Building Happiness By Filling Your 3 Buckets

What's your goal in life?

You've probably heard the common answer, "to be happy".

An easy answer to say, but a much harder thing to define. If you assume that most people's goal in life is to maximize happiness, then it seems weird that so many people seem to be in jobs they hate, classes they get bored in, and in groups of people they dislike.

Sure they say they want happiness, but is anyone taking the time to define what their version of happy is?

Therein lies the trick: happiness -- the feeling -- pretty much has one definition. We all understand the feeling.

Creating happiness within ourselves -- the process -- that's the part with so many variables that it becomes hard to manage.

It is so much easier to go on autopilot and let others define what happiness is for us. than to define it ourselves. That's why we choose:

  • to stay at a  job that makes $10,000 more, but sucks 1% more of our soul every day.
  • to stay with a negative partner, because having a partner is supposed to be better than not having one.
  • to go to law school and hate it, because other people tell us that money and a "prestigious" job will give us fulfillment.

If you don't know what you want, then how can you expect others to respect?

The 3 Buckets

I'm going to propose a way to live based on 3 buckets.

I'm stealing this concept from Jonathan Fields, author of the book "How to Live a Good Life". He proposes that you can categorize the things you want by 3 buckets. They are vitality, connection, and contribution.

The thing is, you can't just focus on one bucket and then work on the rest. Each bucket is constantly leaking, and it's your job to keep all 3 moderately filled.

You can see this principle in the guy who puts in 100-hr workweeks and totally neglects his nutritional health and relationships. He might think he's preparing for a day where all of his problems are solved because he has enough money, but he's actually missing out on his friend's life events and developing health problems along the way.

The same goes for the person who loves drinking, hanging out and meeting people, but doesn't work, volunteer, or take care of their health.

Balance is the key here.


This applies to both physical and mental vitality.

It is scientifically proven that exercise makes you happier. Whether you go out for a walks, do yoga, weight lift, or play sports, our bodies want to move and will reward you for doing so. Pair that with quality sleep as well.

On the mental side of things, taking the time to reflect and meditate helps you move forward in a more conscious manner. This improved self-knowledge is vital to filling the other 2 buckets.

I've found that in learning how to take care of my body, I've increased my confidence in my appearance, improved  focus when I'm doing work, and have more comfortability by understanding who I am.


Human beings are social creatures.

Our relationships with our parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, strangers, and romantic partners are all very important to our lives. Sometimes life feels so busy, that we end up neglecting all of these relationships. When this happens, we usually end up depressed, detached, and isolated.

We let old friends drift away, we don't pursue new friends, and we don't deepen the relationships we already have.

These connections can definitely lead to benefits in vitality and feeling mentally sharp. There is also a benefit for your contribution bucket. The key is not only to nurture the existing people in your network, but constantly be meeting new people and finding ways to contribute to their lives.

When you follow the principle of "Always Be Giving", you're going to attract people who want to give back to you.


This is the bucket that a lot of people have a hard time with.

This bucket is about what you contribute to the world, whether that's through work, volunteering, or creative ventures. Your paid work might be your contribution, or you might just use the income from your paid work to supplement the thing you actually love doing.

Overall, this is the hardest bucket for me to tackle.

I'm still trying to figure this part out too.

The good thing is that when I feel that my other 2 buckets are filled, I don't see my job as a life-or-death matter. My "calling" is just something I'm still experimenting with to figure out.

When you have really great relationships and health, you can rest easy knowing that even though you don't have your calling figured out, you have 2 other things to be really thankful for.

How You Can Implement the 3 Buckets To Build Your Happiness

Think about the state of each bucket in your life.

Write down which buckets you feel are lacking and use this to develop one goal for each bucket for the next month.

See where it takes you.

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What is your definition of happiness according to the 3 buckets? Let me know in the comments!