Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rocks and Sand

When I was in middle school, I saw a demonstration by a Christian group that, though I'm sure it is completely cliched, stuck with me. The leader had a something like a pitcher (your life), some large rocks (god, i.e., the important stuff), and a lot of sand (the unimportant stuff). She proceeded to demonstrate that, if you put the sand in first, the rocks would not fit, but if you put in the rocks first, the sand would still fit. You can get what you want if you put the important things first.

In middle school, that metaphor didn't fit my life particularly well (though I continued to ponder it), but these days it really does. I have found in particular that absolutely nothing happens unless I make a specific plan to do it. And this is true of hobbies as well, especially the ones that I share with Ed.

Having sex. Doing some math together. Watching a movie. Cleaning the house. Exercising. Eating dinner together. None of it will occur if we don't say, "We can do this tonight," or, "Tomorrow let's do that."

Even though I find this phenomenon a little frustrating, it also means that one of the central problems of life (not doing the things I want to do) is largely solvable through this very simple tactic of asking myself, "What do I want to accomplish today?" It doesn't really require a To Do list, because the things I'm talking about are regular things that you don't tend to forget. I know the house needs cleaning on a regular basis. I know I want to spend time with Ed doing math. I just have to be planful so that these things actually occur.


Edward said...

I heard a version of this story where it was a college prof addressing a class of freshmen, and poured in a can of beer over the rocks and sand. If the rocks were the important stuff, and the sand was the unimportant stuff, what was the beer?

"No matter how full your life gets, there's always room for a beer or two."

Not a big fan of beer myself, but I thought it was amusing just the same.

Sally said...

This demonstration is common in the Franklin Covey training courses also.