In the early 90’s, the company that I worked for sent my consulting team to a weeklong training on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (I assume in hopes that all of us would become highly effective). This was many years ago, so the details are a bit sketchy in my mind’s eye now, however, there was one example that has stuck with me over all these years.
The demonstration goes like this – you may have seen it. There is a large pickle jar, and to the side, there are a quantity of rocks, pebbles and sand. The sand is put into the jar first, then the pebbles, then the rocks. There is not enough room for the all of the rocks, and more than half are excluded. Then the demonstration is done again. This time, the rocks go in first, then the pebbles which fall in around the rocks, and then the sand, which fills the space between the pebbles. Now everything fits – all of the rocks, all of the pebbles and all of the sand. The jar represents our time, the rocks represent the really important things in life (family, health, spiritual life, meaningful), the pebbles represent the other things that matter (job/career, home), and the sand represents the small things that do not matter.
This powerful but simple demonstration is of Covey’s Habit #3 – Put first things first. This seems, of course, self-evident. And yet, I continue to struggle with actually putting this seemingly simple wisdom into practice.
The uncomfortable reality is that I continue to choose to put some of the pebbles and sand first, out of what? Laziness? Apathy? Self-sabotage? Fear? Perhaps. Or, perhaps, it is, as Covey suggests, habit. And a habit is nothing more than what I choose to do on a daily basis. I can choose another way of behavior, of thinking, of being. And so can you.