The Power of Filling our Bucket!!
In short “filling your bucket” is all about looking after your mental health through regular activity that allows your brain to rest and rejuvenate.
Over the last 4 years only 8% of the leaders that I have interacted with regularly fill their buckets. At best some will fill their buckets at the weekend, hoping that it would be enough, but realising as the year continues they are still feeling overwhelmed, de-motivated, tired and stressed. So what is “filling your bucket” and why is it so important?
“Filling your bucket” was a term I unashamedly repurposed from my son’s school teacher a few years ago when he was in his first year at primary school. He was taught that you have to keep the energy levels in your bucket full to overflowing so that you can use the excess energy to help fill your friends bucket when they are feeling down and have less energy. How awesome is that for a lesson to be giving young children; “look after yourself first, so that you can look after others”. That message immediately hit home, it connected with where I was at, at that time and I could also see it being a problem with many of the leaders I was coaching.
When I asked each leader what they did to fill their bucket on a regular basis, not one of them (at that time) said they did anything. Their life revolved around their work and what time and energy they had left their families took, leaving nothing for themselves. In some cases that led to chronic stress or burnout.
The essence of this message is that to rest your brain, I mean truly rest your brain, you need to find something that you can do for yourself that excites you, relaxes you, and refreshes you, something that you can do for you (it can involve others, but it will always be for YOUR benefit). It will be something that when you are doing it, you will get into the flow, and time seems to pass you by, and in that time, you think about nothing else, other than what you are doing. When you are in the flow, your brain is free from distractions, it is doing something that it loves to do, that it finds easy to do (not cognitively overloading) and is able to stay present, in the moment. When you find an activity that does this for you and you can do that on a daily basis then you are doing the best you can to keep the health of your brain in an optimal condition (from an activity perspective).
When your brain is able to go into this place on a regular basis, it allows it to cope with cognitively more challenging tasks, it has the energy, both physical and emotional to then help and support others. It will have a greater capacity to deal with the unexpected things that life regularly throws at us, without us losing our s#!t. In general it keeps us calmer and more civil, making us better people to be around.
For me I have several things, daily I love to read fantasy fiction novels, taking my brain away to make believe lands, imagining that I am a great wizard, saving the world from evil. Two to three time a week I play online with a group of friends on my Xbox, getting lost in trying to stay alive in games such as Call of Duty, Halo or Mass Effect. Once every one or two weeks I’ll head off into the country side to do a bit of hiking and birdwatching, afterwards I’ll often attempt to draw one or two of the species I’ve seen in a drawing book I have, using pencils to do this. In every one of those activities I get into the flow, I lose all track of time, I forget about everything that is going on in my life and simply enjoy the moment.
I do exercise regularly in the form of walking, I do this in the country lanes around the small township that I live, although this is good for my physical health, it doesn’t get me in the flow, often that time is used to problem solve things I’m trying to figure out for work so whilst beneficial, it does not “fill my bucket”.
So what can or do you do to fill your bucket on a regular basis?