jonathan fields' 3 buckets to a good life: contribution, connection, & vitality {life balance 2.0}


In case you haven't figured it out already, I am a dork, and one of the ways my dork-ness manifests is my love for different frameworks of prioritizing values and living with mindfulness and intention.

One of the best I've learned in recent months is Jonathan Fields' "3 buckets" philosophy.

If you're not already familiar with Jonathan, he is the founder of Good Life Project, which he defines as "a movement. A set of shared values. A creed, and a community bundled with a voracious commitment to move beyond words and act." GLP consists of an annual live immersion event (Camp GLP), trainings, a web-based TV show, a podcast, and more.

One year I hope to attend Camp GLP, and in the meantime I love listening to the podcast, GLP Radio, where Jonathan hosts in-depth conversations with inspirational guests from all walks of life. I've also heard him interviewed on numerous other podcasts, including Jess Lively's (the queen of intention herself!) The Lively Show, where I first heard about the 3 buckets framework.

Basically, the idea is this:

In life, we all have 3 buckets. And they're not what you might think. (My first thought would be "mind, body, and spirit" of course! Not so, though these certainly fall within his framework.)

The 3 buckets are Vitality, Contribution, and Connection. And Jonathan proposes that, basically, we're only as good as our lowest bucket (cue British lady accent, "you ARE... the weakest link!"). So if you're pouring so much time, energy, and effort into a single area, there's a good chance the one or two of your other buckets are getting low — and until you get them back in shape, all your effort in the first area will have limited results.

Let's look at each of the 3 buckets:

1. Vitality

This is where most of the physical self-care fits, though would also include good mental health. The number one factor here, according to Jonathan, is getting good SLEEP. And then, certainly, quality nutrition, exercise, meditation, coping skills for stress, etc.

The right mix of activities and priorities will look a little different for each person, as is the case for the other two buckets.

2. Connection

As Bréne Brown famously says, humans are hard-wired for connection, love, and belonging. Some studies (like the classic Harlow monkeys) have even demonstrated that this sense of belonging is even more important in some ways than physiological needs.

If you feel a lack of connection with self, family, friends, or community, your Connection bucket is low, which can lead to feeling depressed, detached, and isolated. Jonathan also includes connection to nature and "source" (or however you refer to a sense of spirituality or "God") as important components of this bucket for many people.

Make sure not to underestimate the importance of that first component: connection with self. Without that, it's hard to be genuinely connected to others in a way that is authentic and invigorating rather than codependent and draining.

3. Contribution

This bucket is about the many ways in which we contribute to the world — through vocation, calling, purpose, creative ventures, volunteer work, and so on. The important thing to recognize with this bucket is that it can look very different from person to person, but without something filling it, feelings of emptiness and disconnection begin to loom and create a general sense of "blah" (in clinical terms). ;)

Depending on what your paying job is, some people feel a strong sense of contribution through their work. Others may choose a job that may not feel as "fulfilling" but get fulfillment in areas outside their work through contribution with family, friends, and organizations.

Overworking can certainly happen in any field, but people in helping professions often justify this because they view it as "noble" work (hello, martyr syndrome!) But just remember,  if you're pouring 110% into this part of your life, overworking to the point of sacrificing your Vitality or Connection buckets will prevent you from doing your best and most effective work.

What do you think of the idea of the 3 buckets? Where do you notice yourself pouring too much and too little? 

PS - I mention a couple of great podcasts in this post, and in my most recent email I sent out, I listed my 10 favorite current podcasts to listen to for personal and spiritual growth. If you weren't on my list to get it, sign up then shoot me an email at valerie at wakingupinwonder dot com and I'll get the list and descriptions right over to you! You'll also get 2 instant gifts when you sign up.