Autotelic is used to describe people who are internally driven, and as such may exhibit a sense of purpose and curiosity. This determination is an exclusive difference from being externally driven, where things such as comfort, money, power, or fame are the motivating force.
(Doug Beshaw commenting on ideas contained in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal work Flow: the psychology of optimal experience.)
The idea of ‘Flow’ seems to be the balance point between level of competence and level of complexity. High complexity and low skill gives frustration, whilst low complexity and high competence leads to boredom. The Flow was represented as a band along the x=y line. This much was a useful (if familiar) model of what teachers face everyday in trying to match tasks to abilities.
There is a connection, worth exploring , with something I was chatting about to a friend and management consultant. Hearing I was again struggling to do all the things I feel I need to do, he commented on a coaching course he had been doing recently in which the idea of ‘good enough’ was being explored. As I understand it, it is the idea that a task is completed to the standard required to fulfil its purpose rather than to be perfect. As I pointed out, one of the problems in education is that nothing seems to be good enough, and we are urged to be ‘outstanding’ in everything we do. Does that make teachers who want to do well for other autotelic? Or perhaps we are externally driven by altruistic motives (to benefit others)? Or maybe instead of money and status, we seek approval from managers and colleagues? The source of the motivation is surprisingly complex.