The Two Buckets: Balancing Emotions and Actions for Personal Growth

6 February 2024
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Imagine two buckets: one holds your emotions, and the other holds your actions.

You are free to fill or empty both buckets with either constructive or destructive emotions and actions.

There is a reciprocal relationship between your internal world (feelings, emotions, thoughts) and your external world (actions, environment, experiences).

Your inner and outer world are interconnected, and they influence each other.

Your emotions and beliefs motivate you to take certain actions or pursue specific goals.

Simultaneously, your actions and experiences also affect your emotions and thoughts, your overall well-being and mindset.

For years, I suffered because I neglected to recognize and nurture the two buckets that bring balance and purpose to life.

The Emotional Bucket

This bucket holds the emotions you experience, both positive and negative.

It can overflow with joy, excitement, love, but also overflow with anger, sadness, or fear.

The goal is not to erase negative emotions, but to foster self-awareness and establish a healthy connection between the two buckets.

The level of the emotional bucket, representing the emotions you experience, change throughout the day.

Various factors influence this fluctuation, such as your personal experiences, interactions with others, and environmental stimuli.

Both internal factors (your own thoughts and feelings) and external factors (the people you interact with and the environment you are in) influence your emotions.

Your emotions influence your behaviors and actions.

It is your responsibility to fill and empty your emotional bucket in ways that improve the quality of your life.

You cannot blame anyone for filling or empty it without your permission.

The Action Bucket

This bucket represents the actions you take.

It reflects your behaviors, reactions, and how you express yourself in the world.

Overpowering emotions, positive or negative, that lead to impulsive actions with little thought fill this bucket.

You have a choice to fill it with negative reactions and unhealthy coping behaviors, or calm constructive behaviors.

The Interplay

Even if you imagine yourself carrying a bucket in each hand, these two buckets do not exist in isolation.

They interact and influence each other.

If you persistently fill any of your buckets with junk, that’s what you’ll end up with in your interactions.

This means simply recognizing and understanding your emotions and motivations is not enough; you must actively work towards creating constructive emotions and motivation through your actions.

Whether good or bad, you are constantly filling and emptying both buckets.

Filling the emotional bucket

To fill my emotional bucket energetically, I practice healthy ways to process various emotions.

Some strong emotions that most of us, myself included, struggle with are:

  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Jealousy
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Frustration
  • Excitement (the unhealthy type)
  • Happiness (chasing the wrong things to make me happy)

It took me years of pursuing empty goals and using distractions to finally understand that I was filling both my buckets with worthless junk.

This pattern was consistent and predictable.

When the time came to empty my buckets, I realized I had been filling them with worthless things.

I experienced disappointment with my life and instead of proactively making changes, I would numb myself even more, reinforcing the same negative feelings.

In psychology, disappointment is often viewed as a cognitive evaluation of a situation where the outcome falls short of expectations, often leading to feelings of frustration, sadness, or even anger.

I lived that way for a long time until I realized that recognizing and validating my emotions is crucial for understanding them.

Despite the pain of realizing how much time I had squandered on distractions, I attempted to develop a healthier emotional mindset.

Seeking self-discovery, I began journaling, disconnecting from my phone during walks, and consciously engaging in meaningful interactions.

I practiced setting boundaries and communicating them assertively.

I firmly rejected most requests, taking deliberate steps to simplify my thoughts and organize my surroundings.

Within a year, I gained clarity on what mattered to me, both internally and externally.

After two years, I had quit social media and replaced endless scrolling with the rhythm of my daily runs, feeling more alive with each stride.

Here are three more empowering questions to reflect on when filling the emotional bucket:

  1. How can you deepen your understanding of each emotion and its underlying causes?
  2. What healthy coping mechanisms can you incorporate to process and express difficult emotions effectively?
  3. How can you create a supportive and compassionate environment for yourself that promotes emotional growth and well-being?

These questions can guide you in exploring and developing strategies to fill your emotional bucket in a constructive and empowering way.

