Putting the Big Rocks in First – 2010 and Beyond

I first heard this teaching story from a time management facilitator 10 years ago. Here is my version…

A college professor, tired of hearing all the excuses about incomplete assignments and complaints of ‘too much’ homework, walked into her classroom one day with a large glass jar, a box of big rocks, a smaller box of pebbles, a bucket of sand and a pitcher of water.

“Today’s lesson is about perception.” She immediately had their attention.

“Class, please tell me when the jar is full,” and proceeded to fill the glass jar to the top with large rocks. “Is the jar full?” she asked her bright students.

“Sure,” came the response from someone on the back row sounding a little bored and peeved at the obvious question.

Without responding, the professor picked up the box of pebbles and gingerly poured the contents into the jar filling all the crevices around the big rocks with smaller pebbles.

“Class, is the jar full now?”  A light chuckle went through the room. “Well, OK, now the jar is full,” remarked the same back row student to save face.

Again, without responding, she picked up the bucket of sand and slowly emptied the contents into the jar. The sand easily filled all the spaces around the large rocks and small pebbles to the very top of the jar.

“Remember class, this is a lesson about perception. Is the jar full?”

“No” came a chorus of voices from the class. “No, the jar is not full.”

Her eyes twinkled. One more time, she picked up the pitcher of water and carefully emptied the liquid into the glass jar all the way to the top.

“Class, is the jar full?“

“Yes!” came the enthusiastic response from her students. The air was buzzing with the electricity of a teaching moment.

The professor waited until the room was quiet. “If you know what matters to you, what lights up your heart, what brings lasting joy and happiness, what is the next crucial step toward an important long range goal – do that first…and then there will time, energy, and space for everything else.” And she walked out of the room.

Blessings of

Quiet, still moments of awe;

Visceral bubbles of joy;

Belly laughs with good friends or total strangers;

Hugs and more hugs;

Deep breaths and sighs;

Relaxing full body stretches;

Soul-ful pauses of wonder;

Delighted smiles on children’s faces;

Shifts beyond the illusions of the mind;

And glimpses of the divine – in the beauty, in the ordinary and in the broken places

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