I recently read How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Dr. Donald Clifton and I was very inspired.

The theory goes that everyone has a "bucket" that gets filled or emptied through all of our daily interactions. When our buckets are full, we feel energetic and productive. When our buckets run dry, we feel defeated and negative. We each also have a "dipper." When we react negatively toward others, we dip from their buckets; we also dip from our own. When we respond positively to others, we use our dippers to fill their buckets, as well as our own. Small moments can add up to an overflowing bucket for ourselves and others, or empty buckets. We have a choice to make every moment of every day and in every interaction we have with other people.

It was amazing to see this theory at work as I became aware of each interaction over the course of the day and how I was filling or taking from buckets. And with an increasing awareness came more opportunities to fill buckets. It started with something as simple as having a conversation with the cashier at the store, and I ended up finishing the the day by helping a stranded motorist on the 401 on my way home. My bucket was full and I'm sure I had filled others' too.

So if it is so easy, why don't we all do it? Excuses. It's too easy to say we don't have time, we're too busy, we have more important things to worry about. Sometimes we just don't think about it, we're wrapped up in our own thoughts. I could have made my purchase at the store and went on my way instead of engaging with the cashier; I was heading to a tutoring session and my thoughts were on my plans. I didn't have to stop for the stranded driver; it was dark, cold, wet, and he could have been some kind of predator. The excuses are endless. It's too easy to do nothing.

And doing nothing is the biggest bucket-emptier. One study the book explored showed that even criticism was a better motivator than being ignored. The study used students and the groups were either praised, criticized, or received no feedback for their work over the course of several days. Of course those who received praise had showed the most improvement in their work (71%), but even those who were criticized showed a gain of 19%. The group who received no recognition, either positive or negative, only improved by 5%. No recognition is even worse than receiving negative feedback.

So, what does this mean? Take a closer look at the people you interact with everyday. Do you praise the shy, quiet student in your class who follows expectations? Are you really seeing the person behind the counter at the store? Do you acknowledge others when you pass by? Do you smile at strangers? A little recognition and positivity can go a long way to fill buckets and make the world a better place.

11/27/2011 11:54pm

To follow up on this, have you ever heard of the children book "Have you filled a bucket today?" Same concept but for kids and their self esteem. I read it to my grade 1's and then we create our own buckets out of library pockets. Please see http://www.bainbridgeclass.com/bucket.htm which is where I got this idea from.

It is really cool how the children react to it all.


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