How to Focus Better and Enjoy Your Work More

Bill Abbate

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Those of us who write regularly often do so for the pure pleasure of writing. Many of us do it for the product we create and will do so even if there is no reward. Many professionals experience their work the same way.

Those in sports and some leaders and businesspeople work purely for the satisfaction it brings them. They do not do it for selfish gain. They enjoy the journey more than the end goal. They often gain anyway, but gain is not their main goal, as gain is not what motivates them. Their drive is more internal, as is true for many of us who write.

While you may think it would be nice to work for highly internally driven people rather than those driven by external results, not so fast. An internally driven person can create just as much chaos in a company as an externally driven person. Being too internally or too externally focused is not necessarily a good thing.

What is an Autotelic?

Let's look at a word you may or may not be familiar with yet is highly relevant to the work you do. That word is autotelic.

Autotelic is derived from two Greek words. In Greek, autos means "self," and telos means "end" or "goal." Therefore, autotelic simply means the goal, objective, or purpose is within itself. In other words, you do something for the reward or enjoyment of the doing. Your drive is internal rather than external, so you are not influenced by outside motivating forces such as money, fame, comfort, or power. As an autotelic, you are usually curious and may possess a sense of purpose in what you are doing.

How autotelism shows up

Are you one of those driven, get it done for the sake of getting it done, personalities? These are the type of people who easily become so absorbed in their work that time becomes irrelevant. The only thing that matters to them is the work at hand. The satisfaction of doing the work for its own sake is what drives them, not some larger goal. You find it an easy matter to enter a state of flow. You are the curious type of person who can be very persistent, living to do whatever it is that interests you.

What we have just described is a person with an autotelic personality. If you have ever experienced a state of flow, you have had an autotelic experience.

As a writer, I often experience this state, where I become so absorbed in what I am writing things seem to flow. The words pour out effortlessly from my mind to my fingers through my keyboard onto the screen. In what seems like no time, I have created another draft of something about which I feel great.

If I could only extend the flow through my editing process. Now that would be amazing and is something I will work on! While I enjoy editing, it is not as much fun as writing. Maybe it's not meant to be. For now, perhaps, but not always!.

Those who possess somewhat of an autotelic personality find it easier than most to enter a state of flow. In a state of flow, we become so involved in what we are doing, so focused and energized, we enjoy it so much the work becomes effortless. It is a wonderful thing that can make a person highly productive or highly effective in sports.

"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. 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." Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

How to become more autotelic

To become more autotelic in your life, try the following two things:

  • Find what you love and get great satisfaction from when you do it. Do more of whatever it is when you can. Find ways to inject what you love to do for even a few minutes each day. When you do, you will receive enjoyment that eclipses anything else you do.
  • Practice mindfulness, especially being fully present. Forget all but the present moment, and begin doing what you love.

When you find and practice these two things, doing what you love and being fully present, you will more easily enter the autotelic state of flow.

Practice these steps to enter the autotelic state of flow as often as you can, and you will create more rewarding experiences and eventually a more rewarding life!

Final words

When you are more internally than externally driven, you likely have autotelic tendencies. You are the type of person described as:

"They are more involved with everything around them because they are fully immersed in the current of life." Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

You can learn to improve your autolytic abilities and enter the amazing state of flow in life more often over time. All you have to do is intentionally practice being fully present while doing what you love. Can it be that simple? Yes, but that doesn't make it easy. But if you want it bad enough, you can do it!

I better get to work to find a way to enter the state of flow when I edit to expand my love for writing into editing. Wish me luck!

If you would like a little homework to help you further develop your autolytic abilities, check out Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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