).
Also, those with an Autotelic personality also tend to set themselves regular goals and be receptive to receiving feedback.
What is important to note here is that HOW something is achieved is just as important as WHAT was achieved. The HOW provides a rich source of information from which one can learn and continue to develop.
The Benefits of an Autotelic Personality and the Future for Research
Autotelic individuals enjoy various benefits associated with such a positive outlook and approach to life. These include, but are not limited to:
Higher self-esteem and lower anxiety
Greater sense of fulfilment and satisfaction
Heightened sense of well-being and interpersonal relationships
Greater a sense of purpose because of the intrinsically rewarding nature of their activities
Greater propensity towards Meditation and Mindfulness techniques
Less dependent on external motivators and rewards
Whilst much research has taken place into the motivations of Autotelic people, I’m keen to explore this concept further and understand the impact on other areas of their lives:
How do they engage with their work to truly achieve job satisfaction?
If two Autotelic individuals are in a relationship, does that make the ideal like-minded couple? Are Autotelic parents more likely to nurture Autotelic children?
Do athletes with Autotelic personality traits out-perform those without these traits?
Will Autotelic employees consistently report more job satisfaction throughout their careers
Do Autotelic workers make the best leaders?
Can businesses cultivate an Autotelic mindset as part of their Organisational Culture?