The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee
In honor of Thanksgiving Day, we’re going to take a sabbatical from my weekly financial strategies so I can share a fabulous story with you that I know you’ll want to pass on and discuss with the rest of your family today.
A few years ago, Relaxing Retirement member Bob Weston exposed me to this story and I thought it was a terrific analogy for all of us to take to heart.
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 2 cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large and empty industrial sized plastic mayonnaise jar and proceeded 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 them into a jar. He shook the jar gently. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full, and 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—your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite 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 golf balls.”
“The same goes for your 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 spouse out to dinner.”
“Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.”
“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 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.”
* * *
On this annual day of “Thanks”, take a minute and write down what your golf balls and pebbles are.
It’s never too late to re-prioritize.
The Retirement Coach
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