The important stuff

Thursday, June 20, 2024
Bryan Golden is the author of ‘Dare to Live Without Limits’

Alice, a high school guidance counselor, was conducting a job and career seminar for seniors. During their four years in high school, she overheard students worrying about their hair, their clothes, who was dating who, what cars people were driving, along with all the other typical teenage angst.

Alice wanted to impress upon the students what’s important in life versus the small stuff. As the students sat down in Alice’s room, they saw some items on her desk more appropriate for an earth science class. There was a large, empty glass jar, a box of rocks, a tray of small pebbles, and a can of sand. The students looked curiously at the out of place assortment of materials.

Once all of the students were seated, Alice placed the rocks into the jar until there was no more room. She asked her students to raise their hand if they thought the jar was full. Everyone’s hand went up.

Next, Alice picked up the box of pebbles and slowly poured some of them into the jar. She then shook the jar and the pebbles fell into the space between the rocks. She repeated this process until the pebbles reached the top of the jar.

Again, Alice asked the students if they thought the jar was full. As before, they all raised their hands. Then, Alice picked up the can of sand. She gently added the sand to the jar, shaking it as she did so.

The sand found its way into the spaces between the pebbles and the rocks. As her students watched and wondered what the point was, she repeated her question as to whether the jar was full. As before, all of the students agreed it was.

Alice pointed out that although the students thought the jar was full when it contained only the rocks, there was actually room for the pebbles. Then after the pebbles were added, and the jar again appeared full, there was still room for sand.

Alice emptied the jar. She then filled the jar with sand. “Now is there any more room in the jar?” asked Alice. “No,” replied the students hesitantly. “This time you are right,” replied Alice. “When I put the sand in first, there isn’t room for either the rocks or pebbles.”

The students were wondering what the point was of Alice’s demonstration. Alice’s goal was to show her students the importance of identifying the important stuff. The rocks represented the essential elements in life. One’s health, family, relationships, and friends are all in this category.

The pebbles represent that which is of secondary importance. Your job, house, and car are some of the items in this category. Everything else that is not of either primary or secondary importance is represented by the sand.

If you fill your life full of sand first, there is no room left for the important stuff. Your life will feel full, but it will lack substance. If you put in the pebbles first, you can add some sand, but no rocks.

Only when you start with the rocks, the important stuff, is there room for the pebbles as well as the sand. If the only thing in your life is the important stuff, it is still meaningful.

Make sure you pay attention to what is really important. If you start there, you can add the rest as you go. Those who fill their life with sand, the small meaningless stuff, find satisfaction and contentment elusive.