Among the New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and stop procrastinating, should be a promise to ourselves to understand why we do the things we do.  Since a large portion of our lives consists of habits, going the route of least resistance, and doing what is expected, this new year can be our opportunity to figure out the “Why’s”—Why ARE we doing the things we do at our jobs, with our families, and in our free time?

Taking time to understand the “Why’s” is especially critical for funeral home directors.  So much of what we have been taught to do concerning funeral arrangements, grief counseling, and burials seems to be set in stone, with decades of tradition behind it.  Society, though, has drastically changed over the past 30 years.  In the past ten years alone, communication has exploded with cell phones, mobile devices, the Internet, and social media.   Although life is still life and death is still death, attitudes about how to handle them have definitely changed, forcing those of us who deal closest with the life-death dichotomy to re-evaluate what we are doing and why.

Perhaps it is the baby boomers who are triggering this change.   Influenced by the free-thinking and self-expression of the sixties and seventies, there is a subtle rebellion against tradition that is reaching into the sacred hush of the funeral parlor.  Now that this generation is of age to face their own mortality, they hope that the creative spirit which they have cultivated all their life will not be forgotten when they die.  So baby boomers might rebel somewhat against a standard funeral fare and actively interject their personality and values when they pre-plan their service or plan a service for a loved one.

It boils down to the question of how flexible we are.  While certain tasks that we perform as funeral directors must be done in a specified order and in a particular way, we may discover that there are quite a few things that we can adjust or adapt to fit the changes taking place in today’s world.  Maybe we can offer more of a variety of funeral service styles:  for example, traditional, spiritual, celebratory, themed, and open air.  What if we provided creative ways for families and friends to express their feelings during the service: encouraging them to write down their thoughts on a hanging poster board or create their own floral arrangement, or have several friends gather impromptu to sing the deceased’s favorite song?

Let’s take time this January to make sure that we know the reason why we perform each function of our job as a funeral director.  Some traditions are precious and deeply valuable to most people.  Those we keep.   Others may need to be slightly altered or revamped to meet the changing expectations of our grieving families.

Even with advertising, we can ask ourselves why we are still doing what we did last year or five years ago.  If most of our potential clients are spending time online and most likely searching online for funeral services, then the bulk of our promotional efforts should be shifted to our website, mobile apps and social media.

Asking “Why” can ensure that our funeral business stays relevant and that it meets the deep-felt needs of our future clients.   Seriously re-considering the reasons behind our actions will enable us to stop wasting precious time and energy on activities that we had always felt obligated to do but which have lost some of their purpose.  Asking “Why” will streamline our business while making what we do more effective.

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