Share This Post

16th Oct, 2023

Autotelic activity is one we do for its own sake because to experience it is the main goal rather than to achieve some external goal.

From the Greek auto (self) & telos (end)—an Autotelic is “someone that has a purpose in, and not apart from, itself.”

As opposed to someone who focuses on rankings, titles, and external expectations—for an Autotelic, “Doing the work is the win and everything else is extra.”

Days after losing in the 2010 French Open, Novak Djokovic told his coach, Marián Vajda, that he has decided to quit playing tennis.

He was No. 3 in the world, a grand slam winner, and a favourite to win Wimbledon.

Vajda asked, “Why did you start playing this sport?”

He immediately sensed the problem: Djokovic was focusing on rankings, titles, & external expectations.

As Djokovic thought about Vajda’s question, he realized: many of his childhood memories include his “most beloved toy”—a mini tennis racket and a soft foam ball.

He started playing, answering Vajda’s question, “because I just loved holding that racket in my hand.”

“Do you still love holding a racket in your hand?” Vajda asked.

Djokovic thought about it, got excited, and said: “I do, I still love holding a racket in my hand. Whether it’s a grand slam final on centre court or just playing around on a public court, I like playing for the sake of playing.”

Vajda nodded, “That’s your source. That’s what you need to tap into. Put aside rankings, what you want to achieve, & what you think others are expecting of you.”

Djokovic agreed that he would, “And I never looked back ever since that moment.”

The following season, Djokovic enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in sports history. He won 43 straight matches, including his first Wimbledon title. And he finished the year as the No. 1 player in the world.

“I started to play freely,” he says. “I became the kid that I was when I started playing.”

When reading about Autotelic—people who simply seem to love what they do—a mistake is to think that it’s all bliss all the time.

One of my favourite Autotelic is the legendary skateboarder Rodney Mullen, who said, “I see people with talent, with all those things, but the one thing they don’t have is just that love for doing it for the sake of it.”

“There are days,” Rodney said, “where you don’t want to go out. Or it hurts. Or you just suck—you’re not making progress, and you feel defeated, but that’s the nature of love—it’s got hate in there, it’s got pain in there. And that’s what draws you in, that’s the magnetism.”

During the recent Wimbledon final, Djokovic angrily smashed and shattered his racket. And after losing the match, he admitted it will take him a while to get over the loss.

That’s the nature of love —it’s got hate in there, it’s got pain in there.

Don’t be bothered only about winning, follow your passion, play the game because you love it & stay blessed forever.