There are many versions of this story so here is mine:
A famous teacher sat in front of a group of new students. He placed a large glass jar on the table. He looked at the students but said nothing.
Then out of a bag he took ten rocks and began placing them, one by one, into the jar until there was no more room in the jar. When the jar was filled to the brim with rocks, he asked his students:
"Is the jar full?"
They all agreed that it was.
The teacher then took some pebbles from another bag and carefully poured them into the jar around the rocks until no more pebbles would fit. He again asked the group,
‘Tell me, is the jar now full?’
The students said, yes, this time it was definitely full. At that point, the teacher opened a third bag, this time full of fine sand and began to pour it into the jar. He filled up any empty spaces between the large rocks and the pebbles until no more sand would fit in the jar.
He turned to the group and said, “Tell me, is the jar now full?” No one dared to answer.
The teacher said nothing and turned to the floor to pick up a jug of water. He took the jug and carefully poured the water into the jar. He turned to the group and asked, “Tell me, is the jar now full?”
There was silence. He turned to find a small pile of fine dry salt. He carefully dissolved it into the water, around the sand, the pebbles and the rocks until no more salt could be dissolved in the water. Once again he asked the group, “Tell me is the jar now full?”
“Yes,”’ said the teacher. ‘Now the jar is full. What do you think I’ve been trying to demonstrate to you?’ He invited the group to consider the meaning of his story. How did they interpret it? Why had the teacher told it? There were as many interpretations as there were people in the room. The teacher listened to each person. He reflected that each person interpreted the experience through their own particular and unique perspective through which they understood the world.
Then he gave his own interpretation that the jar represents our life so it is up to you how you choose to fill it. The rocks represent the most important and long-lasting ie family, health, your mission, your passion. The pebbles are the projects such as work, education, home. The sand is everyday routine and chores. The water represents the flow of activity and the salt is the extra we can take on when the important has been looked after.
We have to make a solid foundation with the large rocks first because if we fill the jar first with sand, there won’t be any room for the rocks. Likewise, we should prioritize our time with the meaningful rather than all the small insignificant things we do every day. Focus on the important.
What are the plans we postpone, the adventures we never have, the loves we let go by? Ask which are the large, solid rocks that keep our passion alive in us and put them into your jar of decisions now, because very soon there will be no room for them.
Antonia Harrison at Personal Development for the 21st Century