Posted in focus on faith

How full is your bucket?

isl08062Draw a bucket and put a line to mark where you feel your energy level is right now. Do it. I did. That’s where we begin.

In my blog Simplified Living is Far From Simple  I featured Bill Hybels’ book Simplify and committed to blogging my progress, or lack of, through the book. Wait a sec…I need to grab another cafe latte…it’s my third one. We’ll talk about judging in a future blog!

Okay, let’s simplify! The first of the 10 practices in Simplify is replenishing your energy reserves. This is how you move from exhausted to energized. Ergo, the bucket exercise. This gives you a visual for where you are right now. How full, or empty, is your bucket?

Yesterday, I drew my line around the two thirds mark, say 65 percent full. But now that I’m working on that third coffee, I feel closer to 90 percent! Note to self: don’t be fooled by false readings based on faulty evidence. The caffeine pendulum swings both ways. I’m going with the initial assessment of two thirds.

Leaders are seldom naturally drawn to simplicity, says Hybels. He confesses that simplified living is a learning journey for him too. But he is determined to strive for simplicity because he has personally experienced the damage done to himself and others when he allowed himself to get dangerously depleted.

Depleted people are often:

  1. resentful
  2. irritable
  3. unable to focus
  4. seeking escape in unhealthy ways

Replenished people, however, are usually:

  1. soulful
  2. rested
  3. creative
  4. loving
  5. playful
  6. prayerful

Which list describes you these days? I find myself straddling the fence; not fitting either list exactly, which seems to support my bucket reading of two thirds.

Evidence of being Depleted:

  • Resentful? No.
  • Irritable? No, but credit must be given to HRT.
  • Unable to focus? What menopausal woman isn’t?
  • Escapism? I have been watching more Netflix these days….hmmm.

Evidence of being Energized:

  • Soulful? Not sure what that means; assuming it refers to being driven by non-material pursuits I would give myself a passing grade but not by much.
  • Rested? Usually, because it is a priority.
  • Creative? Not wired that way.
  • Loving? Hope so. Will ask my family to report. If you don’t hear from me, I flunked.
  • Playful? Also missing in my DNA but being a grandparent has revealed hidden reserves, so, Yes. Still not even close to my party-animal sister Lisa but better than I was.
  • Prayerful? If unspoken groanings count then I am a prayer warrior.

Hybels recommends that before you try to fill a depleted bucket you should figure out what is driving you to make holes in your energy bucket. The two main hole-makers are:

(1) getting our self worth from over-achieving (people pleasing)

(2) feeling guilty for taking time to replenish (children are starving and I’m at the beach!?)

Hybels says the path to simplicity requires total honesty: I confess, what others think of me has always mattered. A lot. Probably too much. But I am pretty much over the guilt I used to feel when I worked in my garden, went hiking or skiing, walked a beach, read a book, or did other activities that fed my soul. Like Hybels I’ve learned that I am of more value to others and more connected to God when I have taken the time to replenish. Spend some time thinking about what drives you.

Make a list of the things that replenish your energy. Hybels lists his five keys: connecting with God, family, satisfying work, recreation and exercise (including rest and diet). But he suggests you make your own list by determining what are the replenishing people, dynamics, activities, and engagements that fill you up?

My list mirrors Hybels’ (like I said, I’m not creative!):

  1. connecting with God: Mainly — bible reading, prayer, church attendance and involvement, acts of service, Christian books and studies. Occasionally — nature walks, fire gazing, worship music.
  2. family: I work part-time from home (writer/speaker) since having children and have often curtailed my work when my family needed “more” of me. A five-year season of homeschooling, my husband’s burnout from exhaustion, and our daughter’s cancer were times when I scaled way back to accommodate what I thought were higher priorities. Obviously this put a strain on our finances since my husband is not an oil magnate but a minister. We incurred some debt — not for necessities but for extras — and have been following a self-induced program of rapid debt retirement for the past year. It’s exhilarating watching that debt shrink!
  3. satisfying work: honestly, I used to prefer my unpaid job, puttering around the house. In fact, my reward after a speaking engagement was to spend a day cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, gardening, anything that did not involve sitting at a computer or engaging with people. Obviously I am an introvert. My work-for-hire job of public speaking, for many years, was only satisfying when it was over and I was on my way home. But that was because I had to overcome crippling fear and occasional panic attacks on and off stage. Now, thankfully, I can enjoy my work/calling due mainly to persevering with God’s help and learning to follow Him one yes at a time. So I caution you, before you walk away from the right job, think about what it is about the job that’s depleting you. In my case, I didn’t need a job change but a “me” change. Keeping the job forced me to grow and to rely on God and I am so glad I hung in there.
  4. recreation: Online Scrabble, reading for pleasure, being outdoors, grandkids, simple home reno, gardening, traveling with my husband…. All these things–lest we forget BBC shows on Netflix!–replenish me.
  5. Exercise/rest/diet: For most of my adult life I have been disciplined about this. I have found that fatigue makes me feel sick, literally. I hurt all over. So I am motivated to get enough sleep most of the time. Poor diet also makes me sick. I can’t tolerate dairy, gluten or much sugar. So I am motivated to eat foods that make me feel good (if you need a category, I am closest to paleo). And God brought me a fabulous gym partner several years ago who is my secret weapon — she calls me M/W/F at 6 a.m. and I say yes. Almost every time… I attend a later gym class T/TH and supplement with outdoor walks and getting up off the couch to get my own snack (if my husband is away, otherwise, I grow roots and he feeds me)

So that’s Chapter One! If you’re still here, you are really motivated to find a simpler path (or you have too much time on your hands!). Dive in and let me know what depletes your energy, what you do to replenish your energy, and what you think about the quest to find a simpler life.


