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Life, Death, and Warrior Mentality

Life insurance is one of those products about which nobody is neutral. People either think it is virtually a life-saver, or they want nothing to do with it. Why is that?

I think the answer is simple: it is a product with a benefit payable at death, and nobody likes to think about that.

In mainstream, secular culture – civic life, business, public school and college – death is basically a taboo topic. People typically cannot and will not talk about it. Thankfully, those of us who have a religion can fall back on traditional beliefs and practices to support us in our times of need, and to bring us together and be there for one another. Nonetheless, the purchase of life insurance is a commercial enterprise, and a positive view on death is just not part and parcel of our conventional business training. It is not taught in home economics class, or in business school. It is not a topic of conversation in most small businesses, or in corporate training seminars.

It is interesting to note that historically, the contemporary aversion to death seems to be an anomaly. Traditional peoples have always been cognizant of mortality, and this understanding was the centerpiece of their world view. Warriors had to face their own death to triumph in battle.

Of equal interest is the fact that many of the success gurus of today tap into the “warrior mentality” as they teach people to conquer their own fears. As a matter of fact, modern psychological research has started to uncover potential benefits in a productive take on this topic. Two recent articles in Science Daily give us some examples.

The first, entitled, “How You Think About Death May Affect How You Act”, explores the connection between people thinking about their own death, and being concerned for fellow members of society. Here is the conclusion of researcher Laura E.R. Blackie, a Ph.D. student at the University of Essex:

“‘Death is a very powerful motivation,’ Blackie says. ‘People seem aware that their life is limited. That can be one of the best gifts that we have in life, motivating us to embrace life and embrace goals that are important to us.’ When people think about death abstractly, they may be more likely to fear it, while thinking specifically about your own death ‘enables people to integrate the idea of death into their lives more fully'” she says. ‘Thinking about their mortality in a more personal and authentic manner may make them think more about what they value in life.'” (1)

Another article talked about, “How Thinking About Death Can Lead to a Good Life”. Researcher Kenneth Vail of the University of Missouri puts it this way:

“‘Thinking about death can also promote better health. Recent studies have shown that when reminded of death people may opt for better health choices, such as using more sunscreen, smoking less, or increasing levels of exercise. A 2011 study by D.P. Cooper and co-authors found that death reminders increased intentions to perform breast self-exams when women were exposed to information that linked the behavior to self-empowerment. 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.'” (2)

Most people know that they have to buy life insurance, and they have to do so now because the mortality clock is ticking: one just never knows when a claim will have to be paid. Unfortunately, all too often we end up listening to that little voice in the back of our minds that whispers in our ear, ” Yuck! Who want to think about dying?! Let’s move on to something else.” But you know what? That little voice is preaching outdated information. Death is actually part of life, and accepting that fact gives us perspective and focus.

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(1) Association for Psychological Science (2011, May 20). How you think about death may affect how you act. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 17, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/05/110519161246.htm

(2) Society for Personality and Social Psychology (2012, April 19). How thinking about death can lead to a good life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 17, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/04/120419102516.htm