The Mayonnaise Jar

by Christine on February 7, 2010

This was sent to me via email. I have no idea who the author is but it was so fitting for my Aspects of Life Exercise I thought I should share it.

The Mayonnaise Jar
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.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle,
When 24 hours in a day is not enough;
remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

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 started 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
it 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 cups of coffee 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 -family,
children, health, friends, your partner and favorite passions
Things that if everything else was lost
and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else

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.
‘Take care of the golf balls first —

There will always be time
to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.

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 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 with a friend.’


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

lynette knebel July 31, 2010 at 8:43 am

this is interesting and so true. what a great way to explain things.

Marlene Murray November 14, 2010 at 1:10 am

Thank you for this thought provoking read! I intend to live life wholeheartedly and really start to prioritise the important things in my life!

admin November 14, 2010 at 2:54 am

You’re welcome Marlene .

admin November 14, 2010 at 3:04 am

Yep – life should be that simple.

Marlene Murray November 15, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Yes thanks, Nikki suggested that I might like to look at your page, I am glad I did, I certainly will revisit often too! My younger sister recently passed away so my goals and drive have become more precise now. I love my family and miss the ones I am not around. I am being emancipated by learning at uni – I am a little bit into my LLB. and Lewis is being an active and caring Dad at home, looking after the boys when they are not at daycare. So our days are full! Till next time.

Sanjay December 18, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Very Good and Informative parable

Christine February 14, 2016 at 7:48 am

Thankyou Sanjay – glad you liked it !

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