Sunday Inspiration: What’s Important?

transparent jar with different stones on white background

Last Sunday I encouraged you (and me) to block out time in the coming year for what’s important. But first we  have to answer this question: What’s important? This is the perfect story to help do that.

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 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.

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. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

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 beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.

Now do we know what’s important for us? I’ll meet you in the bar for a rousing discussion.


  1. Pamela Feinberg on January 10, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Thank you for this. This really puts ones life into perspective. Amazing! Great insight!

  2. Martha Manigross on January 10, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I had a major heart attack in 2007, and uterine cancer in 2011 (which only required removal of said parts and no follow-up treatment except checkups) and was recently diagnosed with a lung disease that is mild, not curable but is treatable. My older brother recently passed away (parents have been long gone)… I know how important life is, and how important it is to enjoy every moment, and to make the best of every day. If I think I’m having a bad day, I think of friends or family that I know are struggling and realize my life is great, and that I am able to do the things I love – quilting, sewing, weaving, spinning (yarn), knitting, crochet, playing with my dogs, eating out, spending time with friends, or taking a nap – living in the moment – it’s ALL important and not wasting a moment is something I try to remember.

    • Emilie Richards on January 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      You have a great attitude, Martha.

  3. Terry Guerra on January 10, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    I will try my best this year to take care of the golf balls first! Thank you for the reminder, Emilie! This is awesome!

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