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Roughly 10 years ago I posted this story (The Mayonnaise Jar and the Two Beers), however, I believe the concept is very true for any person of any generation at any time.

Especially considering the last two years, the current economic events, and the selfish direction the world is heading, you may at times feel like you are on the edge. However, when you do reach these moments when things seem to much to handle and 24 hours in a day are not enough, then I encourage you to think about this anecdote- the mayonnaise jar and the two beers.

The Story

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.

The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents of one beer into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

To Wrap It Up

Such a basic visualization of life, yet so straight-forward. I love the concept. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18 (golf). There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. That doesn’t mean you don’t do those things. It’s a matter of when they need to get done. Be mindful. Prioritize. Trust me.

Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

Therefore, when your having a rough day at work, or something is off, your tired and grumpy, or whatever the case might be, keep this anecdote, this visualization of life in your mind and appreciate what and where you are. It goes without saying that everything around those golf balls, the pebbles (stones) and sand grains, as well as the beer (or any other liquid to represent that) are ever changing and are not, or should not be the biggest focus in life – including your job.

To close out the story – one of the students raised her hand and inquired what the other beer represented. The professor smiled and said,”I’m glad you asked.” The other beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a beer with a friend.”

So remember, no matter what is happening today, thankfulness goes a long way – pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness without being selfish or trying to impress others.