Thursday, June 17, 2010


Today's word of the day:

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 dull and meaningless 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.
-- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Utter coincidence to read something similar on another blog today.
Many folks have noticed a disproportionate percentage of science-type folks, graduate education, etc., and folks that are very driven, but not necessarily in the Type A-corporate sense. (In fact, often quite the opposite).
The new bit today, to me, was the concept of an autotelic personality, as it relates to flow.
Which is the direction of causality: are autotelic-type folks drawn to things (distance running, music/art, etc.) which fulfills their desire for a state of flow? Or does doing certain things that are sufficiently challenging and require sufficient dedication, which results in a state of flow, help develop an autotelic personality? I like to think it goes both ways. I do recall having moments of some more creative programming/software engineering that felt like this...regrettably, it's been awhile...

(Rhetorical) But, does that also mean there are millions of folks out there that just never experience this at all, in any sense?


  1. New to the blog. Interesting topic for sure.

    I think the reason why I am so attracted to running is because it allows me to dumb down my mind for a bit and just turn it all off and escape into my own little world for a bit each day. To me that is freedom.

    I think I might qualify as an autotelic individual and it has been a constant frustration for my boss because of it. Ha!

  2. Good to hear from you, Evan, I totally agree on what you say about excape and freedom. For a lot of people, though, if you're not spending time climbing the corporate ladder or buying new things, they don't understand it.

    I am certain you could happily qualify as an autotelic based on your blog where the only reward of some of your long runs is not getting eaten by a bear!

    Glad to see your blog is up and hope your health gets better soon, peace!