The important things in life

by Stephen on September 13, 2008 · 647 comments

in Inspirational Stories, Moral Stories

A philosophy professor 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 professor 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 professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up the remaining open areas of the jar.

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

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that 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, 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 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. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party, or fix the disposal.”

“Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

Author Unknown

Related story: Life and Work
Back to main page: inspirational stories

If you find this story useful, please share with a friend!

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daniel December 9, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Then, the professor reached under the table and pulled out a bottle of PBR. He poured it in, and it, of course, fit into the gaps between sand particles. “And this, my students, demonstrates that there is ALWAYS room for a little booze in your life.”

2 Vava December 12, 2008 at 2:01 am

Yes, indeed. It’s good morale. It’s something to think about our lifes and values.

3 Laura December 13, 2008 at 12:41 am

Thank you for the wonderful site.

4 Nice Naresh goud December 20, 2008 at 4:26 am

I like this story very much. I don’t think what is important in life before I read. After reading I realized that what is important in life. Thanks for author of this story.

5 Naim January 24, 2009 at 10:46 am

It is true about our life…family first then rest

6 Suku February 2, 2009 at 8:00 am

Very beautiful & touching story for students & adults

7 Pooja February 14, 2009 at 4:53 am

It’s very touching and heartily story.!@!@!@!@!@!@!@!

8 Deepak February 25, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Wonderful story. It gives the perspecive for looking at your life in true sence.

9 Plat March 8, 2009 at 4:51 am

Story is incredible and value lesson.

10 Aaron March 9, 2009 at 5:16 am

Thanx a lot, am really touched, but in order to pay attention to the important stuff (family,etc) one needs resources, resources are got by working (hard). So I think, important things in life change as one grows up. When young, make lots of money, then get a partner you can take good care of, then get the kids. Thanx

11 Ndoumah Victor April 2, 2009 at 9:01 am

Then the professor took a cup of coffee and poured it into the ‘filled’ jar. Of course, it filled every little gap. Then he said, “try and spend some coffee time with a friend or two”.

12 Ebong Franklin April 7, 2009 at 9:44 am

“If you put the sand in the jar first”,…… I think our priorities are very vital issues to be addressed.

13 Naikhatsaw April 18, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Thought of not going home this year but family first, right? Thx, u guys keep it up.

14 Renoo May 9, 2009 at 11:10 am

Wow! wonderful story.

15 Amzad August 28, 2009 at 3:24 am

It is one of wonderful and beautiful story which I read recently.The author try to convey us that family comes first and rest is enjoyment.I agree with this author and Iam expecting more stories in future.Thank you once again.Looking feedback from readers if possible comments on feedback also../

16 Sampathkumar Natarajan September 20, 2009 at 12:23 pm

An excellent story with a good point to all materialistic people. Hats off to the writer!

17 Esayas Bekele Geleta September 22, 2009 at 7:18 pm

This is one of the few best saying that I read in my life.

18 Pascal daniel September 25, 2009 at 10:25 am

Very good and inspiring, will surely change d thinking of a lot of students to whom I will narrate this.

19 Fresh-biology September 25, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I think that the message here is to set your social priorities first , Family always come first in fact the inner peace come from socializing with your family and friends and the unimportant things always come in the second stage even if it was more important to you than socializing.

20 Suniel Raj September 26, 2009 at 2:51 am

Every moral story needn’t to be true, but only thing is that the moral what it gives is inspirational & applicable.

21 Eyza September 27, 2009 at 4:16 am

It’s very touching story.!.!.!.!.! Wow impressing story!!!!!!

22 Kamal September 29, 2009 at 1:39 am

This story is deeply touching….

I have never realized the importance of my family, friends and relations ever before, it has changed my entire view…

Thanks to the author, for making me what I really meant to be….

23 Kokulan October 1, 2009 at 12:28 pm

This is one of the greatest motivational stories I have ever read. Although I have been using a lot of motivational books and audios, the story really given me a STRONG EMPHASIS on what are the priorities in life, and in daily routine.. Really helped me to tune my MIND towards my larger goal and to ger rid of frustruations, arguments and other sensitiveness at least to certain extent..

