Get Your Big Rocks In First

Big rocks

(Image: ALP)

Have you heard of the big rocks story? It goes like this:

One day a teacher was speaking to a group of students. He pulled out an extremely large jar and set it on a table. Then he produced about a dozen big rocks and 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 said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he asked. “Let’s see.” He took out some gravel and dumped them in. He shook the jar, causing the pieces to fall into the spaces between the big rocks. He asked the students again, “Is the jar full?”

His class was catching on. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Very good!” he replied. He brought out a bucket of sand. He dumped the sand in and it went into all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Then he asked, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted.

“Excellent!” he replied. Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

The teacher looked intently back at the students and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One student said, “You can always fit more things into your life if you really work at it.”

The teacher said “That’s true, but it’s not the point of this illustration.”

He said, “The point is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first…… would you have gotten any of them in?

Big rocks — these are what’s most important and valuable to you.


Big rocks are the same as your Quadrant 2 goals. They are your 80/20 destinations. They are the goals aligned to your life purpose. Big rocks are the things that truly matter to you in your life.

Without getting your big rocks in first, they will never fall into place. You can be busy with random day-to-day activities (which are the gravel, sand, and water in the example) and your big rocks will be left at the wayside, never able to enter your life.

What are your big rocks in life? Your Career? Love? Relationships? Wealth? Health? Spirituality? For each of these big rocks, are they in place?

  • Career: Are you pursuing your dream career?
  • Love: Are you with the love of your life?
  • Relationships: Do you have like-minded friends you can connect and discuss your life’s highest goals?
  • Wealth: Are you doing well financially?
  • Health: Are you in the best of health?
  • Spirituality: Are you connected with your spiritual source?

If not, are you working to get them in place? Or have you neglected them?

If you do not consciously work on your big rocks, you are never going to get to them. For example, I’m doing what I love today and I’ve built my passion into a full-time career. This did not happen by chance — it happened because I made the decision to quit my job nearly a decade to do what I love. I knew that I didn’t want to be 5, 10, 20 years older and not be pursuing my life purpose. I knew that to pursue my mission fully, I needed to quit and build it from ground up.

I’m married to the love of my life, and it’s not by chance either. It’s because 5 years ago, I made the conscious decision to open my heart to love. I cleared my heart of my limiting blocks to love, opened myself to dating and relationships, and subsequently attracted my soulmate — who turned out to be someone I already knew long ago — into my life. If I hadn’t prioritized love, I might not have gotten together with my soulmate.

Don’t push your goals to “later” or “next time.” Don’t wait and think that your big rocks will fall in place by themselves. It’s not going to happen that way. Unless you consciously set aside space for your big rocks, they will not come in. The gravel, sand, and water — i.e. other people’s expectations of you, marketing messages by big companies, government propaganda, random time wasters — will find a way to fill your agenda. For your big rocks to happen, you need to make them happen.


So here are my questions to you:

  1. What are your big rocks in life?
  2. What have you been doing to get them in place?
  3. What can you do to make them happen?

Start to take action and get your big rocks in. Like little seeds that you plant now and care for, you will see the rewards and payoff from working on your big rocks in a few years to come.

Be sure to check out Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program, my 30-day program with 30 tasks to map out your goals, do a self-audit, and live your ideal life.

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