Stones, pebbles and sand

My friend Anna once told me a great inspirational story that she heard from her professor, that he heard from his professor about another professor and a jar.


One day a professor arrived at the lecture hall with a jar and three bags. The jar was empty and the bags seemed heavy. He placed the jar on his desk so that everybody could see it. Then he opened the first bag and took out the stones. One by one, he filled the jar to the brim with stones.

stones in jar

“Is the jar full?” he asked his students. When they all answered that it was, the professor smiled, opened the second bag and took out the pebbles. He placed a handful in the same jar. The pebbles nested in-between the stones. Then he added another handful and another.


“Is the jar full now?” he asked his students again. Some of the students became unconvinced at this stage but still the majority answered “Yes.” That amused the professor even more and with a broad smile he opened the third bag and took out the sand. He kept adding the sand and watched it trickle until there was no more room in the jar and it spilt.

jar of sand

“Is the jar full now?” the professor asked the students again. The students answered that it was full but they were now more concerned what the experiment was about. “The jar is your life” explained the professor, “the stones represent the core important things in your life, such as love, friendship, family, health and well-being. The pebbles,” the professor continued, “represent the meaningful things in your life, such as work, hobbies, achievements and relationships. The sand,” the professor finally remarked, “represents the little things in your life such as holidays, shopping, leisure pass-times and socializing.” The professor paused and asked the students what if the jar was filled with sand first. There would be no room for pebbles or stones. Also, if you filled your jar with pebbles you would not fit any stones into it. The key is to start filling the jar with stones.

jars of stones pebbles sand

I love how this story touches with simple yet powerful images and decided to have a reminder of it around the house. You will need 3 identical jars and some stones, pebbles and sand. I collected mine during some day trips to different beaches, that also adds extra memories to it.  Fill you jars and arrange them so that you are always reminded on the priorities in your life.

stones pebbles sand in jar




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