Thinking About Death Makes You Better At Life

Nobody likes to visualise their own demise, but thinking about your own death could help you do better in performance-based tasks, according to new research.

When humans are faced with the fear of death, they tend to cope by seeking to boost their self-esteem or by trying to find meaning in their lives. This is what is known as the terror management theory and researchers at the University of Arizona have conducted experiments to show that it can actually be applied to real-world scenarios to improve performance.

The researchers tested this on groups of basketball players and found that those who took a questionnaire that asked them their thoughts on their own death performed 40 percent better in basketball games compared to those who didn’t. Another experiment involved exposing players to skull images while they were playing. Players who saw those images outperformed those who didn’t by 30 percent.

Colin Zestcott, one of the lead researchers at the University of Arizona, said this performance boost could be realised outside of sporting scenarios:

“This is a potentially untapped way to motivate athletes but also perhaps to motivate people in other realms. Outside of sports, we think that this has implications for a range of different performance-related tasks, like people’s jobs, so we’re excited about the future of this research.”

Has thinking about death ever made you do things better in your personal life or at work? Let us know in the comments.

[University of Arizona]

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