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The Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand of Life


This is a story of a philosophy professor showing his students what is important in life.  He stood in front of his class with a big glass jar and some rocks.  He proceeds to put all the rocks in the glass jar, right up to the rim, and then asks his students if the glass jar is full?  All the students agreed that the jar was full.

He then pulled out a tub of small pebbles, and proceeded to pour the small pebbles into the glass jar.  The pebbles worked their way around the larger rocks and filled the spaces in between.  He then asked his students, “Is the jar full now?”  The students all looked around at each other and agreed, that now, the jar was full.

Finally, the professor pulled out a container of sand and poured the sand into the jar, which worked its way around the large rocks, and in between the pebbles.  Then he asked if the jar was really full now?  Again, the students all agreed that the jar was full.

He then asked, “Are you sure it’s really full?” as he finally pulled out a bottle of water and poured it in the glass jar, filling the entire glass container.  The students gave a chuckle as they realized that there was still more room after the sand.  But what was the point?  What did this all mean?  What does this represent?

The Things In Our Life

This display represents how we fill our life up with things.  The glass jar represents our life, from the moment we are born to the moment it ends.  The rocks, pebbles, and sand represent the different things in our lives.  The rocks are the important things like family, friends, and major life projects.  You could fill your life up with all the big rocks.  If you did not have the pebbles and sand, your life would still have meaning and be full.

The pebbles represent things in life that have an impact and definitely matter, but you could do without.  These includes things like your job, house, car, clothes, and hobbies.  These things are temporary and often change throughout your life.  Though they can be important, they are not critical to a meaningful life.  A big house, a fancy car, or expensive clothes will not bring you the joy that the big rocks will bring you.

The sand and water represent everything else.  These are the minutiae in life…the filler things.  These include things like material possessions, watching TV, and running errands.  These are the small things in life that temporarily take up time or may even help to get a small task completed, but don’t bring tons of value to your life.  The water represents the even smaller things in life, which I believe the professor added for effect and humor.


The lesson to be learned here is that we have to fill our life with the most important things…the rocks.  If we fill our lives with the sand and water, we won’t have any room for the rocks and pebbles that are important in our lives.  If we fill our time with insignificant small things, there will be no room for the important things that bring true meaning and value to our lives.

Spend more time with your family and friends.  Invest your time in experiences with your loved ones.  Find the rocks that are important in your life.  Sure, you have to go to work and clean your house, but always put the rocks first.  The minutiae needs to fit around the bigger things in life, not the other way around!!!    

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