Call it what you want: Career fatigue, burnout, and boredom. The truth is almost all of us go through times when we feel our heart isn’t in it anymore. In fact, research shows that only one in three of us are actually engaged at work.

I realize there are circumstantial issues that contribute to this; like working for a difficult boss. But if that is not your issue then read on.

I have come to believe that people need meaning and purpose in their life. Some find that meaning and purpose outside of work and just look at their job as…well, a job. But those that find meaning and purpose IN their work often live even better lives.

As a former CPA, I made a deliberate choice, almost 40 years ago, to commit my career to funeral service. I made this choice for two reasons: first, I really like funeral directors (well, most of them anyway) and I truly believe (in spite of apparent trends to the contrary) that you make a positive contribution to society…and I wanted to be part of that.

But the Achilles heal of funeral directors is a greater than average need for affirmation. And affirmation in this profession is definitely on the wane. Without that affirmation it is all too easy to begin experiencing your career as a job and not a purpose. Then things start to become mechanical and mundane and we get bored. We find ourselves focusing on the negative customer instead of the positive customer. We fail to see that we have to serve both but we need to enjoy the positive and be grateful rather than feel discouraged and unappreciated.

So, what to do?

I am not one for mission statements but I am one for purpose. The answer to the question: “Why am I here?” It is very hard to remember the answer while you are solely focused on draining the swamp. But, when I am in the doldrums I have learned to remind myself of the answer; AND, as I have grown older, to accept the fact that not everyone wants what I have to offer.

The purpose of funerals

I can’t speak for everyone and neither can you. But I can tell you what I see as the purpose and in doing so maybe stimulate your own thinking.

Over 40 years of observation I am struck by one commonality among all peoples and cultures. When difficult circumstances arise humans need the presence and comfort of others. It is more than words it is physical. An online condolence will never replace a hug. An email will never replace a phone call. A mailbag full of notes and cards will never replace the affirmation of a full church. And, because I believe it, I think people should know it.

So, my purpose would be to help people make better decisions and avoid regrets. To actually tell them what can work or not work but, in the end, they need to do something. Will they suffer lifelong psychological trauma if they don’t? Most will not. Some will. But your own experience confirms in case after case that if they will take the time to gather, hug and remember they will be glad they did and they will thank you for it.

And, as for my own motivation, I have realized as I help more and more people in my own practice that clients can’t help but bring their own dysfunction to the table. Sometimes when things get raw I have to remind myself that it really isn’t about me. No, no one is really mad at me but intra family issues are unpleasant: period. And besides, I am, you are, just as dysfunctional in our way as anyone else.

You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.

                                         Sign in New England Coastal Life Saving Station

But my motivation comes from reminding myself regularly that my purpose is to help people. They don’t have to accept my help but I have to try. If they don’t want it or they ignore it that’s on them.

I have an inspirational friend who starts every day as he says goodbye to his kids telling them:

“I am not going to work, I am going to help someone today.”

 Now that’s the ticket!

By the way. If I owned a funeral home I would dedicate the wall outside the preproom as a purpose wall and I would paper it with the letters, notes and cards of appreciation I know you all get. I would also read each of them in a public staff meeting each month before I put them up. Or maybe I wouldn’t put it outside the preproom. I would put it in a place where the public could see it too. I would publicly recognize staff who were mentioned in these cards and letters. And maybe I would have photos of special families posted with some of the better ones.

Will you help someone today?