Year-End Reflection Part 1 | Intro to the Good Life Buckets

Over the years, I’ve found it important to reflect on the year – to acknowledge what happened and didn’t, take ownership, learn, and make peace. This lets me step into the new year with wisdom, hope and agency to intentionally create it. So I’ve developed a year-end reflection process using my Good Life Buckets. Over the next weeks in special bonus episodes, I’ll guide you through this process with personal prompts and reflections – which makes me nervous!

I invite you to join me in this reflection. If you’re open to it, record your own responses and email them to [email protected]. We may include your reflections in an episode. I’m excited to share this powerful process over the coming weeks to help us all step into the new year with intention.

Take The Good Life Bucket Quiz to discover your levels.

Find all of the Year-End Reflection episodes on this Spotify playlist.

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Episode Transcript:

Jonathan Fields: [00:00:00] So I’ve got a question for you. Actually four questions. The first, how are you feeling about the way this year went? I know for many this is a bit of a loaded question. The second one is what was your role or part in how the year unfolded? Both good and not-so-good. The third one, what have you learned from it all? And finally the fourth. How might you tap what you’ve learned to more intentionally create the year to come? So over the years, I found it just incredibly important to drop into some kind of process, to close out the year, to acknowledge what’s happened and what has not to take ownership of whatever is ours to own, to learn what we can from it, to think about how we’ll apply the experiences, and learning to step into the new year with more wisdom and hope and agency, and then to make peace with the year and effectively close the books on it so that we can just let go of the chatter and the blame and the shame and distraction and step into a place of agency and power and creation and shift all of our energy into crafting the best possible year to come. And over the years I’ve developed my own approach to this. A year-end reflection, integration and planning process built around what I call the good life buckets. And over the next four weeks, as we head into the end of the year together, I’m going to guide you through that process in a series of special short and sweet weekly bonus year-end reflection episodes.


Jonathan Fields: [00:01:37] And then I’m going to share my own answers to the questions and the prompts, which honestly makes me a bit nervous because they can sometimes get fairly personal. But that’s not all. I’m also inviting you to come along and do the process with me every week, and if you’re open to it, I would also love to hear from you along the way. Just record a short and sweet voicemail with your responses to the week’s prompts, and email it to support at GoodLife And who knows, we might even include your reflections at the end of one of these very special episodes. Nothing to memorize here, by the way. I’ll remind you about this at the end of each of the special bonus year-end reflection episodes. I’m just super excited to share this powerful process with you in our special weekly bonus episodes over the course of this next month together. And if you haven’t already done so, by the way, be sure to just take three seconds now and hit follow in whatever app you’re using so you don’t miss a single one of these special and really valuable year-end reflection sessions. We’re going to rock out this process together, so you can set yourself up to step into the year to come with more clarity and confidence and knowledge that you’ve gleaned everything that you can from the year before.


Jonathan Fields: [00:02:53] You can let go of the chatter and self-defeating spin and step into 2024 together with more space, grace and possibility. So excited to share this process and experience with you. I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project.


Jonathan Fields: [00:03:14] Okay. So let’s talk about these things that I call the Good Life Buckets and how we can tap their power as a year-end reflection exercise. So first about the buckets. This is a simple model that I first shared in my book, How to Live a Good Life. Think of your life as being made up of three distinct buckets. Your vitality bucket. Now this is all about the state of body and mind. It’s about us optimizing our not just physical well-being, not just our physical health, but also our mental and psychological and emotional health and well being. And what we know is that you can’t actually tease these two out anymore. The research is crystal clear. The state of your physical body will affect the state of your mindset, and the state of your mind will affect the state of your body. So flourishing, optimistic state of mind is going to affect your physiology, your capabilities, your risk for disease and illness even. And the opposite is true too.


Jonathan Fields: [00:04:18] Physical pain or dysfunction is also going to trickle back up into your brain and affect your mind and your psychology. So the vitality bucket is the first one. And in that we bring things like awareness and equanimity and focus, resilience, possibility and wonder, energy, wellness, daily function. We also look at things like discomfort and pain. We go to performance. These are all different qualities that really define what the vitality bucket is and is not. And as we deepen into this month-long series, we’ll also look at each one of these buckets, starting with the Vitality Bucket, and we’ll explore what actually goes into filling those buckets. So in next week’s episode, we’ll do a deep dive into your vitality bucket, how to fill it, and how we’ll tap into its wisdom as part of this year-end reflection series to help you set up 2024 for Maximum Vitality. Now next up, the second bucket. I call the Connection bucket. So what’s this all about? Well, kind of what it sounds like. The connection bucket is all about the depth and quality of relationships in a number of different critical areas of your life. So what kind of things go into the connection bucket? Well, we look at things like friendship or family or chosen family and these are actually different. And we’re hearing the phrase chosen family being tossed around a lot more these days because it gives us agency and control in how we define and bring together family.


