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Monday, 30 May 2016

He's not ADD, he's autotelic: Page of Wands

The Page of Wands is Bart Simpson to me, though I might need to get a more contemporary association, as Bart is becoming a bit outdated now! He is definitely a little minx, with his Earth of Fire elemental affinity. In some decks, he offers advice to follow your heart, which is certainly an Earth of Fire thing to do, and your heart will usually lead you to an activity, probably physical or at least manipulating things in the material realm, that you have a lot of feeling about. Also, traditionally he is seen as the bringer of messages.

But going back to that 'follow your heart' meaning, the Page of Wands reminds me of a term I learned about this weekend: 'flow', also known as 'optimal experience'.

'Flow' is described in a book called Flow: The Psychology of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszeatmahalyi. The state of 'flow' happens under very specific conditions: when we encounter a challenge that is testing of our skills, yet our skills and capacity are such that it is just about possible to meet this challenge. Flow becomes a balance between ability and challenge, which leads to complete immersion in an activity, high concentration, quick and precise feedback on how you're doing, having your abilities stretched but not overwhelmed, loss of sense of self, trance-like state of being in the moment, losing track of time. Most daily activities can lead to 'flow', as long as the situation is sufficiently complex to activate the high challenge/high skill condition. Flow is a rare occurrence in housework, idling, resting, or watching TV. (Damn.)

But this explains why the Page of Wands is such a little tear-about. He's constantly moving from optimal experience to optimal experience. He also seems to have something of an 'autotelic' personality.

'Autotelic' is made up of two Greek root words: auto = self, telos = goal. 'Own goal' -- but not in the football sense (which is a bad thing), but in the psychological sense (which is a good thing), where 'autotelic' means 'having a purpose in and not apart from itself,' or '(of an activity or creative work) having an end or purpose in itself'. The autotelic personality generally does things for the sake of doing them, rather than in order to achieve some later external goal. These people develop skills that help them get into the flow state frequently, skills like curiosity, interest in life, persistence, and low self-centredness. The autotelic personality has the desire to perform activities for intrinsic reasons only, and not to earn a gold star, get a blue ribbon, or receive a qualification. Thus, the autotelic personality, like the Page of Wands, can appear to have a short attention span or lack task commitment because he starts a project and never finishes it, moving on to the next thing. But that is because he's got what he wanted to get out of that experience, and now he's found something new to absorb his interest and concentration. And he doesn't care if you think he's a quitter, because he doesn't care about getting your 'Well done for finishing' badge. He might enjoy finishing if he's stayed in a flow state to the end of something, but he's not necessarily going to stick with something just for the sake of completion. It's not important to him. (This might also explain the 'Again! Again!' response to an activity. If he's still flowing, he wants to keep flowing, and it doesn't matter if the game is over!)

I can relate to that!

Is there anything you're doggedly hanging on to that is not fulfilling to you anymore? Maybe you could be a little Page of Wandsy and leave it, let yourself go find a new thing you'd rather be doing -- try it! You might like it!


  1. :) Hello Dear,

    your work is brilliant! Can I yet make a polite comment, not to hurt you, just becauce I am Hungarian, so the correct spelling is this: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Much Love to you! :)

    1. Thanks -- too many letters there for me! :D

    2. Well, English keyboards don't have our extra characters, otherwise it would be even more confusing... :D

      Loved the article Carla, and I think Bart is a good choice. (The Simpsons is still running, which is amazing if you think about it!)

      I think the PoW is often diagnosed with ADHD because of his impulsiveness... :(

  2. A lovely description of the Page of Wands. Maybe it's the Queen of Wands in me, I think: "I can have the flow and get the blue badge, too!" :D

  3. That was very interesting, and informative. I'm going to have to remember this the next time I'm chiding myself for project-hopping.

    1. If you chide yourself, maybe you should go on and do it. But if it simply doesn't bother you and you wonder why it bothers other people -- maybe this is the reason!