This story has been shared by many over the years but its message never fades. I still find it to be both inspirational and a gentle but bold reminder to take a step away from the distractions of modern life and to get things back into the proper perspective.
Sometimes life can feel like a tornado in an amusement park. I think we all live that analogy from time to time. Where 24 hours in a day is not enough for everything you need to accomplish with kids, responsibilities, deadlines, etc. When it starts to get a little too crazy I remember this simple yet profound story of keeping the important things first and to not sweat the small stuff...
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he silently picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and carefully poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He 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. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."
The professor then reached under the table and revealed two cups of coffee which he then poured 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 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 golf balls or pebbles. The same is true for your 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.
"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. 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. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised her hand and asked what the coffee 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 coffee with a friend."