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In a classroom, a teacher places the following on the table: a large glass jar, rocks, pebbles, and a pile of sand.

He places the rocks into the jar, and asks the class if it’s full. They nod “yes”.

He drops the pebbles into the jar and they settle in the spaces between the rocks. He asks again, “Is the jar full?” The students nod.

Finally, he pours in the sand, filling every last bit of space in the jar. “Now, is it full?” he asks. The students agree with a smile.

This serves as a metaphor for priorities: the jar represents your life.

The rocks are the most important elements (i.e. health, meaning). The pebbles are important but less critical (i.e. hobbies, job). The sand encompasses everything else—the minor, everyday concerns. If you put in the sand first, you won’t have room for the rocks or the pebbles. Same in life. If you spend your energy and time on the small stuff, you won’t have time for the important things that matter most. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Prioritize the ‘rocks’ in your life. Focus on what’s essential. Even if all else was stripped away, your life would still have purpose if your rocks remain. Alternatively, a life filled only with ‘pebbles’ and ‘sand’ may seem busy, but will lack fulfillment.

Take care of your foundational needs. When you look after these fundamental elements of mental and emotional health, it provides the capacity to positively contribute to the world. By taking care of your ‘rocks’, you’ll be better equipped to manage the ‘pebbles’ and ‘sand’ that life will inevitably present.

Use the 5/25 Rule: List 25 priorities, focus on the top five. Make hard choices; intentionally resist what might seem important but is ultimately a distraction. Align your daily actions with what matters most.

Examine your jar. Are you prioritizing your rocks, or spending too much time on pebbles? How much sand has seeped between the cracks? Some rearranging could be in order.


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