What Are Your Big Rocks?

Stephen Covey uses an illustration about rocks in a jar, and I’d like to share it with you today, with a little adjustment. In the story, which you may be familiar with, a professor shows a jar to his students and fills it with large rocks. He asks if it is full and they say it is. Then the professor brings out a bag of gravel and pours it in, proving the students wrong. He asks if the jar is NOW full, and they say it is, though with some hesitation. Then the professor pours sand into the jar, proving them wrong a second time. He finishes the demonstration by pouring water into the jar. The illustration serves to teach us that we must get our big rocks into the jar first, or else we will not accomplish our goals.

I have two questions for you about this story.

How Big is Your Jar?

I owe thanks to Maribel Manibo Lazzarino for this insight. Many of us neglect to properly evaluate our jars before we identify our priorities. Business owners don’t set regular working or office hours. Parents stay up late, night after night, instead of saying “no.” People fail to allocate money within a budget.

tweetWe need to know how big our jar is before we start throwing rocks into it!

So our first step when evaluating our self-care is to figure out how much time we have. How much sleep do we need? How many times a week can we eat fast food before we feel sick? How much free time do we have in a week? If you have a breastfeeding baby, you need to find ways to care for yourself that take 10 minutes of less, because you’ll only get free time in tiny chunks. If you have kids in high school, you will have longer chunks of time, maybe enough time for a massage or a movie date with yourself.

Are You Putting First Things First?

As you can see in my video, order matters. Yes, you can fit a lot of matter into the jar, but in order for it to all fit neatly, you have to put the big rocks in first! Or in my illustration, the rooster, eggplant, onion and lemon first! What do you do first when you get up? What do you and your child do as soon as you pick her up from school? Are those big items getting taken care of? Yes, if you work in an office, you need to spend some time on your appearance. But does that come at the expense of your spirit?

Why am I talking about priorities right now? Because self-care is one of your big rocks: at least it is if you’re serious about living a meaningful and joy filled life. Without self-care, you cannot give attention to any of your priorities.


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