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How Full Is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath & Donald O. Clifton

Publisher: Gallup Press Date of Publication: 2005 ISBN: 978-159-562-0033 Number of Pages: 127

About the Author(s) Tom Rath leads Gallup's workplace consulting business worldwide and is one of the most influential authors of the last decade. His books have sold more than 4 million copies and have made more than 250 appearances on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. Tom's first book, How Full Is Your Bucket?, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. His 2007 book,StrengthsFinder 2.0, was listed as the top-selling business book worldwide by The Economist. Tom's most recent international bestsellers are Strengths Based Leadership and Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements.

The Central Idea:


Traditional psychology has always focused on what goes wrong with people and why. Now, theres an exciting, new shift towards exploring what is right about people. How do positive emotions affect us and in turn, our interactions with others? Tom Rath and his grandfather and co-author Donald O. Clifton, spell out the enormous power of positive psychology in transforming peoples lives. By consciously adopting a few simple strategies, both individuals and organizations can significantly enhance their well-being.

The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket Our interactions with people, ranging over cursory encounters to long-term relationships, affect every aspect of our lives. The dipper and bucket theory is a simple, yet brilliant metaphor for the emotions involved in all interactions. Your invisible bucket represents your emotional landscape. When people fill this bucket with positive words or actions, you brim with energy and wellness. When they dip into your bucket (i.e. speak or act negatively), you become unhappy, demotivated and low. You have a dipper too, with which you fill up or dip into others buckets. Heres the interesting part when you fill someones bucket with positivity, you fill your own, too. Similarly, when you empty anothers bucket, you diminish your own store of positivity. Each day brings us a choice. Do we want to fill buckets or dip into them? These decisions profoundly impact our health, productivity, emotions and even our lifespan.

Chapter One Negativity Kills


The subject of this book Positive Strategies for Work and Life was ironically inspired by a chilling, psychiatric case study of how negativity undermines human will and literally leads to death. Major (Dr.) William E. Mayer studied a group of American soldiers captured during the Korean War and later released in Japan. Despite suffering little physical cruelty and deprivation, the death rate among prisoners in those camps was shockingly high. Those who survived seemed to exist in a mental cell, isolated from relationships with their former comrades. The soldiers labelled this condition as give up-itis. Medically, it is known as mirasmus, a mental state characterized by hopelessness and passivity. The North Koreans had accomplished this feat by implementing tactics of psychological warfare, resulting in the gradual and total breakdown of affection, trust, respect and friendship among the prisoners. Worst of all, sapped of emotional support the Koreans would withhold all supportive letters from home and deliver only letters with negative information the soldiers lost their will to live and belief in themselves, their families and country.

This devastating story led Donald O. Clifton, senior co-author of this book, to ponder the other side of the coin. If unrelenting negativity leads to hopelessness and death, what does positive reinforcement achieve?

Chapter Two Positivity, Negativity and Productivity

Each day is a mix of positive and negative experiences. Even the most commonplace of interactions impacts us. Negative encounters may not kill us, but they can gradually corrode our sense of well-being and affect productivity. On the flip side, good experiences influence us even more powerfully. Bucket Filling in Organizations Praise and recognition are two major components of bucket-filling. The results of several surveys by the authors indicate that people whose work is consistently recognized and praised show increased productivity have healthy relationships with their colleagues tend to be more loyal to their organization score higher on customer satisfaction have less accidents at work and a better track record on safety

Good organizational leaders understand the power of praise and recognition. Killing Productivity The biggest reason for people quitting their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is that they feel unappreciated. Additionally, studies indicate that people who dislike their bosses run an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Employees who spend time at work complaining, whining or inciting trouble are counterproductive and an expensive drain on their company. They also drag others down with them. Such disengaged employees cost the US economy a mind-boggling $250-$300 billion a year. They exist in every country in the world. Spiralling Downward Case studies show that even seemingly minor incidents of negativity affect employees. If people dip into your bucket often enough, you get caught in a downward spiral. On such bad days, those whom you interact with immediately sense that you are low; they too are affected.

Scaring Off Customers Demotivated front-end employees who dip into customers buckets put them off, often permanently. On the contrary, positively oriented employees successfully engage and retain every customer they interact with. The Recognition Gap Whats worse than not being appreciated? Formally instituted programs that employees know are insincere. To be effective, bucket-filling has to be a genuine, heartfelt exercise.

