9 minutes in to his famous Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs discusses the importance he placed on thinking about death during life:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”
Scientists now agree he was on to something.
Via Science Daily:
Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies. Even non-conscious thinking about death — say walking by a cemetery — could prompt positive changes and promote helping others.
“Other field experiments and tightly controlled laboratory experiments have replicated these and similar findings, showing that the awareness of death can motivate increased expressions of tolerance, egalitarianism, compassion, empathy, and pacifism.”
One major implication of this body of work, Vail says, is that we should “turn attention and research efforts toward better understanding of how the motivations triggered by death awareness can actually improve people’s lives, rather than how it can cause malady and social strife.” Write the authors: “The dance with death can be a delicate but potentially elegant stride toward living the good life.”