Sparking Self-Transcendent Purpose & the Alpha Instinct
Key #4: Activate the Alpha Instinct and Self-Transcendent Purpose
The idea of the alpha instinct comes from attachment psychologist, Gordon Neufeld. The concept is reflected in plenty of research on resilience and character, such as from Dr. Robert Brooks, as well as from Angela Duckworth and David Yeager who use the term “Self-Transcendent Purpose”.
However you want to call it, this is the idea that when someone is aware of a purpose they serve that is larger than them – and generally includes service to other beings (including people, animals and the planet), they tend to persevere longer and are more willing to put in effort, even on tedious or boring tasks.
- persisted longer on a boring task rather than giving in to a tempting alternative and, many months later, were less likely to drop out of college.
- improved high school science and math grade point average (GPA) over several months.
- increased deeper learning behavior on tedious test review materials and sustain self-regulation over the course of an increasingly boring task.
The more you can prompt students to think about ‘who they are doing this for’, the more likely they will activate brain networks related to perspectives beyond the self.
This type of brain activity is linked with the idea of compassion – which is a notion that includes not only empathy but a drive to act on the impulse to relieve the suffering of others.
Getting brain networks to spark activity outside of the usual self-oriented perspective is also linked to gamma brainwave activity – the electric activity linked with insight, ‘aha moments’ and plasticity. (See article from Davidson below).
That’s it for Unit 5!
Next up: Unit 6 – Back to Front Development & Executive Functioning