Emptying The Emotional Bucket

Just to be clear, filling the emotional bucket involves adopting healthy practices that treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would someone you love.

It’s about getting to know yourself, so you stop filling your bucket with emotionally draining thoughts, beliefs, and people.

Emptying the emotional bucket is all about finding healthy outlets to release your emotions.

To empty the emotional bucket, you can practice different healthy ways to deal with and release your emotions.

Here are some techniques:

  1. Write your emotions and thoughts in a journal. This help you gain clarity and perspective on your feelings. Ask question and answer them.
  2. Meditation practice is nothing more than observing your emotions without judgment. This help you disentangle from intense emotions and create a sense of calm.
  3. Physical activities such as exercise, yoga, or dancing help release pent-up emotions and stimulate a sense of well-being.
  4. Share your emotions with a supportive friend, family member, or therapist. Talking about your feelings provides validation, emotional release and a starting point for a solid plan.
  5. Explore creative outlets to express, process, and release your emotions. Everyone is creative in their own way. You are no exception.

Remember, emptying the emotional bucket is an ongoing process. This is not a theory, this is a practice.

Here are three more empowering questions for reflection:

  1. How can you deepen your understanding of your emotions and their influence on your actions?
  2. What strategies can you incorporate to cultivate emotional resilience and well-being?
  3. How can you create a supportive environment that encourages emotional growth and expression?

These questions can guide you in exploring and developing a healthier relationship with your emotions, leading to personal growth and well-being.

Filling the Actions bucket

After you have filled your emotional bucket with the right things, the second step is to say no to everything and everyone that does not honor you as a human being.

That means avoiding the wasteful use of resources in your bucket.

This is crucial, because your relationships with yourself and others are never be better than your actions.

Reading about emotional intelligence will not improve your emotional intelligence. Taking action on what you read will.

Constructive actions will fill your action bucket with energy and motivation.

Note to Self: Remember, the quality of your life is determined by the standards you set for yourself and what you allow from others.

The key to personal development lies in establishing goals and taking small, consistent steps towards their attainment.

Along the way, it’s crucial to cultivate self-compassion and forgive yourself for any setbacks, while fully immersing yourself in activities that align with your values and long-term aspirations.

By consistently refilling your motivation bucket, you can later make use of it to create more value for yourself and others.

Emptying The Actions bucket

One of the biggest lies we are ever told growing up is that you get what you give.

Everyone is fighting their own battles, pursuing their own goals.

It doesn’t fall into the categories of good or bad, but holds its own unique essence.

When you empty your action bucket, you only have access to the resources you filled it with.

If you spend all your time fighting other people’s battles, tending to their needs, or chasing their goals, that’s all you’ll end up with in your bucket.

The process of emptying the actions bucket has the potential to leave you feeling depleted or rejuvenated, depending on how you approach it.

To stay motivated, identify and address unhealthy way you use the energy and motivation you filled your action bucket with.

Here are three empowering questions for you to reflect on:

  1. How can you prioritize your own goals and needs while still being supportive of others?
  2. What boundaries can you establish to ensure that you are not constantly draining your action bucket for others?
  3. What activities or practices can you engage in to replenish and rejuvenate your action bucket when you feel drained or fatigued?

By exploring these questions, you gain insights into how to maintain a healthy balance between supporting others and taking care of your own well-being and personal growth.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the interplay between your emotions and actions is crucial for personal growth and well-being.

By filling your emotional bucket with self-awareness and healthy ways of expression, you are better equipped to navigate the difficulties of life with greater resilience.

Simultaneously, filling your actions bucket with intentional choices and behaviors that align with your values empowers you to embrace a purposeful life.

By nurturing both your feelings and actions, you cultivate greater understanding, self-compassion, and intentionality in your journey toward personal growth.

You have the power to fill your life with negative emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, jealousy, and guilt.

You also have the choice to fill it with joy, adventures, and love.

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