“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Saint Francis of Assisi

I am going to tell you a story. It is a very well known story, but never ceases to amaze me in its simplicity and clarity regarding priorities:

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 glass jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

He then picked up tub of small pebbles, poured these in jar, and shook the jar lightly so that they filled the space around the golf balls. “Is the jar full now?” he asked. The group of students all looked at each other and agreed that the jar was now completely full.

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 a resounding “yes.” Chuckling at how naive they had been.

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.

The professor then went on to explain the experiment. “This jar represents your life,” he said. “And the golf balls represent the things which are really important; these are the things that have real value. Like your family, friends and your health. The pebbles are things like your mortgage, job, car, clothes and so forth. The sand represents all the other small stuff.”

“If you fill the jar up with the sand or pebbles first, then you won’t have space for the stuff which matters most. The same goes for life. So you must always remember to first make room for the things which are most important in your life.”

“Spend time with your children; make time to paint or to go on walks, take your partner out for a meal. What is your hobby or passion? What reconnects you with life? If you don’t spend time on these,” he said lifting up a golf ball. “Then you’ll find your life swamped with the little stuff. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the cupboard door. 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 someone is paying attention. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, no matter how busy you are, remember that there’s always room for a cup of coffee with friends.”

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