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Rocks, Pebbles & Sand

I’m sure many of you have heard the story about the Philosophy Professor and the jar of rocks, pebbles and sand. For those who haven’t, here’s how it goes...

A Philosophy Professor stood up in front of his class with a large empty jar. He filled the jar with rocks and asked his audience if the jar was full. Everyone agreed, the jar was full; so full in fact, no more rocks could be added.  

The Professor then added small pebbles to the jar, gave it a shake so they fell between the rocks, and added some more. He asked the audience again whether the jar was full.

The audience agreed the jar was most definitely full now; not one more pebble could fit inside the jar. 

The Professor then poured sand into the jar, shook it so the sand fell between the rocks and the pebbles, and added some more.

“Now the jar is full”, he said. 

He explained that the jar represents everything in our lives. The rocks are the most important aspects; the elements that would ensure the jar would still be full if we didn’t have pebbles and sand. The rocks ensure our lives still have meaning and worth. 

The pebbles represent the things in our lives that matter, but that we could, ultimately, live without. Pebbles will often come and go, and may take the form of jobs, hobbies and houses/properties. We may like them, but they’re not essential to our well-being. 

Finally, the sand represents the ‘fillers’ in our lives, for example, material possessions, running errands and doing chores. The sand is less important in the grand scheme of our lives.

The lesson we need to learn, is to fill our jar in the correct order. If we start with the sand, there will be no room for rocks or pebbles. We mustn’t focus our lives on the small and insignificant things, otherwise we will run out of room for the things that are most important.

This story was relayed to me by a very wise Gentleman at a networking event I went to recently. I was talking about never having enough time. His parting words were “place the rocks in your diary first, and let the pebbles and sand fall into place around them”.

I'm very guilty of focusing on my pebbles and sand, thus running out of space for my rocks. This can lead to burn out, or at the very least, a dent in our wellbeing and self worth. 

The advice I was given to place the rocks first, really resonated with me, but first I had to define my rocks!

I’m now conscious of placing my rocks first, and letting the pebbles and sand fit around those rocks. That’s not to say I’ll always get it right, but we can only but try!

My challenge to you is to define your rocks, pebbles and sand. Take a piece of paper and draw some lines to create three columns. Label each column, “Rocks”, “Pebbles”, “Sand”. Beneath each header, write down what each means to you. There are no right or wrong answers, this exercise is personal to you and your own circumstances. 

When you have finished, pin that list somewhere you will see it every day to remind you to fill your jar in the correct order. Place the rocks, and let the pebbles and sand sit around them. 

What are you waiting for….you have a jar to fill…..!