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The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Cups of Coffee

I just received this e-mail from my cousin. I really liked it and wanted to post it here to share with others and have as a reminder to myself.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then
asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

**update** I was informed that this is actually from Steven Covey’s book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
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 open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the ! jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—God, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and 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 and your 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 that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another
18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. 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 coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad! you asked.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

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Published inLiving the Life


  1. Great post, that is exactly how i sort out my life, which would be why it feels pretty good most days.

  2. That’s actually from Steven Covey’s book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I went to a training seminar once for it and it was really great to help prioritize my life!

  3. Thanks for the info Wiccachicky! I’ve been wanting to read that book but haven’t ever taken the time to sit down with it.

  4. I’ve read this before. But there are some things that you just can’t read too many times. And it always seems to surface just when I need it most. Thanks! 🙂

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