Pebbles, Sand, and the Important Things in Life

A science teacher stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, without saying a word, he picked up a very large empty glass jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They said yes.

The teacher then picked up a box of small pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They said yes.

The teacher picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled up the remaining open areas of the jar.

He then asked once more if the jar was full. This time, the class was divided, some feeling that the jar is obviously full, others were wary of another trick. 

“Now,” said the teacher, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The rocks represent the important things in your life – your family, your health, fulfilling your hopes and dreams – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles represent the other things in your life that give it meaning  – like your studies, money, your future job and house. And the sand is everything else, the small stuff – like playing online games or buying something at the shopping mall.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important and are of true value. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Have dinner with your family. Take little steps to achieve your dreams.”

“Take care of the rocks first – if you solve the big issues first, the small ones will fall into place. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

We have all fallen prey to petty distractions, the sand, that creep into the extra spaces of our life and paralyze us from moving forward. But at the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves the question: “Despite all this busyness, what does it mean?”. It may just help us to realign our focus onto the “big rocks” that matter, and prevent us for getting overwhelmed by all the other smaller things in our jar of life. 

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