How to fill the jar…

how to fill the jar philosophyYou may be familiar with this story about a professor in philosophy, a jar and his class. I have read and heard it several times and to me it is a great reminder whenever I meet it. That’s why I share the wisdom of the professor on how to fill the jar here with you.

The professor and the jar

One day a professor welcomes his students with an empty jar and some golf balls on his desk. While his students watch him with curiosity, the professor takes the golf balls one by one and drops them into the empty jar. He goes on until he cannot squeeze another golf ball in.

Then he looks at his class and asks: “Well, what would you say… Is the jar full?” His students nod and agree: “Yes, it’s full, no other ball would fit.”

The professor takes out some small pebbles and starts to add them to the jar. They fit perfecty into the open spaces. He shakes the jar a bit, so that the golf balls and pebbles can arrange well.

When no pebbles fit in anymore, he looks around and asks: “Well, what would you say… Is the jar full now?” His class smiles and nods and agrees: “Yes, now it’s full, you cannot add any more pebbles.”

Again the professor reaches for something else. This time it is a bag of sand. And while the students smile, he pours the sand into the jar to fill the tiny spaces between the golf balls and the pebbles. He shakes the jar again and pours and shakes and pours until he cannot add any more sand.

Then he looks up and asks his students: “Well…? What would you say… Is the jar full now?” Smiling and nodding the students answer: “Yes, now it is really full.”

Hmm… the professor reaches under the desk and comes up with two cans of beer. While the students laugh, he fills up the last empty spaces between the grains of sand with the beer.

When the laughter subsides, the professor explains the meaning of the experiment.

What do a professor, a jar and some golf balls have to do with a fulfilling life? #personaldevelopment Click To Tweet

The jar represents life (or I like to think that it can also represent a day, a week, a month or a year). The golf balls stand for the most important things in life. The big things that matter most to you. Like your health, your relationships, love, your biggest passions. When nothing else would be added, your jar would still be full and fulfilling.

The pebbles are other pretty important things. Like your job, your house, travel, projects. They add joy and value to your life, but are not as significant as the golf balls.

The sand of course are the tiny things. It’s the small stuff that fills up the jar quickly but that is of no real importance to your life.

The question is: “What do you put into your jar first? If you start with the sand, then there is no room for pebbles, let alone golf balls. Of course it’s up to you, but I’d go for the golf balls first and then pay attention to the pebbles and use the sand as decoration. Set your priorities for your life.”

He stops there. Then of course one of the students asks what the beer represents.

“Well,” the professor smiles, “the beer shows that no matter how full your life seems to be, there is always room for a beer with a friend…”

So, what are your golf balls about? Are they in your jar? And how about the pebbles? Or are your days filled with pouring grains of sand into the glass? Do you have time for that beer (or tea or other drink of your preference)?

Next time you set goals or plan your week, think about this story and see how it fits into your way of going about your life. You may want to reflect a bit about how to fill the jar.

Other articles that relate well to this story and may help gaining insights are Decorating the cake and Embrace the rocks on the path

Have a beautiful, wonderful, fabulous jar! – Margot

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