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Filling Your Jar

May 6, 2011

A philosophy professor stood at the head of his class, a table with several items on it before him.  As the class settled into their seats, he picked up a large empty jar and began placing rocks in the jar without speaking or offering any introduction.  He stacked the  rocks up until they reached the top of the jar.   Pausing, the Professor looked out at the class and asked his students if the jar was full.

With nodding heads and hesitant words, the students agreed it was.

Then the professor picked up a box of pebbles and poured them over the rocks, shaking and jiggling the jar lightly to allow the pebbles to slide down and around the larger rocks.   The students smiled and light laughter spread across the class as the students realized the trick.  Again, the professor paused and asked if the jar was full.

With nodding heads and laughing assent, they again agreed it was.

Next, the professor picked up a bag of sand and poured it into the jar, filling up all the remaining space in the jar.  The class laughed, amused at the professor’s cleverness.

The professor waited for the class to settle down, pausing for effect until the room was silent. 

“Now,” said the professor, “Think of this jar as your life.  The big rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children — anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed.

The pebbles are the things in life that matter, but are replaceable like your job, your house, or your car. 

The sand is everything else.

If you fill your jar with sand and pebbles, you won’t have room to add the big rocks.

The same goes for your life.

If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, the immaterial things, you will never have room in your life for the things that truly matter.

The lesson here is to pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. Go to brunch with your Mother and visit your friend in the hospital.

There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. 

The rest is just pebbles and sand.


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