A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology finds that thinking about the worst that could happen, including death, energizes athletes, as well anyone striving to improve their “performance-related activities”:
Study co-leader Uri Lifshin of the University of Arizona told Medical News Today: “Terror management theory talks about striving for self-esteem and why we want to accomplish things in our lives and be successful. Everybody has their own thing in which they invest that is their legacy and symbolic immortality.”
“Your subconscious tries to find ways to defeat death, to make death not a problem, and the solution is self-esteem. Self-esteem gives you a feeling that you’re part of something bigger, that you have a chance for immortality, that you have meaning, that you’re not just a sack of meat.”
There’s a fire inside every artist that drives him to complete that special piece, to create a thing of beauty and meaning that will survive him and tell people of a future time that he once lived. And mattered.
A memento mori works as a severe yet effective motivator. Focusing on mastering oneself in the face of oblivion is a discipline that enables us to live more, not less. The Bushido code of the Japanese samurai reflected the same strategy for optimizing one’s efforts: “One who is supposed to be a warrior considers it his foremost concern to keep death in mind at all times, every day and every night, from the morning of New Year’s Day through the night of New Year’s Eve.”
Gotta go. I have a novel to finish.
6 thoughts on “Want to be more successful? Try thinking about death”
It is an ever-present fact of life…and comes when it wills. So far, though, its presence in my life is not exactly paying measurable dividends 😉
Check out Elizabeth’s response below.
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I was being a tad flippant, Mike. Death has been a large part of life for me…and a major rource of inspiration.
Just wrote a letter to a writer friend today and I put it on my blog. Serendipity. Am thinking of death, all the time.
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Sometimes it’s hard not to …
This reminds me of the old saying about life being a preparation for death, something I take to heart. I think when you live your life keenly aware of your own finite existence, you have more of an appreciation of life as well as a motivation to accomplish your life’s work.