TUCSON, Ariz. — A study from the University of Arizona suggests that people are more motivated and successful when they envisioned their own death.
Researchers say that when you think about dying, you subconsciously think about the legacy that you will leave behind when you’re gone. And apparently that is extremely motivating.
“Terror management theory talks about striving for self-esteem and why we want to accomplish things in our lives and be successful,” said psychology doctoral student Uri Lifshin, co-lead investigator of the research.
“Everybody has their own thing in which they invest that is their legacy and symbolic immortality.”
The study was performed on male college students who enjoy playing basketball, but researchers found it can be connected to other parts of life as well.
“This is a potentially untapped way to motivate athletes but also perhaps to motivate people in other realms,” said Colin Zestcott, the other co-lead investigator.
“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.”
So how did researchers come to this conclusion?
In one study, participants were asked to a pair of one-on-one basketball games. After the first game, they had to complete one of two questionnaires. One that asked them about their feelings on death and the other on their feelings about basketball.
In that study, those who completed the ‘death’ questionnaire showed a 40-percent improvement. While those who had the basketball questionnaire showed no improvement.
In the second study, participants were instructed to take a one-minute basket shooting challenge by a researcher wearing a T-shirt with a skull on it, which was also made up of several iterations of the word “death,” researchers said.
Those who saw the “death” T-shirt performed 30 percent better than those who did not, according to researchers.
So next time you need some motivation, try envisioning your death — that might just do the trick.