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A Life in full

April 4, 2012




The most important things in life aren’t things.


I have found that if you love LIFE, life will love you back. Here is a story about golf balls, sand and beer – a version of an even older story about rocks, pebbles, sand and water.


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 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 small 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 cans of beer 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, 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, 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. Take your partner out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the rubbish. 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. “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 beers”.

What is the moral of the story?

To live the story in your own life, you first have to know what really matters to you.This awareness can be at a broad level, such as what you want to achieve with your life. Or, it may take the form of more specific goals that you want to achieve this year. Being clear about the results that truly matter to you allows you to make choices that bring you closer to those results, while letting go of the choices that do not.
Pareto (a twentieth-century Italian economist) went even further. He argued that 80% of results come from just 20% of your efforts. While mathematicians have shown that these percentages are nothing more than approximations, the idea that much your success comes from a small proportion of your hard work holds true.
It is known as the Pareto Principle.
If you are clear about what you want to achieve, the next step is to identifywhich small proportion of your activities have the largest impact on achieving your goals.The lessons of golf, sand, beer and Pareto combine to give you a way to greatly increase your success, at work and at play. Try putting them to use.

Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and almost never leave. Our lives are measured by those. – Susan B. Anthony

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