Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bucket Filling

“All day long, everyone in the whole wide world walks around carrying an invisible bucket. You can’t see it, but it’s there. … Your bucket has one purpose only.  Its purpose is to hold your good thoughts and good feelings about yourself. You feel very happy and good when you bucket is full and you feel very sad and lonely when your bucket is empty.” So begins a children’s book titled “Have You Filled a Bucket Today” by Carol McCloud.

The book continues on to explain how you fill other people’s buckets by giving them compliments, helping them, and telling them you love them.  It also cautions against having an empty bucket, when you are tempted to dip into someone else’s full bucket.  The book explains that we are all either ‘bucket fillers’ or ‘bucket dippers’. We can either be positive influences in the lives of other people or we can be negative influences.  

Now, if you’re still reading, please stay with me.  I promise I will explain why this is relevant to a university basketball team.  

I first encountered bucket filling last summer when I was helping run a workshop for teenage girls.  My boss’ wife brought the book and read it to the girls.  Although skeptical at first, I was amazed at how well a bunch of 13-16 year old girls responded.  We spent hours discussing high school pressures and the difficulties of being a teenager.  We concluded that life would be a lot easier if girls took time to fill each other’s buckets instead of constantly dipping into them.  The metaphor is simple, but really resonated with the girls, and with me.  I entered this season with a new perspective.  As a fifth year a lot of my role was going to involve telling teammates what to do, calling girls out when they do something wrong, and beating up on them in practice. When I do these things I’m doing my job and I’m helping my team, but I can’t just empty buckets.  I need to fill them as well.

In September I had a conversation with Barb, our mental skills coach, and explained how I was going to make a concerted effort to fill buckets.  Nothing big, nothing fancy, but I was going to try to remember to be positive with my teammates. Now, I need to take this chance to tell you a little bit about Barb.  I’ve tried to write about her before but I can never come up with the right words.  Barb is amazing.  She is compassionate and encouraging while still being exceptionally competitive.  If you need anything from her you just need to think about it and she magically makes it happen.  Anyway, I told her about my new focus on filling buckets and she ran with it, finding a tangible way to bring it to the team. 

A week later we each had a bucket in our lockers and pads of paper in the teamroom.  We started that day by leaving each person a note and we’ve continued on since then.  There aren’t any rules.  Notes can be signed or anonymous (although any that I get addressed to “grandma” I know came from a rookie). Sometimes I leave a teammate a note if I notice she’s been struggling, or if she’s really stepped up and deserves to be recognized.   The words I’ve found in bucket have been incredibly moving, supportive, and source of motivation. “Your caring attitude will be the reason that we succeed” said one note that I found in my bucket. “I would be lost at practice without you” said another.  After a particularly tough day I got one that said “I want you to remember how important you are to our team at all times”.

I think ‘buckets’ are a great tool for classrooms, teams, workplaces and families.  When my team feels good about ourselves we work harder, are more productive, and are definitely a lot nicer to be around.  The notes in our locker are amazing, but bucket filling can be simpler too.  Give someone a hug or a high five and tell them you appreciate them.

So if you’re still reading this do me a favour okay?  Fill someone’s bucket today. Recognize a co-worker for their hard word, give your parents a note with the top five reasons you love them, or thank a teammate for making you better today.  You’ll feel good, they’ll feel good, and you’ll both have a better day.


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