The Mayonnaise Jar

Posted by in Articles, How you view yourself on April 19, 2017 0 comments

A short story and three practical applications for learning to put the important things in life first.

The Mayonnaise JarA teacher stood in front of his philosophy class and with some objects in front of him. When the class had quietened down, he took a large empty mayonnaise jar and began to fill it with golf balls.

Then he asked the students if the jar was full and they replied that it was.

The teacher then took a jar of gravel and upturned its contents into the mayonnaise jar. He shook it slowly and the little stones positioned themselves in the empty spaces between the golf balls.

Again, he asked the students if the jar was full and they all agreed that it was.

So the teacher took a box of sand and upturned it, adding into the jar; obviously the sand spread throughout the jar.

He asked the students one more time if the jar was full and the students, laughing, responded with a unanimous ‘yes’.

‘Now,’ said the teacher, just as soon as the laughter had subsided, ‘I want you to consider this jar like your lives. The golf balls are the important things: your families, your children, your health, your friends and your passions. The things that, if all else was lost and only those remained, your life would continue to be full. The gravel are the other things that have importance, such as your job, home, car… The sand is all the rest: the little things.

‘If you put the sand in the jar first, there will be no space for the gravel and the golf balls. The same is true in life: if you spend all your time and energies on the little things, you will have no space left for the things that are important to you.

‘Pay attention to the things that are indispensable for your happiness: play with your children; enjoy your family and parents while they are there; take your partner out to dinner… and not only on special occasions! Dedicate yourself to what you love and to your passions; there will always be time for cleaning the house or arranging appointments. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really count. Choose your priorities… The rest is only sand.’

I hope that you enjoyed this story. If you liked it, if it made you smile with awareness, try to go a little step further: apply it to your life. Not tomorrow, not at the start of the New Year: now.

Practical applications

To make the message of this story a reality in everyday life, try to follow these three points:

Identify your priorities. To understand what the golf balls are in your life, ask yourself a simple question: which things that I do during the day will have a significant impact on my life in five years’ time? Depending on your age, the answer might be: study; giving the most to your job; bringing about a business idea; educating your children; and so on. Take a piece of paper or use a text file to pour out what you think are the 10 priorities in your life. Now look for the three priorities without which your life would be meaningless. You have found your golf balls.

Eliminate the superfluous. Learn to simplify your life. Avoid the sand that enters into your days and obstructs the gears of your activities. You know very well what I’m talking about: aimlessly browsing the Internet for hours; watching idiotic programs on TV; playing nonstop on games consoles; and so on. Identify the useless activities that suck your time, and systematically eliminate them, freeing precious minutes for your priorities.

Learn to organize your days. The trick is the order in which you do things. The overwhelming majority of people begin their day with activities that make them feel good and busy: checking email; looking at the statistics for their blogs (ahem…); taking a stroll through Facebook; a little detour on news sites and… it is 11.00AM and they have done f*** all. Beginning your day with these activities means beginning to fill the mayonnaise jar with sand: there will be no space left for the golf balls! For one week try to break this vicious circle: start your days applying the secret of the first hour.

What do you think? Is is worth a try? Please share your experiences in the comments.