What Do You Really Want From Life—Stones, Pebbles, Sand?



This week I’ve been asking myself, what do I really want from life? Simple question, but not so easy to answer. Yet, it has profound impact on our journey.


Just to survive


The effort required just to surviveeasily consumes our days.

We get up, often dragging ourselves out of bed at the sheer thought of another day of our demanding (unfulfilling) job—it pays the bills, but little more.

We come home after a grueling day to a demanding family—can they not understand what I go through every day, just to put food on the table?

We drop into bed for a fitful night—too exhausted and stressed to get the much-needed rejuvenation sleep is supposed to give.

The question haunts us, “Is this all there is to life?” 


No simple, easy answer


The answer is not easy nor simple because life is complex.

I like Brendon Burchard’s answer. “At the end of our lives we will all ask, Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?”

Brendon has made it his life mission to live a “fully charged life” and to help others “feel more alive, engaged, and fulfilled.”

Great. But how?


Here’s a riveting story I found that can help us get started on our quest to discover what we really want from life.


Of Stones, Pebbles and Sand


One day, an old professor of the School of Public Management in France, was invited to lecture on the topic of “Efficient Time Management” in front of a group of 15 executive managers representing the largest, most successful companies in America. The lecture was one in a series of 5 lectures conducted in one day, and the old professor was given 1 hr to lecture.

Standing in front of this group of elite managers, who were willing to write down every word that would come out of the famous professor’s mouth, the professor slowly met eyes with each manager, one by one, and finally said, “We are going to conduct an experiment”.


From under the table that stood between the professor and the listeners, the professor pulled out a big glass jar and gently placed it in front of him. Next, he pulled out from under the table a bag of stones, each the size of a tennis ball, and placed the stones one by one in the jar. He did so until there was no room to add another stone in the jar.

Lifting his gaze to the managers, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?”

The managers replied, “Yes”.

The professor paused for a moment, and replied, “Really?”


Once again, he reached under the table and pulled out a bag full of pebbles. Carefully, the professor poured the pebbles in and slightly rattled the jar, allowing the pebbles to slip through the larger stones, until they settled at the bottom.

Again, the professor lifted his gaze to his audience and asked, “Is the jar full?”

At this point, the managers began to understand his intentions. One replied, “Apparently not!”


Correct”, replied the old professor, now pulling out a bag of sand from under the table. Cautiously, the professor poured the sand into the jar. The sand filled up the spaces between the stones and the pebbles.

Yet again, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?”

Without hesitation, the entire group of students replied in unison, “NO!”

Correct”, replied the professor. And as was expected by the students, the professor reached for the pitcher of water that was on the table, and poured water in the jar until it was absolutely full. The professor now lifted his gaze once again and asked, “What great truth can we surmise from this experiment?”

With his thoughts on the lecture topic, one manager quickly replied, “We learn that as full as our schedules may appear, if we only increase our effort, it is always possible to add more meetings and tasks.”

The Lesson

“No”, replied the professor. “The great truth that we can conclude from this experiment is:

If we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them later.”

The auditorium fell silent, as every manager processed the significance of the professor’s words in their entirety.

The old professor continued, “What are the large stones in your life? Health? Family? Friends? Your goals? Doing what you love? Fighting for a Cause? Taking time for yourself?

What we must remember is that it is most important to include the larger stones in our lives, because if we don’t do so, we are likely to miss out on life altogether. If we give priority to the smaller things in life (pebbles & sand), our lives will be filled up with less important things, leaving little or no time for the things in our lives that are most important to us.

Because of this, never forget to ask yourself, What are the Large Stones in your Life? And once you identify them, be sure to put them first in your Jar of Life.”

With a warm wave of his hand, the professor bid farewell to the managers, and slowly walked out of the room.


What are the large stones in your jar?




Source: Of Stones, Pebbles and Sand

Image courtesy Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4 thoughts on “What Do You Really Want From Life—Stones, Pebbles, Sand?

  1. One great illustration Les. May I borrow it? The photo of the tiny grains of sand, all beautiful and brilliant tells me that even the most obscure and common among us can be beautiful in the sight of God.

    1. Thanks, Ian.

      I like your observation, “that even the most obscure and common among us can be beautiful in the sight of God.” Very true.

      In regard to using the story: On the website listed as my source I find only the the following statement about using her material (on her General Presentation page): © Reproduction of this document (for non-commercial purposes only) is free and welcome, under the condition : not to make any change, and to mention the author, the website, and the page.

      I am assuming that these conditions would apply to any content from her site, including the story I used.

  2. I enjoyed the story. I agree the larger stones need to be put in first. The last item the professor used was water. I surmised the water could be the Holy spirit. therefore, ones ‘jar-life’ can never be completely full without the Holy Spirit.
    If one was to put the water in first; what would happen. You would have room for the larger stones and less room for smaller stones and sand.

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