The Dipper and the Bucket

There is an old theory that comes from Donald O. Clifton about the dipper and the bucket. The theory says that each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on how we treat others and how they treat us. The theory continues that each of us also has an invisible dipper that we use to fill or empty other people’s buckets. When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets, by saying or doing things to increase their positive attitude, we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others’ buckets, by saying or doing things that decrease their positive attitude, we diminish ourselves. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful.

You fill a bucket when you help someone, when you smile, make someone feel special or do something kind. A bucket filler is someone who says or does nice things to other people. Bucket fillers are those who help without being asked. By filling other people’s buckets, we fill our own bucket too! A bucket dipper robs us of happy feelings by refusing to help, by gossiping or backstabbing, ignoring or excluding someone. Bucket dippers act this way because they have empty buckets. They think that they can fill their bucket by dipping into our bucket. A bully is an example of a bucket dipper.

You can be a bucket filler to anyone; the grocery store cashier, the gas station attendant, your waitress, coworkers, friends and family and anyone else that crosses your path. You can say hello, smile, hold the door, carry groceries for an elderly neighbor, read to a younger sibling, help someone with homework, or simply ask someone if they need a hand.

Sometimes we use our dippers to take from others’ buckets. It can happen in a variety of ways. Some are subtle and some are blatant, but all leave ones bucket a little emptier than it was. An old friend of mine used to dip from my bucket every time I saw him. I’d leave our conversations feeling horrible. Once I figured out he was dipping way more than he was filling, I put a lid on my bucket to keep him out. I know he was acting like that because his bucket was empty, and shutting him out might seem harsh, but I’m not letting him get his dipper in my bucket!

It might be a stretch or even ridiculous for you to imagine everyone carrying around little buckets and dippers, but I’m sure you understand that what you say or do to someone else can affect their attitude and yours. You understand the theory of the dipper and the bucket if:

– You’ve ever had a bad mood suddenly disappear when someone tells you that you look like you’ve lost weight.

– You’ve ever volunteered your time for a good cause.

– You’ve recently received a hand written note.

The world around you can be tough and even cruel. You might even have a hard time seeing the positive in anything. There is hope – it is still the little things you say and do that can make a big difference. One of those little things about life is that you have many opportunities each day to put the theory of the bucket and the dipper into practical application. It’s a metaphor for The Golden Rule and one that influences your relationships, productivity, health, and happiness. When things are good our buckets are full. When our buckets are full we feel happy, content and are generally positive. But when our buckets are empty, we are sad, discouraged and not all that much fun to be around. How you treat others directly affects your personal and professional life. Be mindful about the way you use you dipper.

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  1. Jen O’Doherty CNP, your bucket should be overflowing because you are an amazing caregiver and co-worker. We don’t know what we would do without you at Avon Pointe because you bring so much to your role. I appreciate your genuine kindness, insight, and willingness to help. You are very approachable and I feel very comfortable coming to you for anything. Thank you for all that you do!!!!

  2. Jennifer O’Doherty, CNP is a wonderful leader and is admired by all staff. She is very dedicated to her work and willing to jump in and help out with any task. She is compassionate, caring, and all patients love her. She is truly wonderful to have here at Avon Pointe, and I am honored to work with her.

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