How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath is a quick, but worthwhile read. The books subtitle really says it all, positive strategies for Work and Life. The book's main concept uses the metaphor of a bucket and a dipper. The bucket stores positive emotions. The ideal situation is where a bucket is full or overflowing bucket and at the other end of the spectrum is the undesired state of an empty bucket. The dipper on the other hand, either fills up or empties others' and our own buckets. We fill buckets by increasing positive emotions and empty buckets by decreasing positive emotions or via negativity. As simplistic and commonsensical as it sounds, this concept is backed by extensive research.
The introduction starts with early psychology and how it looked at "What's wrong with people". However, Don flipped the question and started researching on "What's right with people". Over the course of time, it was uncovered that human lives are shaped by interactions and these are rarely neutral. Most of our interactions are either negative or positive.
Negativity Kills. The authors' cite the example of the Korean War and how the American POWs were made to feel hopeless without using much physical torture. The Korean captors used the weapons of self-criticism and mistrust as well as withheld positive support to mentally break down the POWs. On the other hand, positivity increases productivity, loyalty, engagement in social circles and better customer care. The authors identify praise and recognition as the critical components of positivity.
We live in a negative culture where praise and recognition are rare. However, the authors caution that the praise and recognition given has to be personalized. "Employee of the month" type of praise and recognition hardly work as it is impersonal and almost everybody in the end ends up getting one. In the process, a lot of research is cited including an interesting one done by Elizabeth Hurlock which showed that children who were praised improved much more than those who were ignored or criticised.
Time and again throughout the book, the authors state the advantages of positive emotions and the disadvantages of negative emotions. The authors urge the readers to wisely use the daily countless moments of interactions to fill buckets and state that the magic ratio is 5-to-1 (5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction). Studies prove link between optimism and lifespan. For example, cigarettes reduce lifespan on average by 5.5 yrs in males and 7 yrs in females but negative emotions have a deadlier effect on lifespan.
In the middle of the book, Tom presents his personal story of how optimism and 'bucket filling' helped him overcome a rare disorder called the Hippel-Lindau disease which causes unexpected tumours in the brain, pancreas and other body parts.
The authors' time and again urge to make bucket filling a daily practice in our personal lives. Furthermore, personalize the praise and recognition. The mantra "Individualise, Individualise, Individualise" is oft-repeated.
The book winds up with "Five Strategies for Increasing Positive Emotions".
* Strategy 1 (Prevent Bucket Dipping): This can be achieved by becoming conscious, by always asking "Am I adding or dipping?", by preventing dipping, by positively influencing people around and by avoiding persistently negative people. They also urge readers to keep score and provide a worksheet on their site [...]
* Strategy 2 (Shine a Light on What is Right): This can be achieved on by focusing on what's right instead of what's wrong. Help others to feel positive and acknowledge others when they fill your bucket. The website also has a "Positive Impact Test" to assess the current level of positive impact as well as to monitor the improvements.
* Strategy 3 (Make Best Friends): This can be achieved by making best friends at work or outside.
* Strategy 4 (Give Unexpectedly): People prefer unexpected gifts as it has an element of surprise. It does not have to be an expensive or tangible gift (like trust and responsibility). Seek chances to give.
* Strategy 5 (Reverse the Golden Rule): Reverse the golden rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" into "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them". Read carefully, you'll get it.
Finally, notice the changes after a period of time. The workplace should be more productive and fun. On a personal front, the relationships with family, friends and self should also improve.
Go ahead, fill a bucket today.
Be Happy. God Bless.