Imagine waking up in the morning and finding a pail of pebbles on the floor by your bed with a note attached. The note reads, “Carry this with you today and you will either be adding pebbles or losing ones depending upon your interactions with other people and the events of the day.”


With this metaphor, a full pail means you are feeling great. The positive experiences in your life will add pebbles and with  each negative emotion or experience your pail will lighten. Ideally you want to keep your pail as full as possible. But, it is not realistic to think that you will be only adding pebbles. But if you find that you are losing more pebbles then gaining, it is time to evaluate your actions and experiences. The important thing it to make sure you are filling your pail as much as possible.


Imagine as well, that everyone you encounter also has a pail. Ask yourself as you interact with this person, “Am I making adding or  taking pebbles away from them”? In other words, is your interaction with that person a positive enriching one for them as well as for yourself?





A few thoughts to help you fill your pail.


  1. RELATIONSHIPS- Think about your recent interactions with your friends and co-workers and ask yourself if that person added or took pebbles from your pail? If it wasn’t a positive experience, why not? Could you have done something different? Perhaps this isn’t a good choice for a friend? If it is, then make an effort to maintain the friendship. This includes groups and organizations that you participate in as well.


  1. ACTIVITIES- Are you spending time doing those things you love and excite you? We all have necessary chores we don’t enjoy and they certainly drain our pails. There is nothing about mopping floors that I will ever enjoy. My choice is to delegate the job or to make sure that I have enough other activities in my life that overshadow the things I hate to do.



  1. YOUR HEATLH- Taking care of yourself physically is the foundation for all else. If we aren’t feeling good about our bodies and we aren’t in good health it will impact everything we do. Pay attention to the foods you eat and find the physical activity that you enjoy.


Here are just a few suggestions on filling other people’s pails.


  1. LISTEN: Take the time to really listen to what the other person is saying instead of thinking of what you will say the minute they stop talking. Do not interrupt them.


  1. COMPLIMENTS: Whether it is a clerk in a store or you spouse, give people you interact with a compliment. When you do, be specific.
    Rather than just saying “Good Job” or a basic “”Thank You”, you might say to the person bagging your groceries, “Thank you for making sure my  bread and rolls were put on top and not where they would get squished.”  I recently sent a thank you note to a woman who facilitated a panel that I was on. I thanked her for the opportunity and specifically mentioned that her questions were right on target and I liked that she stayed focused and gave all panelists equal time. Being specific in a compliment makes it more genuine and it lets the person knows exactly what you liked and what they do well.


  1. BE CONSIDERATE- O.K. you did see that parking space first. But why not let that other person have it? Perhaps they have had a lousy day and the simple act of acknowledging them and being generous might be just what they needed to lift their spirits. They may also embrace the “pay it forward” theory and keep small gestures of consideration in motion.


You will discover that as your fill the pail of others creating positive experiences and feelings for them, you are also helping keep your pail full.



It is beyond theory. There is scientific proof that negative emotions and experiences impact our health and overall well being and productivity.


The concept of filling or dipping into your bucket can be explored in more depth in the book “How Full is Your bucket” by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. The emphasis in this book is on organizations; however, many of the ideas and concepts can be applied to individuals as well.

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