"Without disinterested interest life is uninteresting"
"Without disinterested interest life is uninteresting."
This is a very clever and meaningful quote extracted from Czikszentmihalyi's book Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life.
The quote is from the chapter entitled "The Autotelic Personality". The word "autotelic" has it origin from two Greek words, auto, which means "self", and telos, which means "goal". A person with the autotelic personality therefore is one who finds the things he does or the experience he has intrinsically rewarding.
Czikszentmihalyi contends that most of us have learned to save up our attention to cope with the immediate demands of living, and there is little left to be interested in anything else that will not register as a gain on our ledger of immediate goals. This is what Czikszentmihalyi means by "disinterested interest", without which one's quality if life suffers. He suggests that we develop curiosity and interest in the early years of our life and make room in our life for wonder, novelty and surprise, for transcending the limits imposed by our fears and prejudice.
Czikszentmihalyi says that to be able to develop interest and curiosity to enjoy life for its own sake we need to have the ability to control our psychic energy. We also need to find the time. He therefore suggests two steps. First, we should develop the habit of doing whatever needs to be done with concentrated attention, with skill rather than inertia. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature but are the outcomes of the attention we pay to them. As one focuses on any segment of reality, an infinite range of opportunities for action opens up for our skills to engage with. Second, we should transfer some psychic energy each day from passive leisure into something we enjoy doing but don’t do enough. We should husband our time carefully, not so much in order to achieve wealth and security in some distant future, but in order to enjoy life in the here and now.
Czikszentmihalyi holds that attention is normally directed by genetic instructions, social conventions and habits we learned as children, but if we are to take over the ownership of life, the only way is to learn to direct our psychic energy in line with our own intentions.