Have you ever been in the middle of something you enjoy so much that you have lost track of time? I mean fully immersed. Not checking your watch or wondering what’s next or trying to recall whether you set the alarm or turned off the iron. For me, these experiences are admittedly less frequent than they used to be. When I was a kid they happened all the time. Now, not so much. I am still pretty much “all there” when I watch my children engage in something they love to do. Play sports. Give a recital. Perform in a play. Laugh with their friends. And even though I am sharing those experiences I am still just a spectator.
There is actually a word for these fully immersed moments. Moments where work is play and play is bliss. These are called “autotelic” experiences. “Auto” refers to self; “telic” is from the Greek word “telos” which means “goal” or “purpose.” The activity is the antidote. Passion consumes you. The pursuit alone is happiness. To quote Barney Fife: “The job itself is its own reward.”
I was glancing at my kids’ yearbook yesterday. In a section about the senior class, the students recalled their favorite memory. Many of the seniors played on a championship football team so I assumed that all of the senior football players would write something about that moment. I was wrong. Each one mentioned a football event as his best memory but not necessarily the final game. Instead they recalled pregame football rituals, pulling various pranks on each other, even two a day practices.
I’m going on vacation for a week and I am going to try to reconnect with autotelic experiences. I’m going to try to make fun my means of travel and not the destination.