LIFE GOES ON: Keeping Time, Not Making Time

March 2, 2012



For those who think there in not enough time, this is a story to live by:

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

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar

And start to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured

it 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, family,

children, health, friends, and favorite passions  

Things that if everything else was lost 

and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and 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. So… 

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Play with your children. 

Take time to get medical checkups. 

Take your partner out to dinner. 

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.

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.'”

Author unknown


Kathleen Cairns, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. She works with adults, adolescents, and couples. You may call her at 860-236-5555 to make an appointment. She is the author of “The Psychotherapy Workbook.”  You may email her at and she will try to answer as many of your questions as possible.

Life goes on… and every day matters…

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One Response to LIFE GOES ON: Keeping Time, Not Making Time

  1. Alyssa on March 2, 2012 at 10:23 am


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