The mayonnaise jar, rocks, pebbles, sand and 2 cups of tea

Once upon a time, in a far away classroom very near to our hearts, a professor stood before her social work class with some items on her desk in front of her. When the class began, wordlessly, she picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with large rocks. She then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

 The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. She shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the large rocks. She then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. She asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘YES.’

The professor then produced two cups of tea from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that the jar represents your life. The large rocks are the important things: your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your deepest passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your education and maybe your car.  The sand is everything else; the small stuff.

If you put the sand into the jar first, she continued, there is no room for the pebbles or the large rocks. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the good things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Pay attention to love. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Take care of your own health – physical, mental and spiritual. Walk in the woods and along the beach. Go kayaking on a quiet pond.

There will always be time to clean the house and cut the grass. Take care of the large rocks first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the tea represented.

The professor smiled. ‘I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of tea with a friend.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar, the rocks and the 2 cups of tea.