Christian writer and speaker trying to follow God one yes at a time.

6 thoughts on “How full is your bucket?

  1. “I didn’t need a job change but a “me” change. Keeping the job forced me to grow and to rely on God and I am so glad I hung in there.” Soooo true, Connie. Thanks for sharing!


  2. It’s always overwhelmingly tempting to simply back away from adversity assuming God would not call us INTO difficulty but in fact He does. He does because He knows it is the only portal out of whatever it is that is holding us back from becoming all He knows we can be. Glad you agree. Feel free to share your own experience with this truth.


  3. Like write now, I didn’t need a job change but a ‘me’ change. Sometimes you can’t have a job change, no matter how much you would like it some days! For years I’ve been a care giver! First to my Mom and then to my husband. Now they are both gone and I can look at the changes God has made in me over the years.(somewhere between 10 &15, I’ve lost count). My reliance has just grown and grown! Now that I am on my own, I think the trick is, to still walk in the reliance I have developed! I wonder if it’s like losing weight. Once the pressure eases we go back to our old ways. Or is it like forming a habit, after we’ve done it for a while, it becomes second nature? I hope neither of these is true for the friendship and strength I have gotten from that relationship is something I don’t ever want to lose!
    Thanks for giving me a place to share my thoughts.


    1. I am so glad you shared your story and perspective Joan. There are times in this life where we are needed and even though we do have a “choice” whether or not to step up and accept that responsibility no good and honourable person really thinks there is a choice. He/she steps up and shoulders the load. It sounds like you are that sort of honourable person and that you have no regrets. More so, you embrace all you learned through that journey of caregiving and you sincerely hope the lessons learned “stick”! I admire you and am grateful you took the time to share your experience on my blog. I sincerely thank you and wish you God’s abundant grace on your present and future journey!


  4. I can truly say yup, yup, yup and yup to just about everything you have said here! Thanks for your honesty, ConnIe, and for allowing us to see into your journey through these truths.

    God’s remedial path for my overcommitted, driven life has included a season of “invisible servant hood”. He has called me out of some very visible leadership ministries to serve Him totally behind the scenes doing some very unglamorous things. I’m understanding in a new way my value does not come from all the stuff I can do, or from people’s approval of what I do, but from who I am because of Christ and He values how attentive I am to His voice.

    Do I have to fight the urge to look for recognition? Absolutely. Have I felt trivialized by people in current leadership roles that know nothing about me? Ouch, yes! (Lord, did I do that to people?). Do I feel guilty if I don’t accomplish a shopping list of things in a day? Usually. Am I learning to clear out the stuff, activities and habits that weigh my life down? Slowly. (Quite literally, the word on my planner these days is “Edit”). Am I the new poster child for the simplified life? Hardly, but I’m getting there!

    This is a timely topic and I hope many other tired women will see this process of simplifying their lives as a solution, not just one more thing to do.

    ps – The part of this post I don’t agree with is that you’re not a creative person! Creativity is not limited to artistic endeavours!


    1. Thanks for jumping in Sandy. I love your wording of “invisible servanthood” in this season of life as a path of recovery from an overcommitted role in leadership. I can relate to that in my role as a pastor’s wife where I used to be the go-to person for SO much until I veered off into a 10-year spiritual wilderness. Now my roles at church are much more invisible but very fulfilling! I bring muffins (yup, every time, which is about 50% of the time because of travel) and I work the nursery in Sunday School and often during worship.

      Do I also fight the urge for recognition? Not at church but definitely in my other role as a speaker/writer. When I stopped writing (books, columns, magazine articles) 3 years ago because of my husband’s burnout and my daughter’s cancer, I knew what that would do to my overall work schedule (reduce it, thus reducing my “recognition”!) but again I didn’t doubt it was the right decision. Family trumps “others” every time. There are plenty of writers/speaker out there but my family only has one mom/wife.

      As for the guilt of not being busy! You are brilliant. Oh yes that is also a battle. I love those days when I have a long to-do list that I tick off one by one. It is so satisfying….but why? Probably because it props up my sense of accomplishment and importance.

      I do feel really good about wise decisions I have made, and am making, in regards to finding peace in the midst of the storm of busyness and drivenness but I confess that I am also a work in progress and you have shone a light on the fact that much of the work is inside our own heads and hearts! it has much to do with the way we view ourselves in the world (in relation to our peers) and less so with what we actually do.

      Thanks again for weighing in. You have sparked some great discussion.

      OH, and thanks for encouraging me to see the creative spark within me… a further chapter in Hybels’ book (dealing with fear) will hold some relevant info there. In connection with that, I caught a snippet of something on CBC radio yesterday talking about the relationship between fear and creativity — basic message: fear squashes creativity. That is undoubtedly true in my life. as I said, we’ll get into that topic in an upcoming blog.


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