Today, perhaps, is not my most original post. However, there are certain ideas and concepts that we keep forgetting. An occasional reminder never hurts.
You may be familiar with the Big Rocks analogy. If not, let me briefly recount it. The story has countless derivations. Many authors credit Steven Covey for putting it in his book First Things First.
A college professor instructing a class full of high-powered, driven, MBA candidates decided to make a point to this group of overachievers. He announced to the class, “It’s time for a quiz.”
There was shuffling in the room as the students pulled out pen and paper and prepared themselves to expound on some esoteric principle of macroeconomics. To their surprise, the professor produced a large, wide-mouthed glass jar from behind his desk. As the class looked on, the professor placed a series of fist-sized rocks into the jar until the rocks reached the top of the jar.
“Is the jar full,” he queried the class?
One particularly eager student raised her hand, but could not even wait to be called on. She proclaimed, “Yes, professor, the jar is full.”
“Are you sure,” asked the professor, patiently?
He produced a jar filled with small pebbles and began to pour them into the first jar until they filled all the space between the larger rocks. When he’d finished he asked again, “Is the jar full?”
Skeptical, from being burned the first time, someone said, “Probably not.”
Smiling, the professor pulled out a jar of sand and poured it into the first jar. The sand seeped into the crevices between the pebbles and filled the space. As the sand reached the top, the professor had one of the students come to the front of the room and pat the sand down and smooth it so that it was even with the top of the jar.
“Now is the jar full?”
A few people were now ready to guess again that the jar was full. The professor pulled out a bottle of water and began pouring it into the jar. The water was absorbed by the sand. When he had poured as much water as the jar could hold, the professor asked one more time if the jar was full.
The class sat there, a bit unsure. Finally, the professor confirmed that the jar was now full.
“If we apply this example to our lives,” the professor asked, “what is the lesson?”
One student raised his hand and said, “That if we really, really try we can always fit one more thing into our lives?”
“No,” responded the professor satisfied that they had taken the bait, “The lesson is that if we don’t put the big rocks in first, there won’t be room for them.”
If all goes well, we get about 80 trips around the Sun (plus or minus 10) in this life. The water, the sand, and the pebbles are always going to be there knawing at us, stealing our time away. We have to put the Big Rocks into our 80-year jar first or we may never get to them.
Coaching their sales teams is the Big Rock (in their job) for managers in my company. For most, it was not only the most critical to their success, but the real reason they like being a sales manager. Yet, all the little things were getting in the way because they were not putting the Big Rock into their calendars FIRST.
My wife and I took our first trip to Hawaii this past March. We absolutely fell in the love with the place. We developed a mutually shared dream to live there one day.
Friends and family don’t think we’re serious, but we are already thinking about and acting on ways to make it happen. We both are afflicted by the sights of the beautiful blue water everytime we close our eyes.
Hawaii has become a Big Rock for us. When it came time to decide on a vacation destination for next year there was no discussion. We could have gone somewhere we haven’t been before, but we put our Big Rock into the jar FIRST. We booked another trip to Hawaii.
What are the Big Rocks in your life? Who are the people, which are the experiences, what are the achievements that bring or would bring you the most joy? Are they the FIRST things in your proverbial calendar or are they relegated to the bottom of the pile in the hope that you will get to them someday?
The end of the year is always a great time to reflect and take stock of our direction your life. Think about what your Big Rocks are and make sure they are the priority in 2008.
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