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Happiness studies for humanists: what is the autotelic personality?

By Alessia Ianucci


An autotelic personality refers to an individual who has a tendency to engage in activities for their own sake, finding motivation and fulfilment in the activity itself rather than external rewards or outcomes. The term “autotelic” is derived from the Greek words “auto” (self) and “telos” (goal or purpose), indicating a self-contained activity that is its own goal.


People with autotelic personalities are characterised by their ability to immerse themselves in tasks and enjoy the process, often experiencing a state of flow – a concept introduced by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is a state of complete absorption in an activity, where one loses sense of time and is fully focused and engaged, often leading to high levels of personal satisfaction and happiness.


Key traits of an autotelic personality include:


  • Intrinsic motivation: Being driven by internal desires and satisfaction rather than external rewards, such as money, fame, or approval.

  • Curiosity and persistence: A natural inclination to explore new challenges and persist in activities even when they become difficult.

  • High levels of concentration: The ability to focus deeply on the task at hand, blocking out distractions.

  • Enjoyment of the activity: Finding pleasure in the process of an activity, not just the outcome.

  • A sense of control: Feeling in command of the activity and confident in one’s ability to handle challenges that arise.


Individuals with autotelic personalities often find that their activities lead to personal growth and fulfilment, making them more resilient to stress and adversity. This orientation towards intrinsic motivation and enjoyment of activities for their own sake is linked to higher levels of creativity, productivity, and overall well-being.


This article was automatically generated by ChatGPT.


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