I read a great blog post the other day. It was story about a time management presenter that did a demonstration for a class. The demonstration went something like this. The presenter took out a jar and started putting in large rocks until the rocks reached the top. They asked the class if the jar was full and most said yes. The presenter then pulled out some gravel and poured it in the jar, letting fill in around the large rocks. They asked the question again. The class caught on and said “No.” The presenter the did the same thing with sand. Then water. Each time the less bulky material filling in the smaller and smaller voids.
When the presenter was done they asked the class what the process demonstrated. Someone raised their hand and said “that no matter how busy we are, no matter how many things we do, there is always time to fit in more.” The presenter said “No. What this demonstrates is that if you don’t put the big stones in first, you won’t get them in.”
Wow. That’s a pretty powerful concept. It was done in the context of time management for business people. But I saw something else in it. I thought about how so many people approach life. And how they approach therapy. Consider this. That jar is your life. And those contents represent the activities in your life. The tasks, the challenges, the issues. But those large rocks, the important, major things in our life, fill most of the jar.
When you look at the jar it is easy to visualize that if you really wanted to have the largest, most powerful impact on the jar, on your life, you would work with the large rocks. Working with some water or a grain of sand or a pebble would have much less impact. Yet that is what so many of us do in our lives. We ignore the big issues and challenges. We push around some grains of sand and wonder why our jar hasn’t changed significantly.
Dealing with small issues may be simpler. Although there are a lot of grains of sand compared to the number of large rocks. And yes, you can make changes by doing lots of small things. But the fact is, even if you deal with every grain of sand, the large rocks still remain and still dominate the majority of the jar. In other words, you can fix lots of small things in your life but any large issues will still be there.
Taking on the big rocks takes strength and determination. It may be more work. But it has so much more impact than just pushing gravel. Think about that the next time you wonder why your life doesn’t seem to be going the way you’d like. Have you been too busy pushing grains of sound around the big rocks?