Frequently Asked Questions
The bucket represents your mental and emotional self.
Actions or words that show that you care about someone. Saying or doing something kind. Giving someone a heartfelt smile. Using names with respect. Helping without being asked. Giving sincere compliments. Showing respect to others. There are hundreds of wonderful ways to fill buckets. The language of bucket filling has become synonymous with being kind and thoughtful. Your bucket will be filled when, at the close of each day, you reflect on how you have filled buckets.
Making fun of someone. Saying or doing unkind things. Refusing to help. Failing to show respect or being intentionally disrespectful. This is a partial list of ways in which it’s possible to dip into another’s bucket. Another is bullying, the behavior that has become the essence of bucket dipping. We must learn to understand the motivation for these behaviors. Note: It is also dipping when we unintentionally dip into another’s bucket with a thoughtless word or careless action. These are small and should be repaired with a swift, sincere apology.
Because your bucket represents your emotional and mental health, it is extremely important that you learn to protect the good thoughts and feelings you’ve collected. The “lid” represents a mental shield against anything that would dip into your bucket. When you consciously train yourself to stop and think through a situation as soon as you feel the hurt, pain, or anger from a painful, embarrassing, or otherwise unpleasant situation you will be able to prevent your bucket from being dipped. As you practice using your lid, you will build the necessary resilience to work through life’s challenges. Both children and adults can be taught to use their lids to protect their buckets. Every situation is indeed different; however, patience and practice in using your lid combined with trust in your basic bucketfilling instincts will help you succeed more often than not.
When your bucket is full, you feel more confident, secure, calm, patient, and friendly. Your thoughts are positive, and you expect positive results. When your bucket is overflowing, you experience an intense happiness that can spread to those around you. Have you ever felt better after someone gave you a friendly smile or happy grin? This is the “ripple effect” of a full bucket.
When your bucket is empty, it contains few, if any, positive thoughts or feelings. When your bucket is empty, you can easily become sad, negative, insecure, nervous, angry, depressed, stressed, worried, afraid, or physically ill. When you experience any of these feelings, it’s easy to believe that life is too challenging and that nothing you attempt will be successful. An empty bucket can affect your behavior and cause you to express your emotions in a way that empties the buckets of those around you.
Negative life events. The careless or even cruel words and behavior of others can also affect the level of happiness in your bucket. Your self-talk and thoughts can dramatically reduce or raise the level of happiness in your bucket. It’s important to know that you are responsible for what you choose to think, and when your thoughts are positive and healthy, your bucket levels will reflect it.
The idea of a reservoir that is “full” or “filled” dates to biblical times and refers to positive attributes, such as being filled with joy, wisdom, love, faith, etc. In the 1960s, Dr. Donald O. Clifton (1924-2003) first created the “Dipper and Bucket” story, which depicted the reservoir as an invisible bucket. With his grandson, Tom Rath, Dr. Clifton also co-authored the #1 New York Times bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life (Gallup Press). This inspiring book is also available in an educator’s edition. In 2002 the American Psychological Association presented Clifton with its Presidential Commendation for lifetime contributions as “the father of strengths-based psychology and the grandfather of positive psychology.” Dr. Clifton’s 50 years of research initiated a movement that has increased positive moments and reduced negative moments in countless lives. His legacy of wisdom and inspiration continues today.
In the 1970s, John E. Valusek, Ph.D., a respected psychologist, and advocate for the prevention of child abuse, wrote about bucket filling and bucket dipping in his Bits and Pieces #1: Some Ways of Thinking About Human Behavior. He explained that "How we feel and how we will behave at any given moment is dependent upon how much or how little we have in our buckets." In the 1970s, Merrill Lundgren (1919-2016), an insurance marketing executive, heard the terms bucket filling and bucket dipping during a company conference. For more than four decades, Merrill dedicated his life to teaching these concepts and other life skills to adults. Then in the 1990s, he began to teach children. In 2005, at age 87, Merrill was looking for someone to continue his work and presented the message with Carol McCloud for a year before he retired.
Bucket filling has become one of the most popular and effective character development programs. It is taught in school districts, at conferences, and shared on blogs and educational websites around the world. Take a minute to Google® “bucket filling” and discover how much discussion there is on the subject. Bucket filling focuses on the positive, it’s easily understood, and simple to implement. And, when another successful character-development program is already in place, bucket filling enhances that program. Every character trait (kindness, respect, responsibility, trust, fairness, and citizenship) becomes more tangible when the action is described as filling a bucket.
The bucket concept is simple and profound: Two-year-olds can understand it, yet it is so profound that therapists who use it can help their clients solve the many challenges they hope to overcome. The concept of a full or empty bucket explains the motivation behind the behavior, i.e., when our buckets are full, we are much more inclined to fill our buckets and the buckets of others, and when our buckets are empty, we tend to find ourselves dipping.
Sadly, we live in bucketdipping world where unkind words are often more common than compliments. Bucket filling has created a new and simple language that everyone can understand and learn., i.e., You filled my bucket! Understanding the motivation behind behavior and realizing that we can choose to be bucket fillers are powerful tools for positive change.
Feel free to email Carol with any other questions you may have.