Stones, pebbles, sand, and a jar

2 minute read


Your life is a jar. How do you fill it?

At some point when Youtube was filled more with ideas worth sharing than ads with which to bombard you, I heard the jar analogy. There was some college professor who argued that your life is like a jar. Different things in your life were represented by rocks of various shapes. You had your large stones, medium size pebbles, and lots of tiny grains of sand.

The volume of these objects happened to match the volume of the jar. And what became apparent in the next minute was that the order of filling the jar mattered. Put in the stones first, then the pebbles and sand fill in the crevices. Put in the sand first, and there’s no way to fit the stones in.

In this metaphor, the stones are your priorities. They’re the things that require conscious effort. Very few people accidentally land in their dream job, accidentally learn a new language, or accidentally end up in shape. They’re inconvenient things to achieve, but if they’re important enough, it’s worth it.

Now, once you get a couple of stones in, there will be nooks you can start to fill with pebbles and sand since no more stones would fit anyway. I like to think of these as the rest periods. After all, you can’t really work all 24 hours in a day. Personally, I’m of the belief this number maxes out between 3-10 hours depending on the type of work you do.

If we’re perfectionists, we would always be in this balance of putting in larger rocks before smaller ones. Obviously, life doesn’t always work how we want to, and that’s okay. It’s fine if we “mess” up occasionally and end up leaving out a couple of stones from our jar.

However, there are two ways I would like to extend this analogy to instill a sense of urgency. The first is that life is a torrential downpour of shit sand being hurled at us, so there is always more filling our jar than we intend. The second is that in life, we never really know just how tall our jar actually is.

What are your stones?