How Full is Your Bucket?

As 2016 comes to an end, we’re all reflecting on the year and looking ahead to our goals or resolutions for 2017. One of my goals for 2017 is to spend more time reading. I typically dedicate my morning commute to reading, but I hope to expand that even further in the coming year. I’ve read a few inspiring business books this year that I want to share with you – one of which is a complement to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment and book called How Full Is Your Bucket?

Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton have published several books focused on knowing and understanding your strengths in your professional and personal life. I was given the opportunity to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment through a mentor program about a year ago and it was so enlightening to learn what my key strengths were and read about how to best leverage those in my everyday life. When I came across the How Full is Your Bucket book I knew I had to grab it to see what other great insights I could gather.

This book is centered around “The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket” which essentially states that everyone has an invisible bucket that is always being emptied or filled by others. We each also have an invisible dipper which we can use to fill or dip from others buckets. Having a full bucket brings us positivity and renewed energy, but an empty bucket sours our outlook and depletes our energy. We make a choice every day to either fill one another’s buckets or dip from them.

It should be no surprise that negativity hinders productivity, relationships and even health. What I found most interesting regarding negativity was its impact in the workplace. In one poll cited in the book, 65% of Americans said they received no recognition in the workplace the previous year, which means there is clearly a recognition gap. But how do we go about filling employees’ buckets through recognition in the right way? The most common tactic is usually along the lines of monthly or quarterly awards set up by upper management. These do likely foster positivity for the first few awards, but eventually everyone on the team is recognized, and how do those recipients chosen in the last couple of months feel? Sincere and meaningful bucket filling is what will increase productivity and positivity in the workplace.


Another topic I found interesting was the idea of too much positivity in a relationship or workplace. I hadn’t considered this as a possibility, but it’s important for our positive interactions to be grounded with negative ones or it could lead us to false optimism. John Gottman, marriage and relationship psychologist, suggests that the “magic ratio” is 5:1 – five positive interactions to 1 negative. This sweet spot is thought to be the most successful bucket filling ratio.

So how do we ensure we are filling the buckets of our colleagues, friends and family? Rath presents Five Strategies for Increasing Positive Emotions.

  1. Prevent Bucket Dipping  – you have to consciously eliminate bucket dipping from your daily interactions, and encourage others to do the same. After each interaction, consider whether you were adding to or taking from the other person’s’ bucket.
  2. Shine a Light on What Is Right – rather than focus on the negative, focus on the positive. Draw attention to what someone is doing right or well, not what they’re doing wrong.
  3. Make Best Friends – great relationships are so important in general, but also important for workplace productivity and satisfaction. Take care to foster those friendships within and outside of your workplace.
  4. Give Unexpectedly – it doesn’t have to be extravagant or even tangible, but surprises seem to fill our buckets just a little bit more than expected gifts. Consider unexpected sharing also such as passing along a book, magazine or article to someone who would enjoy it.
  5. Reverse the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Individualism and specificity is so important when it comes to bucket filling. Ask questions to find out what is important to someone and you’ll then find the most effective ways to fill their buckets.

There are various tests and guides to applying these ideas online and within the physical book so I encourage you to explore further. How have you filled someone’s bucket this week? 


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