Ah. So you spend the first two decades of your life being told that you’re special, that the future belongs to you.
Then, SPLAT! You hit the real world and realise JUST how low on the totem pole you are.*
The term [autotelic] literally means “a self that has self-contained goals,” and it reflects the idea that such an individual has relatively few goals that do not originate within the self.**
Hugh Macleod reflects how some, on realising they are not the centre of the universe, find themselves set free:
‘But for a lucky few, it comes as a moment of joyous, amazing liberation.
Because now you don’t have to pretend anymore. Because all that’s left is for you is do, is to find something genuinely useful for other people, or face starvation.’*
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies three practices employed by autotelic people to set themselves from from the ego self and become people able to transform their situations and circumstances. They practice unselfconscious self-assurance; focus their attention outwardly upon the world; and, are open to discovering new solutions
This brought to mind for me, Richard Rohr’s five elemental truths, gleaned from the rites of passage from traditional cultures (hence my doodle). They shout as loudly today as they ever have. Their intent is not to put people down but to liberate them to live life fully:
Life is hard;
Your are not as special as you think;
Your life is not abut you;
You are not in control; and,
You are going to die.
These are saying, Okay, got that? Now we’re ready to live:
‘they are not self-centred; their energy is typically no bent on dominating their environment as much as finding a way to function within it harmoniously’.**
Philip Newell points to life being richer where things happen between people rather than in people:
‘We find our true centre not within the limited confines of our own individuality, family, or nationhood but within the connections between us.’^
There’s a difference between just wanting stuff and needing to provide for the mission we’re on.
There is nothing contradictory between this and Csikszentmihalyi’s self which claims the autotelic person’s goals mostly originate within her or him:
‘A person who pays attention to an interaction instead of worrying about the self obtains a paradoxical result. She no longer feels like a separate individual, yet herself becomes stronger.’**