Is it full?

The jar of life is a well known story with a few alterations here and there. My favorite one that I have heard is this one:

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar. He then proceeded to fill the jar with golf balls. “Is the jar full?” he asked his students. “Yes,” everyone responded. 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 areas between the golf balls. “Is the jar full?” he asked again.The students responded with an unanimous: “Yes.” The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course the sand filled up all the space left. He asked once more: “Is the jar full?”. “Yes, of course,” everyone responded. The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire content into the jar, filling the empty space between the sand.

“Now,” the professor said 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, health, friends and favorite passions. 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 or 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 critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit your grandparents. Take your spouse out for dinner. Go out with your friends. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

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 beer represented. The professor smiled and said: “I am glad you asked. The beer just shows that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.” (Philipp T. Schneider, 2012)

I enjoy this version of the story mainly because of the last point which a lot of versions leave out. I think it makes a point of saying: yes, have a balance life, time manage, prioritize etc, however at the end of the day… enjoy your life, live it. I feel that the beer with friends part reminds us not to forget to enjoy our lives.

I think as therapists we must never forget that our clients are people like us who wants to and should have the opportunity to enjoy their life. We often can get so focused that we start to see them as case studies, projects, goals. Although having a balanced life, roles, good performance patterns etc is so important for our clients, we must never forget to add some ‘life’ into therapy.


The Jar of Life: First things First

Valuable Lesson for a Happier Life – Jar of Life

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