Jonathan Fields: [00:05:57] It involves things like community, the people that we find ourselves surrounded by with a sense of belonging. The connection bucket isn’t also just about the external things. Sometimes it’s about ourselves. How connected or disconnected do we actually feel to who we are, to who we know ourselves to be? Because the further into life we get, we know that often we lose that sense of self. The one that we had as a kid. It just kind of gets absorbed into all the other things and shoulds and activities and obligations. So we reexamine our connection to self and then we broaden it out even more. This doesn’t even have to be about people. We look at connection to animals. Some of the most powerful connection, bucket filling things and relationships are actually your relationships to beings that are not human. We look at the environment and our relationship and sense of connection to the physical world around us, and how that affects us. And for those where it feels like it’s relevant and meaningful, we also look at the connection to a sense of something that is bigger than us. Now, you may define that as the universe, as the Akashic field, as God, as oneness. Whatever it is for you, it may just be a sense of being connected to something bigger than yourself.


Jonathan Fields: [00:07:22] And we’ll be looking at how your connection bucket functions, all the different contributors to it, and really evaluating what’s going on in my connection bucket. So in the following week’s episode, that’s the week after next, we’ll do a deep dive into your connection bucket. We’ll look at how to fill it and how we tap into its wisdom as part of this year-end reflection series to really help you set up 2024 to feel more connected than ever in the year to come. And we know that’s so important, because one of the defining variables or experiences of a life well lived is your level of true connection. And that brings us to the third bucket that we’ll be using and really tapping into its power and its insight in this year-end reflection process. And I call that the contribution bucket. And this is all about joyful and meaningful and purposeful and enlivening effort. A lot of times we label this as work. It may be the thing you get paid to do. It may not be the thing you get paid to do. It may be a primary devotion, or a passion, or a hobby, or some blend of different things that come together. So what are the key qualities that go into this bucket? How do we fill it? Well, it turns out that we fill this bucket by saying yes to activities and experiences that are steeped in meaning, that really make us feel like we actually matter, and the way that we exert effort, that we bring ourselves to the world that we contribute, is deeply meaningful.


Jonathan Fields: [00:08:54] It’s about our access to that just profoundly uplifting and transformative state of flow, where the world around us kind of vanishes away. It’s about whether the thing that we do that we devote energy to, whether it gives us energy, whether it excites us, or whether it takes energy and depletes us. It’s also about whether it allows us to feel fully expressed on a sense of identity and capability, and whether through this process, it actually gives us a sense of purpose, like we’re clear about what we’re working towards. And that thing, actually it matters to us. So in our final week of this year-end reflection series, we’ll do a deeper dive into your contribution bucket, looking at how to understand how full or empty it is, how to fill it, and how we’ll tap into its wisdom as part of this year-end reflection series to again help set up your 2024 to craft a work life, a contribution life that finally makes you feel alive, that doesn’t just check the boxes of your basic or essential needs, but also of your aspirational and transformational needs, the ones that make us feel more human. And right after this break, I’ll share how we’re going to tap the power of your good life buckets for the rest of the month to really help close the books on the year and set up your year to come.


Jonathan Fields: [00:10:24] And I’m going to share a very cool and fun online tool that you can use to do an instant good life bucket check. Back to you in a moment. So here’s the critical thing to know about your good life. Buckets. When all three buckets are full, your life gets pretty incredible. When any one runs low, though, well, you start to feel some level of pain or discontent. And yes, this can actually be psychological, emotional, even physical. Because as we discussed, this is one seamless feedback mechanism, though you may not understand where it’s even coming from. You just know something’s not quite right and life could be better. When any one good life bucket hits empty or even close to empty, you will be in a world of hurt, it is unavoidable. And if all run low, well, then life becomes more about suffering than anything else. And holding on becomes the dominant driver, which is a place that none of us want to be. Yet on occasion we may find ourselves heading towards that place. So the buckets help us understand what’s going on and what we can do to reverse course. Now you’ve also got to know that in addition to the three good life buckets, we have what we call the three laws of the buckets.