Chapter Three Every Moment Matters


Each day at home and at the workplace is made up of bucket-filling and emptying moments. The low mood experienced after your bosss critical performance review can rise magically when someone else drops a casual compliment. Our Negative Culture It stands to reason that the overwhelming majority of people like working with bucket fillers. So why do modern cultures tend to focus on negativity? Parents concentrate on weaknesses rather than strengths in their childrens school performance, an attitude that destroys individuality and forces children to conform. After graduation, students are still not free to work at what they are best at; typically, most people in their first jobs are expected to mould themselves appropriately to suit the role handed to them. In 1925, a study of school childrens performance at math, vis--vis the encouragement and recognition they received, produced significant results. One group who were criticized before their peers and another group who were completely ignored showed declining performance over the duration of the study. The scores of children who were appreciated in class kept increasing. It is only in recent times that leading academicians worldwide are focusing on Positive Psychology and how it affects people. Recent research says that experiencing positive emotions on a daily basis is absolutely essential for survival. Special Moments Some people can recollect positive, defining moments that became a lifelong inspiration. But even less significant experiences matter. Research in Positive Psychology says the frequency of several, positive interactions makes a difference. Whether in a marriage or at the workplace, the ratio of positive to negative interactions determines how well things work.

Positivity and Your Life Positive emotions bring a staggering range of benefits to our lives: Extended life span Improved immunity against disease Protection from effects of negative emotions Encourage creative thinking Break down of social prejudices Reserves of physical and psychological strength that help in troubled times. Enhanced individual and group productivity at work

Science has acquired a huge body of knowledge about mental illness. Now, experts are beginning to explore the nature of mental wellness.

Toms Story: An Overflowing Bucket Some people are born cheerful and positive, others are predisposed to negativity. But nature is not the sole influencer nurture has a huge role to play as well in shaping our outlook. Regardless of our genetic make-up, consistent bucket filling enhances our positivity quotient. In this chapter, co-author Tom Rath narrates his own life story as a case study on how bucket filling shaped his view of life. From childhood, the affection and consistent encouragement of family members helped his talents to blossom. Later in life this tremendous reserve of warmth supported him when he was diagnosed with a rare and potentially life-threatening disease, one that he still lives with. The unfailing encouragement of family and friends prevented him from sinking into self-pity and hopelessness truly, a story that powerfully underscores the power of bucket filling.

Chapter Five Making it Personal


How can bucket filling be instilled in organizational culture? A formal, programmed style of recognition wont work for long as it lacks in real meaning and employees will soon see through the obvious phoniness.

Also, people are different. Some employees delight in public recognition. Others may prefer a quiet word of appreciation. Good leaders realize this and make praise and recognition an innate aspect of their leadership style. Their individualized approach makes employees feel valued. It enhances productivity, builds solid relationships and transforms peoples lives.

Chapter Six Five Strategies for Increasing Positive Emotions


To increase your quota of positive emotions, make bucket-filling a habit. Create a specific plan to implement it. Here are some strategies: Strategy One Before you begin filling buckets, stop dipping into them. Prior to every interaction, ask yourself if you are filling or dipping into the other persons bucket. This brief pause allows you to rein yourself in before dipping.

When youve mastered this, encourage others to refrain from criticizing or ridiculing others. Dipping as a group is especially harmful. Some people are serial dippers, incapable of change. Stay away from them for your own mental well-being. Track your interactions and score them mentally with a + or -. Ask yourself how you can reach the ideal ratio of five bucket fills for every one bucket dip.

Strategy Two Filling someones bucket is not a static event; rather, it sets off a chain reaction. A wife, unhappy with her marriage, tried getting her husband to discuss contentious issues. The more she focused on what upset her, the more defensive and withdrawn he became. Changing tactics, she began to highlight what she appreciated about him. After some days, he began to open up. His warmth and recognition began filling her bucket, just as her positive attitude had initially affected him. Also, being positive unexpectedly made her feel better about herself, something she began passing on to others. In time, the couple were emanating this positivity to their friends and colleagues. When your bucket fills, accept the gift and return it with warmth. To know how you score on bucket filling, take the 15-question Positive Impact Test on www.bucketbook.com. Strategy Three Relationships play an all important role in our lives, a truth that is borne out by the evidence that many people tend to stick on to organizations, teams or other groups because they have close friends there. A relationship blossoms when the initial series of interactions are positive. When making new acquaintances, remember by what name people like to be called. Fill their buckets immediately a great way to start off and sustain this initiative. Equally important, tell those who matter most to you why you care. At work, build a reputation for being the first to recognize a task well done. Youll soon find people actively seeking your company.

Strategy Four Giving people small, unexpected gifts is great bucket filler. It could be a tangible present, a sudden hug or even a smile. The happiness experienced in receiving an expected gift is limited by that expectation. However, the element of surprise in an unexpected gift is what makes it a hugely effective bucket filler.

Strategy Five With bucket filling, the Golden Rule Do unto others as you would have them do unto you needs to be reversed. To genuinely evoke positive emotions, you must give people the kind of recognition that they want. The book suggests seven questions that help you get started on how to individualize bucket filling. Written appreciation is particularly rewarding. The authors Web site features drops which can be filled, printed and e-mailed to recipients. Many people treasure these little drops for years.

Key Takeaways A year of regular bucket filling is likely to transform your life dramatically. Your work, social life, marriage, family relationships and health would have all benefited tremendously. Scientific research backs the notion that bucket filling makes a vast difference to our lives and those around us. Dont wait, look around right now for a bucket to fill!

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