Too Much To Handle

July 14, 2015

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

A professor stood before his philosophy class, waiting to begin the lecture. When the class began, he wordlessly filled a very large, empty mayonnaise jar with golf balls. He asked his students, "Is the jar full?" They agreed that it was.

The professor then poured a box of pebbles into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the spaces between the golf balls. He asked again, "Is the jar full?" The students again said that it was full. 

The professor next poured sand into the jar. The sand filled up all the remaining crevices. He asked, "Is the jar full?" The students responded with a unanimous, "Yes."

The professor then brought two cups of coffee from under the table and poured them both into the jar, filling the empty space between the grains of sand. The students laughed.

The professor explained that the jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--God, family, children, friends, favorite passions, your health--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, house, or car.

The sand is everything else--the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same is true with life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the important things.

Pay attention to the things that make you happy. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the garbage disposal. Take care of the golf balls first--the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One student raised her hand. "What does the coffee represent?"

The professor smiled. "Glad you asked. No matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a cup of coffee with a friend."

Adapted from this article.

How do you keep what is important focused?

This was a great reminder, so I shared it on Facebook. Thanks for sharing, and yes, I'm going to get caught up on email "one of these days."

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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