Executive Times






2005 Book Reviews


How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies For Work and Life by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton


Rating: (Recommended)




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Tom Rath wrote How Full Is Your Bucket? with his grandfather, the late Donald O. Clifton, the Gallup Organization guru who co-wrote Now, Discover Your Strengths (a five-star rating from us in 2001). Clifton’s fifty years of research led him to the conclusion that positive reinforcement leads to success and happiness. Every time we’re negative toward others, we remove water from their buckets. Each positive interaction adds water to others’ buckets and to ours. It’s better to have full buckets.


This short book presents positive psychology in its best light, using anecdotes and personal examples to enhance the message. Here’s an excerpt, all of the chapter titled, “Strategy Two: Shine a Light on What Is Right,” pp. 91-94:



Each interaction gives us the chance to shine a light on what’s right and fill a bucket.

A friend of ours recently discovered the power of focusing on what is right. Unhappy in her marriage, she had been after her husband for weeks to make changes. He didn’t seem interested in spending much time with her, and when she complained, he got defensive. So she drew even more attention to the things that upset her, hoping he would notice. Instead, she found that things seemed to get worse.

Realizing that telling her husband how much he disappointed her wasn’t working, she tried an experi­ment: She began to draw attention to the things he did well and what she liked about him. She was skeptical, but she had nothing to lose. What do you think hap­pened? After several days, her husband was happier when he came home and more engaged in the relation­ship. Eventually, his attentiveness and warmth began to fill her bucket just as her positive outlook toward him had filled his.

But the most unexpected thing was that she felt happier, on her own, by focusing on the positive rath­er than dwelling on the negative. And this, in turn, caused her to be much more positive in her interac­tions with other people. After a few weeks, both she and her husband were passing this newfound energy along to friends and coworkers.

Never underestimate the long-term influence of filling others’ buckets. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson says that positive emotions create “chains of interpersonal events,” the far-reaching results of which you may or may not get to see in person. But they are there and happening.

Every time you fill a bucket, you’re setting something in motion.

Consider this: If you fill two buckets a day, and the owners of those two buckets go on to fill two new buckets, more than a thousand buckets will have been filled at the end of 10 days. If each of those same people filled five buckets instead of two, more than 19 million buckets would be filled in just 10 days!

So continue the chain: When someone fills your bucket, accept it never just brush it off and diminish what that person is doing. Fill their bucket in return by saying “thank you,” letting them know that you ap­preciate the compliment or recognition. In turn, you are more likely to share your renewed positive energy with others.

Do you want to see how much bucket filling you do compared to others? On our Web site, you’ll find a 15-question Positive Impact Test designed with just that purpose in mind. (The questions are listed on the next page.) The test was created to help you determine if you are filling buckets on a regular basis. We encourage you to complete this assessment right away so you have an initial score that indicates whether you have low impact, some impact, or high impact on your environment. You will also be able to see how your score compares to oth­ers, based on results from a Gallup Poll.

Don’t be concerned if your score is low at first. This assessment was designed to provide you with a measure for continuous improvement. The questions evaluate key areas of your progress. To be even more intentional about your progress in bucket filling, con­sider printing the list of questions from the Web site, and use them as a guide for improvement.

Send the link to friends if you want to see how your score compares to theirs. It might be interesting to identify the best bucket fillers in your workgroup, circle of friends, or family. Try it out now, and again in a few months. See if your score improved.

Positive Impact Test Questions

1.            I have helped someone in the last 24 hours.

2.            I am an exceptionally courteous person.

3.            I like being around positive people.

4.            I have praised someone in the last 24 hours.

5.            I have developed a knack for making other people feel good.

6.            I am more productive when I am around positive people.

7.            In the last 24 hours, I have told someone that I cared about her or him.

8.            I make it a point to become acquainted with people wherever I go.

9.            When I receive recognition, it makes me want to give recognition to someone else.

10.          In the last week, I have listened to someone talk through his or her goals and ambitions.

11.          I make unhappy people laugh.

12.          I make it a point to call each of my associates by the name she or he likes to be called.

13.          I notice what my colleagues do at a level of excellence.

14.          I always smile at the people I meet.

15.          I feel good about giving praise whenever I see good behavior.


Readers will come away from How Full Is Your Bucket with positive thoughts, and ideas on how to make more personal interactions positive and mutually beneficial.


Steve Hopkins, December 20, 2004



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the January 2005 issue of Executive Times

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