Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff – The Mayonnaise Jar

One of the greatest lessons to learn in life is don’t sweat the small stuff. This short story “the mayonnaise jar” has been here on for over twenty years. The author is unknown and I don’t recall now where I originally found it – nonetheless it contains an important lesson. Over the years I have told and heard  this lesson in many different variations of the story presented here. The lesson is always the same – don’t sweat the small stuff. Look at the bigger picture of your life. Keep your focus on what’s important and away from the mundane and trivial.

The Mayonnaise Jar

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, When 24 hours in a day is not enough; remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and started to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

don't sweat the small stuff

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded With an unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. ‘Now,’ said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favourite passions Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else — The small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, You will never have room for the things that are important to you.


Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.

‘Take care of the golf balls first — The things that really matter.

Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. ‘I’m glad you asked’.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.’

Please share this with your friends.

How To Do This

I help people with this issue on a regular basis. Often you are not even aware you are sweating the small stuff because you are not “seeing” clearly. The reason you struggle to look at the bigger picture and keep your focus on what really matters in your life, is that you do not have full control over your mind. When this is the case, your thoughts wander and latch onto the next shiny object.

When you are presented with an issue – especially if it’s emotional you get stuck, sort of like being physically latched onto an object – but it’s an idea or story. Other people can mentally push you and manipulate you – this may not even be intentional. I teach three steps; 1. master your mind, 2. release emotion 3. control and create your reality in my online Speed2Enlightenment workshop or through personal coaching. Has this article helped you? Given you a new perspective? Comment below or join me and comment on Facebook

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