Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Cups of Coffee

I received the following in my email this morning. I love this story and wanted to share it with you.
The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Cups of Coffee
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 Hours in a day is not enough -- Remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students "Is the jar full?"

They agreed it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and 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, "Is the jar 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 produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents 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 - Family, children, health. Friends, and favorite passions --Things that 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, and 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. So... Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play With your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner 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 inquired 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."


An element of this story that I find inspiring is the realization that -- if our lives are filled with the things that count, like family and friends and health and passions, then the other 'stuff', the stuff that irritates us, undermines us, unfocuses us, has to fill in around the important 'stuff'.

It's like walking on a beach. Remember the warm silky feel of the sand when you walk along the water's edge. As soon as you step out of the water, the sand becomes harsh, grainy, gritty. In the water, it's less irritating against our skin, it moves aside to let us pass, ebbing and flowing into our footsteps. In life, if we stay in the 'flow' of our life, moving elegantly and gracefully with the waters, the sand is a spongy foundation that supports us as we walk. It fills in the gaps, but doesn't weigh us down with pain and irritation.

When our lives are filled with what's important to us, we don't feel the pain and hassle and worry of the every day things that pop up on life's road to distract us. We are not as easily pulled off centre when we focus on what's important.

Recently, an awesome friend and an incredible woman phoned me because her mother had just been rushed to hospital here and she was flying in. When I picked her up at the airport she was understandably upset. What inspires me about my girlfriend is (and she has a really busy life in another city, travels and works hard), she dropped everything and came to help. She is focused on finding solutions that will help her mother in what is proving to be a very stressful situation. My girlfriend isn't moaning and groaning about 'Why me.", "I don't have time for this." etc. She's doing what's right and necessary to ensure her mother is well cared for.

Her jar is filled with the things that are important to her -- and taking care of her mother is important to her. She isn't letting those irritating pebbles and the sandy grit of life deter her from her path. She's not letting blisters grow by grinding her heels against the problems -- she's focusing on what's important.

That's inspiring.

In the midst of all this, she wrote to tell me someone has scanned her debit card and was withdrawing money on a daily basis.

She didn't grumble or complain. She took care of what was necessary, reported the crime and is continuing to stay focused on what she needs to do to ensure her mother gets the care she needs, while also handling her busy job and taking care of herself.

I know for my girlfriend that this is not an easy time. It's not fun watching a parent's mental state deteriorate. It's not fun having to make life choices for a parent.

But, she's turning up. She's being the amazing woman she is and staying focused on the important things in her life, while taking care of the other things in her life that need to be tended, her job, her passions, her career. She's not opting out of the situation, she's not trying to foist the responsibility onto someone else. She's taking charge.

She inspires me.

My commitment today is to walk in the flow of my life, and to stay off the gritty path. I am committed to stay focused on what is important to me. On what, if everything else were lost, would still have great value -- my family, friends, my health and my passions. Oh, and did I mention my pooch, Ellie?

May your day be filled with what's important to you, and may the grit of the sands melt into the gently flowing waters of your life. And may you have time to walk with a friend and enjoy a cup of coffee.

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