Jonathan Fields: [00:11:51] So law number one, the buckets never lie, even if you want them to, even if you wish your vitality bucket was a nine out of ten. If the reality of it is that it’s at a three and no judgements here we all go through life, and sometimes it knocks us around in ways that genuinely do lower our buckets. Then denying the fact that that’s where it is doesn’t actually change the fact that it is at a three. So it’s important in this process to step outside of judgement or shame or delusion, and just own the fact that whatever we assess our buckets to be at at this moment in time, that’s the number. And we’ll not just make peace with that, but will acknowledge that this is where we are and also acknowledge the fact that we have power to change this. So that’s the first law of the buckets. The buckets never lie. Now the second law of the buckets is that the buckets all leak and they get leakier the further into life we get. Now, you could say that’s a good thing or it’s a bad thing. I just look at it as a thing. That is, again a truth that is a fundamental law of our good life. Buckets. And acknowledging this helps us understand that we can never just sort of set and forget any good life bucket.


Jonathan Fields: [00:13:06] We can never say, oh, my connection bucket is a ten out of ten. It’s topped off. It’s good to go. I’m good for life. Or at least for the rest of this year. That bucket will leak just about all the other ones, and without some love and attention and energy devoted to it, it will start to empty. So accepting that second law that the buckets all leak, it reminds us that it’s our invitation and responsibility to keep coming back to each of them and checking in and seeing which needs filling, because if we don’t, eventually they’ll all run dry. And that brings us to the third law of the good Life buckets. And that is that the least full bucket will always cap the capacity of the other two. So, for example, if your vitality bucket is a two out of ten, well, that’s going to have a dramatic effect on your connection bucket, on how your relationships are, on how good they can get, and also on your contribution bucket, on how much reserves and energy you have to actually devote yourself to meaningful work or effort. So whatever is the lowest bucket, it’s going to drag the others down. So you can never entirely ignore anyone saying, well, I’m just going to get back to that down the road because it will stunt the other two at the same time.


Jonathan Fields: [00:14:23] So if you’re thinking about this, part of our work is to be constantly monitoring our buckets, to be getting honest about their levels, learning from your good life buckets and then letting them guide you in where to place your effort or what buckets to fill and how. So we can more consistently feel the way we want to feel alive, well connected, and doing things that truly matter. Now, there are questions that we can ask and explore in order to help figure out how full or empty our buckets are. And often our own subjective assessment is valuable here. But way back in 2016, actually, when I wrote the book How to Live a Good Life and what that book was coming out, we actually built a Good Life Bucket quiz, and we’ve since come out with a revision of it actually last year. It’s available completely for free over at It takes just a few minutes to complete, and it’ll give you a sense for where each of your buckets is at now, and that’s especially valuable if you’re having trouble just sort of sussing it out on your own. So as we head into this last month of the year, you’ll get a precise bucket score when you complete the Good Life Bucket Quiz at that will then use together as a starting point for our weekly year-end reflections for the rest of this month.


Jonathan Fields: [00:15:54] So, as we wrap up today’s first year-end reflection, the invitation is to head on over to Or just click the link in the show notes and take your Good Life Bucket quiz. It’ll take just a few minutes. And remember, whatever your bucket scores tell you, it’s just a snapshot in time. Zero judgment. No shame, no blame. We’re all doing the best we can, and for many it’s been a hard year, if not a couple of years. And that’s okay. It’s likely going to show up in the level of your buckets. In fact, the typical person scores for the three buckets, and this was even before the last three years, was a 5.6 out of ten on vitality, a 6.2 on connection and a 6.6 on contribution. Those numbers are average across thousands of people who’ve completed this quiz, and it shows you that for so many of us, we’re in a place where there is so much room for us to grow and feel the buckets rise higher and our life rise higher along with it. Your bucket scores. They’re just a starting point. There are so many things that we can learn from them, and we will, as we tap their wisdom to help us understand, closeout and unlock the wisdom, the insight, and the power of this year as fuel to help us step into the New Year in a more informed, in a more grounded, in a positive, hopeful, possibility oriented way.


Jonathan Fields: [00:17:20] So as we wrap up this week’s first year-end reflection bonus episode two things one. Take two seconds to hit the follow button or icon on whatever app you’re tuning into with us now so you don’t miss any of these special episodes. And then to head on over to to take your Good Life Bucket quiz, and then we’ll use your bucket scores to guide the next three weeks as we dive into your vitality, connection and contribution buckets and learn from their wisdom so we can unlock the potential that’s coming our way in the year to come. And by the way, I’ll also be sharing my own good life bucket scores and reflections along the way. I am doing this along with you, and you will also learn the five clarifying questions next week, designed to help unlock so much more understanding self-compassion and also help you transition into a place of power, clarity and control. And just quiet the chatter along the way. So go ahead and follow Good Life Project, take the Good Life Bucket quiz and I’ll see you back here for next week’s year-end Reflection bonus episode, where we’ll focus on your vitality Bucket.


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