There’s an old story about a professor who shows his students a glass beaker filled with large stones and asks them if the beaker is full. The students answer yes and the professor pulls out a box of pebbles and proceeds to empty that into the jar, shaking the pebbles into the spaces between the stones. He then asks again if the jar is full. The students less sure of themselves this time, tentatively answer yes. The professor pulls out a bag of sand and empties that into the beaker, filling in all the tiny holes where no rocks or pebbles would fit.
He then quizzes the class about the meaning of the lesson. One student suggests it means there is always room for one more thing. (Truth be told, that’s what I was thinking too when I first heard the story.) The professor shakes his head and responds that the large stones represents the really important things in life and the pebbles and sand are all the other daily minutia. If he had added the sand first, there would have been no room for the large stones.
So what are the large stones in your life? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not mowing the lawn, organizing your office space or checking your email every time it pings you with a new message. Everyone has at least one passion in their life- something that is worth arranging their live around. If you can’t put a name to it, it’s not that it doesn’t exist, it’s that you haven’t given yourself permission to see that part of yourself. Give yourself permission right now to figure it out – or at the very least, permission to start looking for it. You’ll find it.
If you are putting off following your dreams until you’ve emptied your in-box, caught up on the laundry or read all the newspapers you’ve received in the past two weeks, you will never get to the big stones. You just won’t. Laundry and email and newspapers will always accumulate; they will always take up space. How much space will you choose to give them?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the little things and get to the end of the day, the week, the year and realized that you’ve spent your time bogged down in the sand. And it’s not that these things are unimportant- it’s just that they can become all-consuming so easily. Start with the large stones, even when the minutia is screaming for your attention–start off focusing on the most important elements in your life and you will see a huge shift in how you feel and what you accomplish.
There will even be time for the laundry. I promise.