As summer comes to an end – after what was hopefully an exciting, fun-filled few months – it’s a time to shift gears, refocus on your goals, put your nose to the grindstone, and in some cases, to take on new challenges. Some people will prioritize working off their “summer bod’s,” which aren’t as chiseled as they might like after enjoying three months of beer and BBQ season! For some it will mean prioritizing work, putting in long hours, gaining traction on projects, with accounts, and third quarter metrics. For some, it means grounding oneself with clarity, uninfluenced by distraction, and getting back to the things that are important in life. Whatever the case, picking things up in the fall months is an uplifting feeling; but it doesn’t come without some nervousness, self-doubt, and the insecurities that affect us when taking on a massive workload or challenge.

Something you might not realize – or maybe just haven’t thought about yet – is that this couldn’t be more true for kids than it is for us “big kids.” Kids are starting school, faced with significant social pressures and heavier workloads than they’ve ever had. They’re one grade older, a daunting step for even the best learners. Kids need to adapt to new learning environments (a new classroom), new leaders (their new teacher), new friends (even some old friends), and for some, entirely new schools. What I’ve noticed is that us “big kids” can learn a thing or two from the little kids. I don’t know if it’s the purity you find in kids, or the beauty of being somewhat naive to it all, OR maybe just that kids say the darndest things!

At the end of August Josh Dueck, Brad and Michelle Swanson with Kala Star Camps, and I teamed up after a somewhat serendipitous meeting of the minds. During a 7AM paddle-boarding excursion on Kalamalka Lake, an idea was born. Our goal following that meeting was to somehow create a positive cultural shift in our community. How are we going to do that? Let’s start with the young leaders in our community – let’s create positive change for kids!

FullSizeRender.jpg-2From Left: Brad Swanson, Mike Shaw, Josh Dueck.

We came together to run a 3-day multi-sport adventure – life skill building – before school camp called: Testing The Waters. The camp consisted of three focal outdoor activities: bike-skills and tactics, paddle boarding, and a group ride down the picturesque Okanagan Rail Trail near Kal Lake. We spent plenty of time spent outside and in the water.


The ultra-important classroom focus and major learning points included: brain activation strategies, visualization methods, balance (both physically tested and cognitively awoken), accountability (to yourself and others), pitfalls of complacency, Keepin’ Kal Lake Blue (using Secchi discs to record the clarity of our lake), and brain-body connection.

On top of all that, we spent time focusing on three areas:

  1. Implementing strategies to “Fill Your Cup!” when you’re not feeling your best
  2. Learning an “I Can! vs. I Can’t” positive mindset and the power of gratitude
  3. Embodying inclusivity, adapting to and understanding other people’s needs, and how to listen with your “eyes, ears and heart.”


What impressed me was the kids’ ability to connect the dots on some higher-level cognitive activities. We didn’t need to sugar coat or change our language when talking about some of the key psychological learning points. Kids were quick to grasp and paraphrase some of the core ideologies surrounding the positive mindset. What impressed me the most were the strategies the kids came up with to pull themselves out of the ‘funk‘ we often find ourselves in.

This is what I’d like to share with you. Here are some simple strategies you can use to “Fill Your Cup”… and you know they are good because they came from the purest source: the kids!

