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How Full Is Your Bucket?

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How Full Is Your Bucket?

Positive Strategies for Work and Life

Gallup Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Every interaction either empties or fills your bucket of well-being. So think positive and pour it on.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • Inspiring


Going through life with a short, handy, happy philosophy – particularly one as affirming as the concept in this book – is very nice. However, a fine line separates simple from simplistic. Although some readers will enjoy the breezy easiness of this approach, others might find it to be just a first step toward becoming more upbeat. Donald O. Clifton, a pioneer in positive psychology, and his co-author and grandson, Tom Rath, developed the “bucket” and “dipper” theories of happy emotions, based on Clifton’s research. The bucket is a metaphor for your sense of well-being. Every interaction fills your bucket or drains it. You also have a psychological dipper you use to add to or take away from other people’s sense of joy and security – their buckets. The choice, the authors explain, is yours. The book includes small drop-shaped cards for dropping a few friendly notes. It also provides five strategies that can increase your positive emotions and those of the other people in your life. If your bucket is perennially half-empty, getAbstract recommends dipping into this bestseller to see if it holds water for you.


“The Dipper and the Bucket”

Traditionally, doctors study what is wrong with people. Donald O. Clifton decided to take a different approach and study what is right with people. He became curious when he learned that the death rate in North Korean prisoner of war camps was around 38%, higher than in any similar camps. The difference was that the North Koreans broke each prisoner’s will to live by depriving him of all positive emotional support. The impact of this overwhelming desolation caused many captives to give up. After learning about this, Clifton decided to pose a new question: “Can positivity have an even stronger impact than negativity?”

Clifton’s subsequent research gave birth to the “Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket.” The bucket is a metaphor for how you feel. Everyone has an invisible bucket. Throughout the day, every interaction either fills your bucket or takes away from it. When your bucket brims over, you feel contented. When it is low, you feel sad and depleted. Everyone also has an invisible dipper. You use this dipper to either fill or empty other people’s buckets. Doing and saying positive things fills their buckets, whereas being negative empties...

About the Authors

The American Psychological Association recognized the late Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., as the “Father of Strengths Psychology.” He chaired Gallup, Inc., and wrote Now, Discover Your Strengths. His grandson, Tom Rath, worked with him and now focuses on professional development programs.

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