Friday, January 21, 2011

The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Cups of Coffee (a story)

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.

The story goes...

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." And he shook the jar.

"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, distracts us, has to fill in around the important 'stuff'.

Yet, when we're filled with doing and watching and seeing the things that are important, the 'stuff' doesn't have room, doesn't fill up our worldview, doesn't consume our time. The 'stuff' doesn't matter because we're busy living it up with what does matter in our lives.

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, hot. 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.

What we put our attention on grows stronger in our lives.

My commitment today is to walk in the flow of my life, and to stay out of the grit and grind of the 'small stuff' that would distract me. I am committed to staying 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 and Marley, the Great Cat?

May your day be filled with what's important to you, and may you walk free of grit. May the waters of life flow gently around you, supporting you in every way. May you have time to walk your dog and enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend. May you make time to feel love flowing all around.


Reflections said...

Fantastic post... all too often we let the sand take over, filling the spaces before putting in the golf balls and pebbles.

Thanks for the morning uplift in spirit. Great thoughts.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Thanks for dropping by. I sure appreciate your light as well!

Brandi said...

I've always loved that little story! Thanks for the reminder to focus on the big balls! :)

JTS said...

I've loved this story from the first time I heard it. We do tend to get so focused on the little things of life that sometimes we miss the big picture.. and the golf balls! The older I get the more I focus on what I really want to do with the limited time I have available and I refuse to take on more committments than I will later feel happy about. In the end, its the other people in your life that matter, not the money or the stuff.

Maureen said...

Well, if you're ever in my part of the woods, come on by.

Have a great weekend. Hugs. Stay warm, too!

Claudia said...

kind of speechless... think this was just the story i needed to hear... i so struggle to fit too many things into my life - and sometimes i fill the sand into my glass first... and there are many un-drunk cups of coffee along the way...thanks for this louise!!

Fi said...

Love this post, I hadn't heard this story before and it's so true.

Arts web show said...

That is a very interesting philosophy.
There a lot of truth in it too.

Anonymous said...

this story is so much guiding, is not it?

thanks for sharing it. its good to read it again and again.

Have a marvelous weekend.

Margaret Bednar said...

I loved this. First time hearing it. Fill your life with what truly matters and the small annoyances won't really matter. Fill yourself with joy - CHOOSE joy, for it is up to us what we fill up with. I have enjoyed your blog. Found you through Ruth's "Sychronizing".