December 15, 2020
 min read

The Five Buckets: A Mental Exercise for Achieving Balance in Your Life

Imagine a row of five blue buckets. Each of those buckets has a piece of beige tape stuck on its front, and on that piece of tape, a word is written in black Sharpie.

Bucket one says “Health.”

Bucket two says “Relationships.”

Bucket three says “Professional.”

Bucket four says “Personal.”

Bucket five says “Being.”

Now picture your eyes scanning the buckets. You look at bucket one and notice there's an inch of water inside.

You shift your attention to bucket two. You notice that this bucket is filled to the very edge, so close to the edge that a cup of water would make it spill out.

You look over to buckets three and four. You realize they’re empty.

Finally, you walk over to bucket five. A few drops of water are inside.

This is a mental exercise I’ve done with a pen and paper to rate myself on how “filled” each of the major areas of my life are. I write down the name of the bucket and rate myself out of ten. I then ask myself two questions:

1. Why did I give myself this rating?

2. What would make it a 10?

The answers give me an area I need to work on as well as a high-level action to get there. For example, if you do this exercise and give yourself a six for Health, you may realize that you’re working out every day but strengthening your diet would give you a ten. Or perhaps you give yourself a two for Personal because you aren’t working on that hobby or bucket list you made for yourself but writing a screenplay or buying a plane ticket to Greece would give you a ten.

Now you may be asking yourself what each of these buckets mean.

Below you’ll find my definitions for each.


I define Health as anything that has to do with your mental and physical condition. This bucket includes things like your diet, your workout routine, and your meditation habits.

Example: Setting a goal to walk for 30 minutes per day would fill this bucket.


I define Relationships as your social, love, and familial life. This bucket includes things like attending family events, social gatherings (in-person or virtual), and outings with your significant other.

Example: Setting a goal to talk with a friend or family member once every two weeks would fill this bucket.


I define Professional as what you do for your income. This bucket includes things like your career, company, job, or freelance work.

Example: Setting a goal to earn a promotion at your job or sell something for your company would fill this bucket.


I define Personal as the activities that are important to you but not for monetization purposes. This bucket includes things like your creative projects, hobbies, and items on your bucket list.

Example: Setting a goal to begin taking photography lessons would fill this bucket.


I define Being as your preferred way of living that allows you to grapple with deeper, complex topics such as your ethics, values, integrity, and moral code. This bucket includes things like your religion, philosophies, and schools of thought.

Example: Setting a goal to pray every night, follow a practice you read from a book on Stoicism, or review a list of your personal values would fill this bucket.

Closing thoughts

The Five Buckets exercise will give you an overview of the major areas of your life and how well you're managing them. Whether you decide that traveling with your family or beginning to attend church is important is completely up to you. The key is to discover what matters to you and to do something about it.

When these buckets in your life go empty for a long time is when you feel like something’s off. For example, your relationship may be great, but your health is suffering. You may be crushing it at your job, but you have a feeling that you’re not making time for your hobbies.

We all go through these feelings. Following the steps outlined in this article will help you start taking the necessary actions to achieve balance in your life.

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