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The mayonnaise jar and coffee


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 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 proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So 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 golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor then 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 God, family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions – things that 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 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 partner 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 that. 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.”


I have been busy with the golfballs, pebbles and sand in my life. But I want to share a cup of coffee with everyone. See ya soon.


17 responses »

  1. Thanks for a nice cuppa coffee…thoroughly enjoyed it.  Hugs

  2. this is a great story and a great point. glad you share it with everyone!!

  3. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. I enjoyed having a cup of coffee with you.  Thank you.

  5. Just dropping in for some fresh brewed java and my daily dose of inspiration.  You are a candle and we are your moths.  God bless you dear friend.

  6.  would a bud light be ok on the occasion…..if not coffee will do..cheers  drew 

  7. Make mine tea and I will be right there.

  8. good coffee.  🙂  I remembered the mayo jar and the stones analogy.  It\’s worth re-reading a lot of times.

  9. some very nice thoughts!   *Hedge sips his coffee*

  10. Excellent example of reality!

  11. That was lovely!  I have heard a similar version in a sermon…but without the cup of coffee.  I am very happy to share a cup of coffee with you, Wendy!  Thank you.

  12. Thanks for the cup of java my friend. Now I know why you sent me the picture. Good stuff. I hope it is decaf and wish I could still drink the real stuff.
    Have a blessed weekend my friend.

  13. hello, nice to meet ya… your space is cool
    how are you keeping
    yes nine eleven was very sad… how captivatingly haunting and tragic was the image of jonathan the falling man… still in my mind..

  14. Rosebay –
    What an important lesson we all probably need to hear from time to time. I can relate to the small stuff consuming a person and the big stuff not being addressed or anything – basically being left on the side until "things calm down" which is rare and I shouldn\’t hold my breath. 🙂 Great post!!! 🙂
    Warmly –

  15. Sometimes sweating the small stuff gets in the way of important things. Thank you for this lesson in life as I need to remember this. Sidney

  16. a wonderful story…will make mine tea…lol…


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