With too many things going on in life one is constantly forced to prioritize. And the best story that I can think of, about priorities in life is “The jar of life — Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand” story. Many of us must have read it. If you have not, here is a quick refresher.
The original story
A philosophy professor once stood before his class with a large empty jar. He filled the jar with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full.
The students said that yes, the jar was full.
He then added small pebbles to the jar and asked again, “Is the jar full now?”
The students agreed that the jar was indeed full.
The professor then poured sand into the jar and asked again.
The students then agreed that the jar was finally full.
The professor went on to explain that the jar signifies one’s life.
The rocks are equivalent to the most important things in your life, such as family, health, and relationships. And if the pebbles and the sand were lost, the jar would still be full and your life would still have a meaning.
The pebbles represent the other things that matter in your life, such as your work, school, and house. These things often come and go, and are not permanent or essential to your overall well-being.
And finally, the sand represents the remaining small stuff and material possessions in your life. These things don’t mean much to your life as a whole and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.
The metaphor here is that if you start with putting sand into the jar, you will not have room for rocks or pebbles. This holds true for the things you let into your life too.
If you spend all of your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important. So in order to have a more effective life, you should prioritize important things in your life and then worry about pebbles and sand at a later time. (Story referenced from : https://medium.com/@adityakothadiya/another-side-of-the-rocks-pebbles-and-sand-story-9e26a6cc0af)
The twist in the story
While I am in full agreement of the story, few experiences of my life made me realize that there is a twist to the story. When I first read the story, I realized the importance of prioritizing the big rocks in life. But since I am at a stage in my life where I have already filled my jar atleast half or maybe more. I can look back and check if I filled them with rocks or sand.
And frankly speaking everyone can do so. A quick review – whether we have our priorities right? If we have filled the jar so far with sand, then maybe we stop doing that and here onwards, start filling the jar with the big rocks that should have been our key priorities from the start. Simple, isn’t it? Actually not.
It is not simple because when we imagine this story, we keep all the big rocks, pebbles and sand – constant with time in our private boundaries. We forget we live in public domain and we can’t control everything. What we don’t imagine is – that as time passes on, maybe few of the big rocks are no more available for us to fill in our jar. Maybe someone else filled their jars with the big rocks and pebbles that you overlooked.
In Seths.blog , there is a piece that says – “Perfect or we’re not going”. It states this escapism mentality very clearly. More than procrastinating it is the lack of clarity in mind on the decision. Or as he says – people say they want a decision to be taken in the most perfect way -only to cover their inaction. It is a way for inaction without saying no explicitly. So, when I have people telling me that they are looking for the best way to take action – specially over long duration of time – I stay interested in seeing how perfect they make the action when they do take it.
It has happened with me multiple times. I have on occasions not acted urgently to do what I really wanted to. Finding the perfect moment and the “right” way to do it is easy excuse I give myself. I have postponed interviewing people I valued most, who are no more. I have not thanked my uncle (my father’s eldest brother) for dedicating his life in building us up. He is no more. There are things I realize I never did with my kids, when they were younger and I really wanted to. I was busy attending something or someone that seemed more important back then. Now my children are teenagers. I can still attend to those items at work or other people. But I cannot go back and live those moments with my children.
And on this day – I have 3 choices. One is – Cry over spilled milk and be angry with myself and the world for all the sand I filled in my jar without focusing on the big rocks and pebbles. Another is – Continue to think I will do all I want someday and continue to wait to fill my jar with the big rocks and pebbles because the perfect way has not yet been planned. The most productive way forward would be – forgive myself for the overlook. Take charge. Re-look at my priorities. And start acting on them without delay. Pick up the big rocks and pebbles quickly and fill them in my jar and the sand can continue to be filled in. But atleast the right things got their place, first – and easily.
You can do so too – Just blatantly stop living the “confused and lost” way. Without any explanations to anyone. It is your right to do what is urgent to you in the one life you have. Pick your big rocks before they fill someone else’s jar and/ or you lose them forever.
Act, while you still can.