Spin® Life Blog

Self-Transcendence: Is It the New Training Frontier?

Self-Transcendence: Is It the New Training Frontier?

Posted by Spinning® on Apr 18th 2018

By Colleen K. Broersma, BS, CPT, Spinning® Master InstructorCan reflecting once a day keep the doctor away and improve performance as well? Mind body techniques to enhance physical performance are one of the fundamental components of the Spinning® program. Traditional approaches utilize performance enhancing techniques like: affirmation (self-talk), visualization and relaxation. While they have proven useful in improving performance, they are focused solely on the individual (self-enhancing).  Now, there’s new research emerging that says focusing on your greater purpose in life (self-transcendence) is associated with increased happiness, improved health, longevity, motivation and self-control.

Having a Purpose Increases Motivation and Self-Control

Can focusing on your greater purpose in life be applied to the science of performance? What about health behavior change? A number of experts think that having a sense of purpose is thought to increase motivation to behave in ways consistent with one's purpose while reducing defensiveness and loss of control. How many times have you seen your Spinning® students set New Year’s resolutions or other goals and then repeatedly fail? Do you have resistant or defensive students in class? Perhaps it is time to coach purpose.Aleah Burson and her colleagues in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan recently demonstrated how affirming core values and a bigger purpose in life provided increased self-control when an individual’s ego is threatened. They first threatened their subject’s egos by telling them that their peers didn’t want them to participate in a group task. The researchers then had one-third of the study subjects write down their daily routine. They were the control group. They asked another third of the subjects to elaborate on their self-enhancing values (things like wealth, recognition, attractiveness and winning), and the final third to elaborate on their self-transcending values (e.g. relationships, community and things greater than themselves). All of the groups were given a bowl of 20 bite-sized cookies and asked to taste test the cookies after the researcher left the room. The control group ate 8.2 cookies, the group who wrote their self-enhancing values ate 4.9 and the group whose values focused on self-transcending purpose ate only 2.8. Having our students visualize their core transcending values and their bigger purpose in life may just help them achieve their goals and reduce their resistance to our coaching. If you don’t know it, explore the loving kindness meditation as a technique to do this.

Transcending Self to Improve Health

In addition to increased self-control and reduced resistance to information, when we affirm things outside ourselves, we can improve our health.  Researcher Dr. Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and her colleagues found that those who had a weak purpose or no purpose in life were 2.4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who had a strong purpose in life. Plus they found that having a greater sense of purpose was associated with a reduced heart attack risk of almost 30 percent, as well as a 1.5-fold increased likelihood of remaining heart attack-free, compared to low scorers.

Five Factors to Enhance Goal Achievement

Vic Strecher, Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, author of the graphic novel,  On Purpose, designed an app to help individuals identify their own meaningful purpose in life and track five key behavioral factors which can enhance or hinder their ability to pursue and achieve their goals.Take a moment to reflect on this, “Health is a life lived well and fully, a life involved with other people, and with self-exploration of the emotions, the mind, the body and the spirit.” - Kenneth R. Pelletier, Sound Body, Sound Mind


Patricia A. Boyle, PhD; Aron S. Buchman, MD; Robert S. Wilson, PhD; Lei Yu, PhD; Julie A. Schneider, MD; David A. Bennett, MD. “Effect of Purpose in Life on the Relation Between Alzheimer Disease Pathologic Changes on Cognitive Function in Advanced Age.” JAMA Psychiatry, Vol 69, No. 5 (May 2012): 499-504.Aleah Burson, PhD; Jennider Croker, PhD, Dominik Mischkowski, PhD. “Two Types of Value-AffirmationImplications for Self-Control Following Social Exclusion.”   Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 3 no. 4 (July 2012) 510-516.