Thank you very much

24 SONALI October 4, 2009 at 10:43 am


It’s a very nice story, full of moral values!

25 Sanjay Parmar October 26, 2009 at 2:49 am

Thanks. It is a very nice and beautiful story.

26 R.Manivannan November 6, 2009 at 4:21 am

Short and sweet moral story

27 Praveen November 26, 2009 at 1:25 am

It’s true that family matters a lot & it was a touching story.

28 Deepu December 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Wonderful story!!!!

29 Grace December 9, 2009 at 5:19 am

Really interesting, touching and worthy story for all. I like it very much.

30 Tauseef December 22, 2009 at 5:34 am

A good one! I think engaging your lifetime largely with rocks, to a good extent with pebbles and to a small extent with sand is a good formula of lifetime happiness.

31 Sidhartha December 30, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Nice one. Really heart touching.

32 juju January 11, 2010 at 8:03 pm

wow i never thought of life that way… every small thing is just dirt.

33 Azmanctm January 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm

The power of simplicity – that is what the story demonstrates. If I may add my two cents worth… the story underlines the need to give priority to the IMPORTANT over the URGENT. Once the Important is in place, we can attend to the Urgent. If we fail to do that, we become perpetual slaves to the great tyrant called Urgent.

34 Moses.I January 19, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Gud story. Gud lesson for everyone. Thanks on behalf of others also.

35 Kapil January 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

Excellent Work, the story in the starting made me thought about the moral that their is always a scope for learning however intelligent you are but in last lines the writer explains about priorities was unexpected very few are able to reach here. GOOD JOB

36 Purva February 6, 2010 at 9:55 am

The story was really great. It is very touching and true. I feel we must always support our family first, and this story proves it. Thank you very much.

37 Sowmya Nyam February 6, 2010 at 4:06 pm

It’s pathetic…

38 Nupur February 15, 2010 at 2:10 am

really it’s very helpful to understand the priorities of life

39 Saathira February 26, 2010 at 4:41 am

I think it’s a very lovely story!!! Really touching!!!!!

40 Nandish March 2, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Yes, I do agree the important things in life are our family and loved ones.. But not to forget that the small things which is referred to as sand is so equally important that is what makes us happy. We need to enjoy the small things in life before running behind the big things.. We should not loose the small happiness and by the time we realize this it would be too late we become old..

41 Mufa March 11, 2010 at 1:34 am

This story also fits for time management those who always queues of no time, there is ample of time if u adjust it accordingly.

42 Tashu March 11, 2010 at 9:16 am

The story is really very good.

43 Primary Sstudent 2010 March 29, 2010 at 6:39 am

Actually, this is a very common story. I’ve read it many times on various books. There’s another story which is similar.

In the story, a master had a very proud student. In order to teach his student a lesson, he filled a tank with rocks, pebbles, sand and water. Each time asking his student if the tank is full. The student, of course, kept saying it is full. What the master was demonstrating is that there is always something to learn and that there is unlimited knowledge. He should not be so proud as to think he knew everything.

44 University Student April 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm

This is the best moral story and I learned what value or importance should family be given. I must say…… it’s not only good but also the best.

45 ANKIT April 5, 2010 at 11:44 pm


46 Saa April 9, 2010 at 8:21 am

Thanks for ur sharing…
Juz one word to describe “SPLENDID”… =)

47 Ahuja April 17, 2010 at 8:33 am

Basically we know that but this story easily understand to us importants our relations.

48 MYOVELA JULIUS April 21, 2010 at 3:12 am

Yeah . . . . this story is deeply great, deeply touching and also it give us a good lesson . . thanx.

49 Manish Srivastava April 21, 2010 at 4:02 am

Today I realised that what should be planned first. It still depends on a person what he puts as Rocks and what as sand. After reading this blog I awaked and realised that for me Rocks are my mother Father. Pebbels are my wife and Children. Sand are my lust towards House, Car etc. & Savings will be the water which can even be accomodated by the filled Jar with Rocks, Pebbels and Sand.

50 Kevin April 25, 2010 at 4:03 am

Nice story. It gives a family orientated bias, which when adopted is the motivation to achieve more for those closest to us. The pebbles and sand are a distant second…

Leave a Comment