  • Say something nice to someone else. You’ll make them feel good, and that’s a pretty darn good feeling!
  • Be active, get outside! Now, you don’t need to bounce on the trampoline like the kids, but getting outside and getting active will surely to lift you up. If it’s raining, the gym will do just fine too.
  • Use the “Smiley Face” exercise. This simple tool is sure to put a smile on your face. Do you have a glass shower door, or maybe the mirror fogs up after the shower in the morning? Before wiping the fog away, draw a smiley face! This reminder is an easy way to start your day with a smile!
  • Hug your dog or your cat. Ok, your spouse or your kids would also work 😉 – kids know the power of the hug. Share some love!
  • Say “Thank You”… But not just any thank you, an unsolicited thank you that shows someone you are grateful to have them in your life. It could be something simple you say to a co-worker about a time you noticed them going above and beyond, or it could be a sincere thank you to your spouse for the tireless work they do that often goes unnoticed.
  • Eat some candy! Well, it doesn’t have to be candy, but even kids understand the power of food. Sometimes a situation calls for candy, but you are what you eat so put some good fuel in the tank. A healthy snack or smoothie is sometimes all you need to give you a boost.
  • Write it down! This one blew me away. Kids were already onto the power of journaling. They even had the idea of sending a kind letter to someone. This all centres around gratitude and letting people know, even if it’s just you in your journal, that you are grateful.
  • Give someone a present. It could be in a big box, wrapped in shiny paper or it could be the gift of your time and effort. Either way, it will be well received. Giving is one of the most powerful lift-you-up techniques out there.
  • Use Gratitude Triggers… Guilty, this is one of mine if you’ve read my first post you’ll know what I’m talking about:). Find something in your day that triggers you to be grateful. For me, it’s getting out of bed in the morning. Every time my feet hit the floor, and I stand up it puts a smile on my face – even the earliest mornings! For you, it could be that first cup of coffee or tea in the morning if it’s something you’re truly grateful for.

The list doesn’t stop here. There are plenty of things you can do to fill your cup when you get creative and think outside the box. The perspective shift and the positive energy that become your gift to the world when you do are invaluable. You’ll become the best version of yourself. Take note of the kids and approach every day with a smile on your face!


Josh, Brad, Michelle and I had an awesome time with the Test The Waters campers. To say our cups were “filled” following the camp would be an understatement. Perhaps the biggest take away for me was that by filling other people’s cups, it filled my cup beyond what I could have expected. We were able to inspire and shift the perspectives of the youth in the camp. What a rewarding feeling!


Our next mission is to take this multi-sport adventure camp for kids, and create something for Big Kids! We all have challenges and undertakings in our lives that sometimes make us feel like our cup is close to empty. That’s why it’s important for us to use some of the simple strategies outlined in this post. But Big Kids can benefit from all the lessons we learned during Testing The Waters too! Our adult camp will positively influence participants’ personal lives, working and business lives and of course our community. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about upcoming events!



5 thoughts on “HOW TO “FILL YOUR CUP”

  1. I love how you have connected the wisdom and power of simplest gestures to help fill the cup with positivity. Yes – young children have the ability to see life in an uncomplicated way. As a teacher we know that there is much to be learned from the young students.
    Together we can help shape a more compassionate, accepting and positive future for us all.
    Very well written article, Mike.
    I’m proud of you nephew!!!


  2. My son Tristan(Tristdogg”😉)attended this camp and he needed it! In his grade 1 year, he didn’t speak to many classmates because he was super shy and he had a stutter that he was embarrassed about. He would finally get up the confidence to ask kids to play and the answer would be no! This went on the entire year. He was depressed, missed school etc. and he was only in grade 1. He is an outgoing, sweet and adventurous boy and it didn’t show at school. He would ask me through the summer to please home school him. I almost did! I first put him in an August camp with Brad and that was amazing and then Brad called me telling me about Testing the waters and how he believes it would really benefit Tristan. Well it did! He went to his first day with excitement, with a smile, an open mind, his cup full! He said he had to empty his cup after school it was too full haha! HE LOVES SCHOOL now..he always comes home happy. He had confidence and it showed. With confidence he has attracted many kids that he now calls friends😊 He loves himself and he’s OK with occasionally stuttering. He’s also OK playing by himself some days at school. Thank you Brad, Mike, Josh and Michelle for being such amazing examples, leaders, educator’s to our children!


    1. Wow. Thank you Kristen! Tristdogg was awesome during the camp! I’m so glad to hear he’s doing SO well at school. I think this falls under the whole ‘rewarding’ umbrella, big time. I appreciate you sharing and for filling MY cup this morning! I’ll make sure that Brad, Josh and Michelle get to read this. Thank you!!


  3. Thank you Mike! Tristan speaks of all of you often. In a few days you guys gave him tools he’ll use for a life time so I thank you! Ps. I’m not sure why the name Kristen came up but my name is Kristy haha!


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