Lydia Johnson Consulting

Week 20 Rocks, Pebbles or Sand- What’s first in your jar?

This past week’s MKMMA class spoke about an empty jar and what we fill it with…bare with me while I share an old story I wrote about a few years ago. It is always worth sharing and remembering…

Philosophy 101

Once a philosophy professor stool before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a large empty jar and began to fill it with rocks about the size of his fist. When no more rocks would fit, he asked the class, “Is the jar full?” They agreed that it was.

stonesThe professor picked up a box pf pebbles and poured them into the jar. He lightly shook it and the pebbles rolled into the spaces between the rocks. When the pebbles reached the top of the jar, he asked the class again, ” Is the jar full?” They laughed and answered yes.

Finally the professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. It filtered into every small space between the rocks and the pebbles. He poured quite a bit of sand into the jar until it reached the top. He shook the jar until it all settled.

“Now”, he said. ” I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things- your family, your partner, your health, your children, all the things that, if everything else were lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff.


rock pebbles sand“If you put the sand into the jar first, you don’t have room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have time for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your kids; take time to get medical checkups; take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, have a dinner party, and fix the disposal.

“Take care of the rocks first- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand. ”


Think about all the time wasters people indulge in. How much time do people spend in front of the TV? The most recent survey I heard, said approx 2.5 hrs a day! That is about the same amount of time it would take for anyone to get into extreme physical fitness, or write a novel, maybe learn a new language.

What are you putting into your empty jar the start of every day?

25 thoughts on “Week 20 Rocks, Pebbles or Sand- What’s first in your jar?”

  1. You are a great story teller. I love how easy you set up what is important and what to focus on.

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Thanks Cheryl…that said, I simply borrowed this story :)

      1. Ah, but the gift was in the re-telling so well !! It is alway a delight to read your blog

  2. Louise says:

    It may be borrowed but it is well remembered and well illustrated with your photos. A nice story, thanks.

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Thanks Louise. I have always found it a great little reminder.

  3. Reblogged this on masterkeyslpostich and commented:
    Your blogs are always inspirational Lydia. I liked this one so much that I copied it and will pass it on to my children. Great Blog. Take Care

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Many thanks and I am glad to know it has been passed along some more!

  4. Hal says:

    Thank you for the reminder

  5. Beth Kennedy says:

    Lyd, you give us a wonderful reminder to prioritize and live like this is the last day of our lives. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Big decisions are best made with that idea in mind Beth. Many thanks for your comments.

    2. lydjohnson says:

      Big decisions are best made with the rocks in our jars first! Thanks for the comment Beth.

  6. masterkeynow says:

    I’ve heard this story before, but had forgotten it. Thanks for the reminder. It helps to put things in perspective.

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Thanks for the thanks :)

  7. Fantastic post, Lydia, such a great lesson!!!

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Thanks so much Paul!

  8. Don’t let the pebbles in life get in the way of the rocks!! Grandchildren living close by always help keep me in check! Thanks for sharing Lydia!

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Yes, John….grandkids sure do help with setting the rocks in first!

  9. masterkeymarco1 says:

    hi Lydia! thanks for this Blog. It is incredible that people watch that much TV. And what they could do with those 2.5 hours!! wow!! I haven’t watch TV in years and years, even in Hotel rooms. I must confess to a guilty pleasure – the other day I watched 2 episodes of House of Cards on NetFlix. I can see how people get addicted. Kevin Spacey is such a brilliant actor. The problem is the characters are kinda sleazy. Not what I want to put in my brain. If I am going to watch anything I want it to be uplifting like TED Talks, or the occasional comedy!!

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Thanks for the comment Mark! Good for you with no/very little TV!! You are my hero!

  10. As usual, Lydia, a great blog! That story can never be told too much. It’s really a great story to live by!!!

  11. Great story and visuals to drive home your points. Thank you Lydia!

  12. “What are you putting into your empty jar the start of every day?” Phew. That’s a VERY good question. Currently, I’m in the process of removing some pebbles from my jar so the big rocks will fit properly. Thanks for the reminder!!!!

  13. BrantB says:

    It’s amazing to think that we have all those options but as a society we are brainwashed into wasting time. I had never realized how much time I have been wasting until this course, I thought i was a great multitasker….what a waste of time I was making of my life…I’m emptying the jar and starting over, big rocks first!

  14. marieg5223 says:

    Great Post Lydia, it’s funny I used the story for my blog also this week. It truly is amazing how much time folks waste, however, that said it’s also easy to see how a couple of hours drift if you aren’t aware. Yup lets get those rocks in first

    1. lydjohnson says:

      Great minds think alike!

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