The Important Things in Life: The Mayonnaise Jar

A friend forwarded me the following story today. I thought I should share it…
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar
and start 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 it 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 an unanimous ‘yes.’ The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table
and poured the entire contents 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 recognise that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favourite passions things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and 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.


Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play with your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.
There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.

‘Take care of the golf balls first — The things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled. ‘I’m glad you asked’. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.’
Please share this with other “Golf Balls”…I just did!

(Source unknown)

3 Replies to “The Important Things in Life: The Mayonnaise Jar”

  1. How true and also how on time in my lifeline. I realised last week that I am not leaving any me time in my life and am working on putting less sand into it. I think I am making too many pebbles into golf balls

  2. Hi Sean

    Thanks for this it’s something I used to demonstrate to delegates on the management development workshops I ran many years ago – you’ve just reminded me of it and how important it is to get our priorities in order.

    I live life this way but had forgotten to use it to explain the concept to others, something I can now do again.

    As we get older we sometimes take for granted what we know and forget that others possibly haven’t been exposed to such valuable information explained in simple terms.

    Good to see you yesterday.


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