A few years ago I discovered the “story of the stones”. It is a simple but thought-provoking story that will challenge your priorities and help you get the life you want.
A consultant arrived at a company for a meeting with a group of managers. They all sat down and looked perplexed as the consultant put a large glass jar on the table.
First, the consultant took a bag of large stones and placed them one by one in the jar. He did so until there was no room to add another stone in the jar.
Lifting his gaze to the managers, the consultant then asked, “Is the jar full?” The managers replied, “Yes”.
He then paused for a moment, and replied, “Are you sure?”
Next he took out a bag full of pebbles. He carefully added some pebbles and slightly shook the jar, allowing the pebbles to slip through the larger stones.
He then looked up and asked, “Is the jar full?”
One manager replied, “Apparently not…”
“True”, replied the consultant, now taking out a bag of sand. He slowly poured the sand into the jar. The sand filled up the small spaces between the stones and the pebbles.
Without hesitation, all the managers replied, “NO!”
So he picked up the water pitcher, served himself a glass of water, and then proceeded to pour water in the jar until it was absolutely full.
“Is it full now?” he asked.
“YES!” replied the managers in unison.
He then looked up and asked, “What great truth can we learn from this demonstration?”
One manager quickly replied, “We can always improve time management. Even if our schedules are full, we can always find a way to do more.”
“Not exactly”, replied the consultant. “The great truth that we can conclude from this experiment is: If we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit them in.”
The managers suddenly fell silent.
“So what are the large stones in your life?” he continued.
“Is it your health? Your family? Maybe your close friends? Doing what you love? Fighting for a Cause? Taking time for yourself? Beating IBS? IS sand and water stopping you from getting the life you want?”
“Once you have thought about this deeply and have the answer, be sure to put these in your pot first. If you start with pebbles and sand, your big stones will never become your real priority and you will never reach your dreams.”
With a warm wave of his hand, the consultant bid farewell to the managers – then left the room. They pondered over the Story of the Stones and how pertinent it was.
How can you get the life you want?
And how can the Story of the Stones inspire you?
The first step is by realising who is choosing your priorities.
The first time I read this story I really thought the time management answer was the answer. Without realizing it, I was filling up my time with what other people expected of me: my boss, my colleagues, my family, my friends.
I finally came to realize that the problem in my life was just that. I had put everyone else’s stones, pebbles, and sand in my jar but few of my own – and I had no air.
My IBS was in part caused and fuelled by this, directly or indirectly.
The second step is by deciding how you could get the life you want. What are the big stones you will put in the pot first? How would like your life to change? What do you want the most, and what do you no longer want? Maybe your health and wellbeing should become your priority, as it is hard to feel dynamic and enthusiastic about other things in life when you are dealing with IBS.
If you can relate to this, know that changing the habit of a lifetime is a gradual process. It is not always easy to find the balance between your priorities, and what you do for others. But this balance is essential to your happiness, health and general well-being – and for beating IBS.
I cannot quote the source for this story as I don’t remember where I read it, but it was adapted from a Chinese tale, and is also known as the “Jar of Life”.3