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Lessons from Stones and a Glass Jar

The story is told of a Professor who was speaking to some students and he needed to drive home a point. An abbreviated version of this story shows how the professor took a glass jar and filled it with big stones to the brim. He then went on to ask his students whether the jar was full, and they said yes! It was full. He continued to fill this jar with other materials each smaller than the last one such as pebbles and sand. After each filling session, he would ask the same question and each time the students would reply it was full.


Is the jar full?
Is the jar full?


Finally, he added water and this filled the jar to the brim, settling in each nook and cranny created by the other items. This time, the jar was full and the Professor affirmed as much.

The lesson from the story was that ‘If we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them later and we are likely to miss out on life altogether. These larger stones could take the form of Health, Family, Relationships, Friends, Your goals etc. Giving priority to the smaller things in life (pebbles & sand), will fill our lives with less important things, leaving little or no time for the things that are most important to us. Find the full story here.

I love this illustration and whilst it has been used by many people in different platforms to drill home the point of making wise choices in our lives pegging them on what matters most to us.

I have also found parallels from it with regards to what kind of items we ought to have in our spaces, which will give us so much more in return compared to other less effective items. Granted, we may not always have the funds to make choices that reflect this, especially when it comes to functional pieces, and I do not claim to be an expert on the subject. But, I have found this to be true. It took several months before I acquired my seats. The bed did double duty. So I was able to get exactly what I wanted with the help of a fundi or carpenter. More importantly, I could afford it. Of course with the passage of time and a modest capacity that I am acquiring in being patient, this has served me well. I am still a work in progress though, and I am not there yet-there are some seats I saw recently that just made me swoon[icon icon=icon-smile size=14px color=#000 ].

The point was also made, ‘If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful’. Indeed if there were no smaller space-sucking items in the house, but only the necessities, the house would still be accommodating enough-seats, beds, tables cabinets. This does not mean that the ‘smaller stones’ or ‘sand’ are not necessary. They matter. And they too serve a purpose and they are in many instances, the fun exciting elements in the house.

In my reality, and if I am being totally honest, this is my weakness and the reason I end up with stuff. Trust me, it made sense at the time to acquire them. However, this should not be at the expense of the rocks-which are necessary.

Please note with regards to the point I am making, this illustration can also be taken along a different tangent-something that was also pointed out by one of the students in the story. The illustration could also mean that ‘no matter how full your schedule/ life/ diary/ plate, or in our case house is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” That is also true…. in a sense, and I can attest to it, but there is a bigger picture. Figuring out this balance is an intriguing experience.


What are the items in your space that represent the rocks and larger stones? I’d love to hear your views!


Have a great week!



3 thoughts on “Lessons from Stones and a Glass Jar”

  1. Hmm I would have interpreted it this way: neither big nor small stones can get the job done, only water can…

  2. Great stories about priorities! All important, some more important than others. I recently watched an interview of a very wealthy CEO who broke down when he remembered how he’d neglected his family when he was building the empire. He was deeply hurt, very telling

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