Monday, March 4, 2013

A Full Life

Setting Priorities

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember this story about a jar and two glasses of wine.

A professor stood before his philosophy class with some items in front of him.  When the class began, he picked up a Costco-size jar and filled it with golf balls until he couldn’t cram another one in.  He then said, “I guess the jar is full, huh?” They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.  He said, “Now the jar is really full, right?” And everyone nodded in agreement. 

Next the professor poured a bag of sand into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous, “Yes!”’

The instructor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured them into the jar, effectively filling the empty spaces in the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and 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 and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. 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.”

He concluded, “People should pay attention to the things that are critical to their happiness: spend time with your children, and parents and grandparents.  Take time to get medical checkups.  Take your spouse out to dinner. Play games.

“There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.  Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented. The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked.  The wine just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a glass of wine with a friend.”

This article was originally published in Pathways Residential Care Journal - Issue 5.  To download this issue in PDF format, or past issues, visit our newsletter archives online at

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