The mayonnaise jar

Mayonnaise JarA professor stood before his philosophy class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, he silently picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and started to fill it with golf balls. When the jar would hold no more golf balls, he then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of small pebbles and carefully poured it into the jar. As he shook the jar lightly, the tiny pebbles rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. After he’d emptied the entire box of pebbles into the mayonnaise jar, he then asked the students again if the jar was full. Again, they agreed it was.
Next, the professor picked up a cup of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled in the remaining spaces. He asked once more if the jar was full. The astonished 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 remaining empty space in the mayonnaise jar. 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…your faith, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, then your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter, such as your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else…the small stuff."
"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there would be no room for the larger pebbles or golf balls. The same is true of your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, then you will never have room for the things that are truly 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. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping faucet. First, take care of 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."
– Greg


8 Replies to “The mayonnaise jar”

  1. I have to give credit to my acquaintence Lebo Bucibo for pointing me to this insipring allegory. I saw it on his space’s blog the other day and was intrigued by its affirming message. I had never heard it before, but I started researching it on the web, and I was surprised to read various spins on the details. Ultimately, this is the version I like the best. Glad you both enjoyed reading it as well.


  2. Well Jen, I think faith can be one of the most important aspects of one’s life. When you think about it, faith is just another word for trust, isn’t it? That doesn’t have to be faith in an unseen higher power; it can be a simple as faith in your loved ones or your community. I have faith in my wife, and she (hopefully) has faith in me. And that’s a powerful agent for building connections with other people who are important to you. Anyway, I enjoyed (re)writing the post, and found it quite meaningful.


  3. It’s certainly the most inportant to me, Greg:-) Granted, trust means the same thing. I’d love to have a cpy of this. Is it nickable, er, I mean, printable?


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