The Professor and the Jar

by Sandy Weiner on June 17, 2010

It’s easy to lose perspective when you are dating and it’s not going well. Many clients have shared their dating disaster stories, and after a string of bad first dates, it’s easy to believe that the right guy is just not out there. A good friend sent me this story a few days ago. I love the way it illustrates perspective so clearly. Let me know what you think.

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 proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So 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 an unanimous “yes.”

The Professor then produced two cups of coffee (or wine…) from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the space between the grains of sand.

“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 – things that 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. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Go out to dinner with a loved one. Play another 18.

There will always be time to work, clean and fix things. “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 (wine) 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(wine) with a friend.”

So, the next time you feel overwhelmed with what to focus on, remember this story. If you are trying to figure out if the guy you’re dating has the ‘right stuff’, think about what really matters most to you. Think about the five things in life that are non-negotiable to you. And focus on that. Try not to let the other stuff get in the way, such as how charming and good looking he is, the flowers he sent you. That’s the sand in the jar, the small stuff. Those things are nice in the short run, but if you are looking for a relationship that matters in the long run, you need to look deeper. Look at his values. Those are your golf balls.

Fill your jar with golf balls and you will have the makings of a lasting relationship, someone with him you want to share many cups of coffee or glasses of wine. Someone who matters for all the right reasons.

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