The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee

12Nov05

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two cups of coffee…

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 little green apples. 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 apples. 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 just laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The little green apples are the important things; God, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite 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 little green apples.”

“The same goes for life,” he continued, “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. Spend time with your parents. Visit your grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. [Roller blade another five miles. Go to another barbecue contest. Play another 18 holes.] There will always be time to clean the house and clear-out the gutters. Take care of the little green apples 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 coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked,” he said, “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.”

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One Response to “The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee”

  1. 1 Marie Hecht

    Glad you found this good enough to publish.


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