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Fill Your Jar with Rocks and Stones – Not Sand

Category: Activities: Home | Age Group: 14-16


Setting Priorities


Access to the story below under “Illustration”


As children mature, they begin to face a more complicated world, one full of challenges and demands that can cause a person to lose sight of the things that are important to them. In many cases, this involves a work-life balance challenge or a confused pursuit of “wants” rather than “needs.” This can often lead to a frustrating life situation, which offers little if any satisfaction. This activity will help to remind the children of what is important in life and help them to understand how they might focus their attention and efforts on “the important things in life” and avoid getting caught up in the pursuit of less important, materialistic things.  

  • Find a moment to sit down with your child and mention how busy life is and how it is good to just take a moment to pause and relax.
  • Let the conversation move naturally to the fact that perhaps people are too busy and don’t need to be.
  • Read the story below together.
  • Once finished get your child’s reaction to the story and then ask them to identify their “rocks” and “stones.”
  • Discuss with your child how to stay focused on these things and not let “the sand” get in the way or threaten what is important.
  • You could discuss with your child how you keep a balanced perspective.
  • You could discuss how insurance is used to protect important things.
  • You could discuss needs versus wants and the importance of knowing the difference.
  • You could discuss long-range goals and how to plan to achieve them.

A teacher stood before his class with some items on the table 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 rocks, about 2 inches in diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.

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

The teacher picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

“Now,” said the teacher, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family and your health – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be happy. The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your phone or your house. 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 rocks. 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. Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”