What’s really important to you? Could someone tell by looking in your diary or on your household calendar? Do you spend time on what you think is most important, or does other stuff crowd it out?

You may know the famous ‘rocks in the jar’ illustration, described by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It goes like this. Imagine you and I are standing in your kitchen.

I take a big glass jar and fill it with river rocks, about the size of my fist.

I fill it until no more rocks will fit in, and I ask you, ‘Is the jar full?’

‘Yes!’ you say.

But no! I have been tricksy! I pull out a bag of smaller stones and tip them into the jar. They trickle down and fill up the spaces the rocks have left.

‘Is the jar full now?’

You’re wise to my sneakiness now, so you hesitate. Rightly so. I pull out a container of dry West Coast sand and tip it in. I shake the jar and the sand fills up the spaces the stones and rocks have left.

‘Is it full now?’


I go and fill a jug with water, and tip a good couple of litres into the jar. Even with all the rocks, stones and sand, it takes a while to fill it to the brim.

‘Is it full now?’

‘Yep,’ you say. And you’re right.

What do you think the point of this demonstration is?

When I first saw it done, I thought the point of it was: You can always fit more in if you’re clever.

I was wrong. The point is: You have to put the big things in first.

You have to put the big things in first.

If I had started with two litres of water, then put in a bucket of sand, then stones, how many of the rocks do you think I would have fit in? Not many, right?

The rocks, the most important things in our lives, have to go in first, or they won’t fit in at all.

So what are your rocks, and do you tend to put them in first? Or did you find by the end of 2012 that there were some really important things you hadn’t managed to fit in?

What do you always make time for? What’s non-negotiable in your household and family life? Which things slip in around the edges if there’s room? And is that the way you want things to go this year?

In New Zealand, we watch an average of four hours a day of television, per person. Seriously. Most Kiwis wouldn’t say that TV is a rock in their jar, something really important and valuable, but their actions say otherwise.

If we don’t think about what’s important to us, it’s really easy to fool ourselves into living a life we don’t really want.

In 2013, what’s important to you? Are there things you often think you don’t have time for that you could decide are rocks in your jar?

I’d really love to hear from you. What’s most important for you this year, and how will you make sure it goes in first?


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Thalia Kehoe Rowden began 2011 as the minister of West Baptist Church in New Plymouth and ended it as the mother of a charming newborn baby. She's also an awesome parallel parker, a wannabe runner and enthusiastic but rubbish at gardening. She blogs at Kiwi Families on the spiritual practice of parenthood: listening to God as we parent our children, hearing God's voice through them and through the delights and despairs of bringing them up. Thalia also blogs at www.sacraparental.com

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Amiria Robinson

Great post! 🙂

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