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How Full is Your Bucket? is
a work of positive psychology. The authors, Rath and Clifton, explain how
important it is to have a full bucket, by which they mean getting plenty of
positive feedback and connection with other people. People who do not trust
those around them, who are ignored or get criticized by their families, and who
take a negative view of life tend to do less well than their more fortunate
counterparts. People who are nurtured and praised by their families, who can
rely on those around them, and who take a positive view of life tend to be more
able to cope with life's difficulties. Rath tells his own story of having a
rare condition as a young man that made him more prone to getting cancerous
tumors, and he says that his positive attitudes helped him go through that time
without becoming despondent. The authors give many other examples of how
giving positive feedback and praise to people made people more productive in
their families or their workplaces.
The audiobook is on 2 CDs, and
lasts about 90 minutes. Rath's reading is steady and pleasant without being
histrionic or aggressive. The authors are able to explain their bucket theory
in plausible terms, and show how it does not reduce to bland platitudes and
fake smiles. They give five strategies on how to fill buckets and keep them
full. They advise to stay clear of chronic bucket dippers (people who empty
the buckets of others), and praising the good actions of those around you
rather dwelling on the negative. Accept praise from others, and encourage
others to be bucket-fillers. The authors argue that such strategies can make a
real difference in the world.
Obviously, the bucket theory is
very simplistic and can sound a little silly. For those of us prone to a
rather skeptical view of other people's motivations and to be disappointed by
the frequent failures of people, positive psychology can be quite annoying because
it seems to verge on recommending self-deception. Why focus on the positive
when there is so much to complain about? How can it even be possible to ignore
all the problems in the world? How can you view other people with
unconditional positive regard when they are so flawed? While the authors may
not answer all the reader's misgivings about their bucket theory, they do say
enough to make it plausible that it is worth trying. In fact, this short
audiobook is probably the idea length for those interested in learning about
positive psychology, because longer works on the topic tend to get repetitive
and redundant. If you fill out the rather tiresome "strengths
finder" survey available at bucketbook.com, (you may need the special 16
digit code that comes with the book) you'll spend about half an hour filling it
out, only to be told less than you already knew. It turns out that my top five
themes are Intellection, Learner, Deliberative, Input, Individualization.
("People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they
like to collect and archive all kinds of information.") There is good
reason to agree with the defenders of positive psychology that it should be
taken seriously, but the solid scientific findings behind the movement at this
stage can be stated quickly, and the rest is presentation, accompanied all too
often by pseudoscience. This audiobook version of How Full Is Your Bucket?
leaves out the pseudoscience and keeps things simple, making it far more
© 2006 Christian Perring. All
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is
Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor
of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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