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Importance of the Big Rocks


Overall this has been a really good week, feeling not only motivated, but also quite peaceful and centered. And while I wasn’t wondering why I was feeling that way, a conversation with very inspiring lady yesterday helped me to realise why that’s been the case.

A large part of it relates back to last weeks post on Personal Values. But equally it’s because I feel that this week I’ve been focusing on the things that matter the most to me and not letting ‘noise’ get in the way. It reminds me of something that the late Leonard Kim would share with us when we worked for him back in the GE days, which was the concept of Big Rocks. If you haven’t heard of this before or the ‘story’ that comes with it, here’s the version he shared with us (which I believe he took from an unknown author).


An expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high- powered overachievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz" and he pulled out a one-gallon, mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.


When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class yelled, "Yes."

The time management expert replied, "Really?"


He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"


By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered.


"Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"


"No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good." Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"


One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"


"No," the speaker replied, that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all.

Back to my conversation yesterday, that person shared with me what their priorities were and how it anchors them in everything they do, the way they do it and the people they do it with. Given the things that had happened in her life and led her to where she is today, being crystal clear on what is important to her was one thing, but ensuring that they were first and foremost in anything that she did, meant that the big rocks were always in the jar first.

I look back at the week I had and realised, it’s been the first week in a very long while where my big rocks were in the jar first. Time spent with family, friends, loved ones and my wellbeing weren’t put behind spending time on my work. I still achieved all the things I had to do from a work perspective, but that fitted in with my personal goals, not the other way around.

If you enjoy what you are doing, you can always find time for whatever you want to do – WGP

So what are the 'Big Rocks' in your life -- time with your loved ones, your wellbeing, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these Big Rocks in first or you'll never get them in at all. So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the 'Big Rocks' in my life? Then, put those in your jar first.


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