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Guest Blog Post: Have We Forgotten To Live Today?


Sep 30, 2011

Tim O’Brien, author of the popular continuing education course “Grief Management: The Role of the Funeral Practitioner” and presenter at both the NFDA and Florida FDA conventions, shares his techniques and advice with ASD clients on how directors can regain focus and make the most out of every day.

Tim brings his human and pet grief series to the ASD Rewards Program. “A Season for Healing-A Reason for Hope” and “You Will Always be a Part of Me” Grief Support programs help the families you serve deal with the mental, emotional and physical stress caused by the loss of a loved one or beloved pet. These programs support your current grief aftercare efforts and are excellent community outreach tools. ASD clients receive special pricing and rewards credit on both hardcover and soft cover editions. For more information, click here.

With all of the demands and pressures involved with being a successful Funeral Director, that can range from showing true compassion for the families you serve to sometimes wondering how to make payroll, do you ever find yourself hoping for a better tomorrow? Do you look forward to retirement, when your regular working days will be over? Do you do this often?

When we think this way, looking forward to something better, or at least different than today, shouldn’t we also ask ourselves “what am I doing today that will allow tomorrow to be better?”

“Live this present moment completely, and the future will take care of itself,” P. Yogananda. Often, when we hear someone tell us we should live more in the present, they either can’t tell us why, or, we feel their reasoning is irrelevant to our situation and responsibilities.

Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, said, “The road is more important than the inn.” The day to day living of our life is more important than the actual attainment of our goals. The duties of your Funeral Service business are more important than your ideas for the future. If today is not handled well, tomorrow will not be what we expect it to be.

Is there any practical wisdom in these two quotes? The answer is a resounding yes! When we pay proper attention to the details at hand the future will take care of itself if we have our priorities, goals and use of time in their proper order.

When we stay focused in the present moment, we have the opportunity to enter what psychologists call the flow of optimal experience. In this state of being we attain high levels of both effectiveness and efficiency. Time passes quickly and enjoyably. As athletes explain it, we are “in the zone, or in the groove.” And, many years of psychological research shows that anyone, Funeral Directors included, can enter and benefit from the state of optimal experience.

Living in the present like this, our daily experiences give us a feeling of accomplishment. As a Funeral Director you can enjoy the gratitude from a family who thanks you for your competent, compassionate and concerned service to them. You can have a sense of fulfillment in knowing that the services you provide helps grieving families deal with the finality of death in a dignified way.

For a growth oriented person, reaching goals is only an indication of improvement. It is evidence that the plan in place works and produces results.

According to the flow research, after attaining one goal or milestone, then another more challenging and rewarding goal is set. This is what Cervantes meant about the road being more important than the inn. The trip, when traveled consciously, with a sense of purpose and perspective is more important than the arrival.

Here are 5 techniques to help you stay focused on today, both in your Funeral Services business and your private life.

1) Recognize the difference between focusing on now and allowing the future to unfold according to your plan. And, failing to plan and staying focused on the present because we don’t want to face the future. In your Funeral Services business this is having a written, step by step plan for both your dealings with your staff and interacting with your community. Then, it is implementing those detailed plans on a daily basis to keep you focused and on track.

2) When faced with challenging situations realize, “This too will pass.” In our relative world, nothing lasts forever. No one should realize this more than a Funeral Director as your service and business is dealing with the final fact of life: death, a condition from which none of us escapes. When applying this suggestion during difficult times remember: the work day will be over. The sun will set and rise on schedule. Sometimes you must endure unpleasant events, like burying someone close to you. That is part of business. That is part of life. How you choose to metabolize those effects and respond or react to them determines the effect that they have on you.

3) Know what you want for your Funeral Services business and for your life (priorities). Know how you will attain what you want (goals). Know how long it will take to realize your plan (macro time). And, know when to work on the specific parts of your goals (micro time). Be clear, precise and specific.

This suggestion relates back to #1 and planning. Compassionate, caring service and an expanding Community Outreach Program can be your priorities. Continuous improvement on both priorities through training and increased efforts that you quantify can be some of your goals. Then have annual, monthly and weekly targets that keep you on a pace for reaching your goals that support your priorities.

4) Take hourly, “60 second sabbaticals” to break your routine and refresh your mind. Take a walk to the water fountain, breathing deeply and calmly using your diaphragm. Listen to one song on the radio or your iPod. Get up and stretch gently. Close your eyes and remember a past victory or happy memory. Find what helps you relax quickly and use that technique. A fresh, clear mind is a more productive and efficient mind.

5) Realize that accomplishing today’s part of your plan is the strongest foundation for future success that you can lay. This relates to suggestions 1 and 3 and is the purpose of this article. If you stay focused on what today presents and requires, with a determination to have it go well, then you optimize your chances for business success and personal fulfillment.

Yes, being a Funeral Director is a demanding, sometimes thankless vocation. However, you know how important the services you provide are. You deserve to feel fulfilled in every aspect of it every day. Using the ideas and techniques in this article will help you to get the most out of every moment that you experience.

“If you can’t find happiness where you are, where do you expect to find it?” Dogen.

Contact Tim at


About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at


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