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Are you a bucket-filler?

communication personal development
A man checking out a store engages in positive talk with the woman working there


By John Millen

A lot of my clients become friends over time, some staying connected over the twenty years since I started consulting. I enjoy keeping in touch and they enjoy, they tell me, the informal advice on business and life.

As I was finishing a call with a friend, a young scientist, he said he tells his older sister, a physician, that talking with me “fills my bucket.”

It sounded positive, but I’d never heard that metaphor before. He referred me to a book called How Full Is Your Bucket? Having read the book, I texted him back with thanks for the kind compliment.

The book focuses on one of my key values in life: seeing the best in people and giving them positivity in the moment.

With this in mind, let me share five key ideas from the 2005 book, How Full Is Your Bucket? by Don Clifton and Tom Rath.

1. The metaphor of the bucket and dipper

The authors introduce us to the powerful metaphor of the bucket and dipper, a simple yet profound concept. Imagine that each of us carries an invisible bucket, and this bucket is filled with our emotional well-being. 

Every interaction, whether positive or negative, has the power to either fill or empty the buckets of others and ourselves.

The dipper represents our words and actions. With it, we can choose to fill someone's bucket by offering compliments, gratitude and acts of kindness. 

Conversely, we can empty someone's bucket through negativity, criticism, and indifference. 

The key takeaway here is that we hold the power to impact the emotional well-being of others, and by filling their buckets, we simultaneously fill our own.

2. Be a bucket filler, not a bucket emptier

The second strategy they share is simple but crucial: strive to be a bucket filler rather than a bucket emptier. This is a conscious choice we can make in our everyday interactions. 

If you think about it for a few minutes, I’m sure you know people who fill your bucket everyday and no doubt know people who consistently drain your bucket with negative energy. 

Think about it: we all appreciate compliments and kind gestures. So, why not be the person who provides these uplifting moments to others?

By consciously filling other people's buckets, we create a positive ripple effect. This not only brightens their day but also contributes to a culture of positivity and kindness in our relationships, workplaces and communities.

3. Recognize the importance of micro-moments

The authors also highlight the significance of what they calls "micro-moments." These are small, often unnoticed interactions that have a substantial impact on our emotional well-being. 

By acknowledging these micro-moments and their influence on our bucket-filling journey, we can become more aware of the opportunities for positivity that surround us daily. 

A brief smile, a heartfelt "thank you," or a kind word can all make a significant difference in someone's day. Just paying full attention to a colleague, friend or partner can have a huge effect.

Don't underestimate the power of these seemingly minor gestures –– they can turn a bad day into a good one and forge lasting connections with those around us.

4. Create a culture of recognition

The authors also advocate for the idea of creating a culture of recognition, both in our personal and professional lives. 

Acknowledging the accomplishments and positive traits of those around us can be an incredible motivator and source of fulfillment.

In our workplaces, recognizing the efforts and achievements of colleagues fosters a more positive and productive environment. When we express gratitude and appreciation for our loved ones at home, it strengthens our personal bonds.

As a result, we all become more inclined to fill each other's buckets, cultivating a continuous cycle of positivity.

5. Recharge your own bucket

Lastly, it's essential to remember that we must take care of our own emotional well-being. Just as we strive to fill the buckets of others, we need to ensure that our own bucket is filled as well. 

To be effective bucket fillers, we need to be emotionally healthy and positive. This means engaging in self-care practices, pursuing our passions and surrounding ourselves with people who uplift and support us. 

As you know, airlines advise you, in the event of an emergency, to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. In the same way, when our own buckets are full, we're better equipped to spread positivity and enrich the lives of those around us.

Give it a try

As you practice these bucket-filling strategies in your daily life, you'll find that your interactions become more meaningful, building stronger relationships and giving you a deeper sense of well being.

So, take a moment to reflect on your interactions today. Are you filling the buckets of those around you, or are you unintentionally emptying them? 

We all have the power to make the world a better place, one bucket-filling moment at a time.

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John Millen

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