Autotelism: The Path to a Life of Joy and Fulfillment

Your quality of life is not based on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.

~ Haruki Murakami ~

I learned a new word recently. I love when that happens.

The word is “autotelism.” It’s defined as the belief that any action has meaning and purpose within itself and not apart from itself.

Autotelism is when you sing because you like to sing. You are a vegetarian because you like being a vegetarian. You meditate because you enjoy meditating.

You do it because it’s there to do. You immerse yourself in it. You challenge yourself to do it to the best of your ability. You don’t do it to “get somewhere” or to please anyone else.

To illustrate, are a few of my autotelic experiences:

  • Skydiving
  • Camping in the mountains
  • Writing
  • Making a new recipe
  • Coaching
  • Tai Chi practice
  • Playing Pickleball

Can Any Activity be Autotelic?

I believe any activity can be autotelic, but it’s challenging. I tend to procrastinate on doing things I don’t like doing or doing activities that take me out of my comfort zone. I’m practicing ways to short-circuit my procrastination tendencies by challenging myself to turn them into autotelic experiences.

Take bill paying for example. Who loves doing that?

I’ve taken on the gratitude practice of writing “thank you” on every bill when I pay it. I think about how much I appreciate having a roof over my head, being warm, having lights and internet, and so forth. I create the possibility that the people who provide these services will get to pay their bills because I am paying mine.

I’ve transformed bill paying from being a dreaded chore into being something for which I get to experience gratitude, contribution, and appreciation.

Things didn’t shift overnight, of course. It took a while to reframe bill-paying from an externally based “should-driven” chore into an internally based “want to” or “get to” experience of autotelism.  The key to transforming any activity into an autotelic experience is your willingness to become internally driven rather than externally pressured.

How Do You Design a Life of Autotelism?

You may be wondering how this applies to designing and building your Sexy Second Act. One way to begin is by making a list of your autotelic experiences. What have you done for the fun and joy of doing them rather than from trying to achieve something or get somewhere?

Make your list as complete as you can. You may find that there are more of them than you realize. Once your list is complete, see if you can identify a theme or a get a glimpse of your core values. Keep adding to your list as you remember or have new autotelic experiences.

To show you how it works, here is how my list from above links to my core values:

Autotelic Experience

Core Value Core Value Definition
Skydiving Courage Dancing on the Edge of Uncertainty
Coaching Love Connecting Heart to Heart
Writing Communication Creating Synergy
Tai Chi Practice Sensuality Ecstasy in the Physical Body
Camping in the Mountains Exploration Savoring Life as an Adventure
Paying Bills Gratitude Appreciating Life’s Perfection
Visiting a Museum Joy Experiencing the world with Childlike Wonder


Do you see how you can apply this process to any activity? It takes time and dedication to work through this process of linking activities to core values to defining what they mean to you in achieving flow. But if you are patient and committed, you’ll have a reference point to return to whenever your life seems to go off track.

You’ll even be able to apply your theme or core values to activities that feel mundane or distasteful to you.

With diligence, you will likely experience an “aha” moment of clarity as you realize you’re onto something. You’re on your way to being in the flow of an exciting, thrilling, and fulfilling Sexy Second Act filled with autotelic experiences!

And of course, I’m always here to help if you’d like assistance. Schedule your complimentary consultation here.