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The Mayonnaise Jar August 31, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Less IS More, Life Balance.

Golf-BallA professor began class by filling an empty mayonnaise jar with golf balls.  When he asked the students if the jar was full, they agreed it was.

The professor then poured a box of pebbles into the jar.  He shook the jar to distribute the pebbles into the areas between the golf balls.  He again asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

Next, the professor poured sand into the jar, filling each nook and cranny, before asking once more if the jar was full.

After the students responded, “YES,” the professor grabbed a mug of coffee from under the table and poured it into the jar.

Laughter erupted in the room.

As the laughter subsided, the professor said:  I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

* The golf balls are important things ~ family, friends, health & wellness,   spiritual beliefs, pets, exercise & fitness, and favorite passions.  If you lost everything else, and they remained, your life would still be full.

* The pebbles represent things that round out your life, but which could be replaced ~ employment, shelter, transportation, and basic necessities.

* The sand represents time wasters and small stuff which don’t add appreciably to your enjoyment of life ~ gossip, gizmos, gadgets, video games, TV, shopping, newspapers, magazines, etc.

If you pour the sand into the jar first, the pebbles and golf balls won’t all fit.  The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy juggling the small stuff, you will never have room for things that are important.  Set priorities and make room for things that are critical to your happiness.  

Play with your children.  Spend time with parents and grandparents.  Eat right, exercise, and get medical checkups.  Take your spouse out to dinner.  Play another 18 holes.  Cleaning the house and fixing the disposal can wait.

A student raised her hand and asked, “What does the coffee represent?”

The professor smiled, “I’m glad you asked.  No matter how full your life  seems, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.”

Inspiration:  E-mail from unknown author

Related posts:  Simplify Your Life *  Life Lessons ~ Randy Pausch * The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch) * Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff


1. Paula - August 31, 2010

I love this story – I remember hearing or reading one similar many years ago, but it certainly bears repeating! I sent it on to our Pastor – he also liked it very much! Thanks for the good reminder! Of that sort of wisdom, I can never get enough. . .

nrhatch - August 31, 2010

I have collected these for years.

It’s fun to pull them out, dust them off, and give them a few nips and tucks before posting.

2. booksphotographsandartwork - August 31, 2010

Very nice. I have heard many times that people in nursing homes regret the time they spent cleaning their houses instead of playing with the kids. My mom has even made that statement. No problem with that at my house. 🙂

nrhatch - August 31, 2010

I posted a wonderful poem by Erma Bombeck a few months ago, called If I Had My Life To Live Over.


Making room for what matters is key to our happiness.

3. cindy - September 1, 2010

I’ve had this one printed and folded inside my bag for a while now, it’s a wonderful message.

nrhatch - September 1, 2010

While editing and polishing the piece for posting, I considered a major change . . .

Turning the coffee into wine. ; )

4. Judson - September 1, 2010

What an entertaining and inspirational way to illustrate Maslow’s heirarchy!

I love it!

— Judson

nrhatch - September 1, 2010

It is quite similar to Maslow’s hierarchy. Nice point, Judson.

It’s not a perfect match since the golf balls in this example include items from each of Maslow’s levels (Physiological, Security, Social, Esteem, Self-Actualization).

But Maslow would probably agree that the sand is just sand (the every day nitty gritty! : )

5. Mstrongair - September 1, 2010

Lovely story! Thanks for sharing it!

nrhatch - September 1, 2010

Thanks, Maria

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