A Short Story About Priorities & A Jar
Struggling to prioritise? Read this lesson in happiness.
A philosophy professor stood before his class at the beginning of their first lesson of term.
Without speaking, he picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They unanimously agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar so that the pebbles filled the areas between the golf balls. He asked again if it was full.
They agreed again that it was.
The professor then opened a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining space, and he asked once more if it was full.
“Yes!” they cried.
The professor then pulled out two cups of coffee from under the table and poured both into the jar. The sand soaked the coffee and filled up any remaining empty space.
The students laughed.
"Now," the professor said, as the laughter settled, " I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life.
“The golf balls are the truly important things – family, health, security, good friends and your much-loved passions. If everything else in your life were lost and only these remained, your life would still be full.
“The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, house, car, second-tier friends and so on.
“The sand is everything else – it represents the small stuff.
"Now, if you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or golf balls. And the same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
“Pay attention to what’s essential to your happiness.
Play with your children.
Visit your parents and grandparents.
Take the time to get medical check-ups.
Take your partner out to dinner.
Follow your passion.
“Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised a hand and inquired what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled.
"I'm glad you asked… It shows that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."
The origins of this story are unknown, and so possibly apocryphal, plus of course there are always mitigating factors in a busy life, some beyond our control… BUT, I’ve always loved this tale because it serves as a great reminder of the fact that when when we’re struggling to prioritise, it’s almost always because we’re trying to prioritise too much.
There is a life to be gained in having a clear understanding of what means most to you, and then setting clear (yet friendly) boundaries to protect it.
So, what truly matters to you?
And are you putting it first in life?
PS. Share this with a friend who always make time for a couple of cups of coffee (tea/wine) with you. They’re the keepers :-)