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Life is Just a Mix of Sand and Rocks

Recently I was reminded of this story–you have probably heard it before as I had–but it was a good reminder to me about life and priorities.  

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks right to the top, rocks about 2″ in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full?

They agreed it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them in to the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full? They agreed yes, it was.

The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this is your life.

The 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 other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else. The small stuff. If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. The same goes for your life.

If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important. Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.”


I talk a lot in my practice about what is it you value? What is it you need?  This story illustrates the power behind that process.  When we don’t take the time to figure out what we value, love, need we fill our lives with empty space and useless dirt rather then filling it with love, joy, and value.

What are your rocks?  What do you value above all else?


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