Harnessing Positive Habits in the Funeral Profession

We’re making our way through January and holding tightly to our new year’s motivations. But it’s a difficult task sometimes! We’re here to help you stick to your goals, resolutions, word of the year or whatever it is you’re hoping to move toward this year. We hope that by discovering and sticking with positive habits, you can make your goals a reality.

Set Achievable Goals

Dr. Troyer, a psychology professor, former counselor and consultant who specializes in issues related to death and grief, said we first need to consider that we might be setting the wrong goals. An overarching goal like an “annual sales goal of $1 million” has two problems, according to James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits:

  1. It is too distant. It’s difficult to stay on the right track when your goal is too far in the future.
  2. It is not all within your control. Unforeseen obstacles can easily arise and sidetrack your goal.

Instead of aiming for an annual sales goal, Dr. Troyer suggests “making smaller goals that are repeatable and under your control,” which will help you see your progress. Regularly practicing your habit is the key to a habit that sticks. Krista Frank, Senior Vice President – Customer Service and Business Operations, said, “Sometimes we get overwhelmed thinking we need to make massive change and, as a result, make none. Making small changes can add up to big outcomes.” You could try the following “bite-sized” goals that can lead you to your bigger annual sales goal:

  • Having four lunch-and-learn events this year.
  • Following up with every lead within three days.
  • Writing a letter or calling 90% of the at-need families served by your funeral home.

You can download a habit tracker app to enter your goals and receive reminders and progress updates. Check out Dr. Troyer’s two-minute video about Maintaining Positive Habits for a trick he used to increase the odds of his habit-seeking success. Writing your big picture and short-term goals in a journal can also be helpful. Through the Finding Resilience program, we offer a free journal with prompts, quotes and insights, which can help you lower stress and stay productive this year. Request your free journal here.

Communicate With Your Team

Tonja Clark, Vice President of Human Resources, noted that open communication is a crucial positive habit to build and integral to maintaining other positive habits. She suggests a few options to engage and retain your employees:

  • Ask for feedback from your employees and act on it when possible. If you can’t fulfill a feedback request, follow up with your employees and share the reasons why. Specifically, you can ask what they need to continue to work in a positive environment. Instead of assuming what they need, ask and listen to their requests.
  • Share positive feedback and gratitude with your employees. A little encouragement and thankfulness go a long way in keeping morale high.
  • Trust your employees to do the job you hired them to do. You each have your own responsibilities; trust them to do theirs.


Shift Your Mindset

“When I’m in a situation where the counselor is low on morale, I try to go back to the beginning,” shared Steve Brodie, Senior Account Executive – Sales. “I ask them when they started, how they felt about this opportunity and how it made them feel to take care of people so that their families don’t struggle as much when there are no arrangements.” Steve added that once you assess how you felt at the beginning, ask yourself “what changed” since then and contemplate if those changes affect how you feel now when you help a family steer away from additional hardship.

If you focus on the challenges and monotony that negatively affect your mood, you have a good chance of burnout. “When you remember the goodness and your mission to help people resolve a difficult future event for their families, you can bring yourself back to focus on the thing that really matters,” Steve noted. 

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be aware of the difficult emotions you feel and address what led you to that mindset, but a small shift in recalling why you started and why you continue to help others can be a shining star to guide you back on track. You can even share positive experiences from client families with your employees at weekly meetings to help everyone remember that what you do matters. In addition, these Morning Mindset tactics may help you start your day on the right foot.

Another mindset shift can come from exploring ideas and perspectives from those around you who may think differently or have a different background from you. “Some of the best ideas I have come across are generated from people that think differently and have unique and different views,” shared Nick Gerhart, Chief Innovation Officer and Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair. “Challenging oneself to seek out these views generally leads to great ideas, discussions and outcomes.”

Hopefully, these tools will motivate and keep you committed to your positive habits. If you’d like to dive deeper into starting or changing a habit, check out the Steps for Positive Change from our Finding Resilience program.

The information provided here is not intended to replace information from a mental health or medical professional. The reader should consult an appropriate professional in matters related to his or her physical and emotional health.

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