What Are Your Rocks in Life? Find Out with This Analogy about Jars of Sand

UPDATED: September 27, 2015
PUBLISHED: January 14, 2015

There are 24 hours in a day. You know that. I know that. I don’t get more than you, and you don’t get more than me. Yet some of us do way more with the hours we all get. Some of us are successful in life—and some of us are not. So what separates a successful person from the rest of the pack?

I’ve discovered a pattern when it comes to achieving success in all areas of your life. And it begins with having a solid foundation.

I recently talked about the importance of living your foundation—what I call your rocks—for a few local TV stations. I did a demonstration called the Jar of Life, where two jars represent our life. In the first, I have sand and small pebbles on the bottom and a few rocks sitting on top. In the second, I have rocks on the bottom and sand and pebbles on the top. But what do rocks, pebbles and sand have to do with achieving success in life?

The sand in our life represents the tasks, to-dos and activities that we do every single day, and the pebbles represent the materialistic possessions that we purchase. The rocks represent the foundation to our success—they are our deepest and most important values in life.

Now, if you only had one week to live, how would you live your life? Who would you spend time with and what would you do? Your answers are your most important values, in other words, your rocks.

People who live in the first jar with sand at the bottom are consumed with their day-to-day tasks and possessions, and have no firm foundation for their rocks. People who live in the second jar start with their firm foundation of rocks at the bottom and go about their day in a calm, organized and focused way. They know what is most important, and so life is more significant and rewarding.

Knowing the rocks in your life will allow you to create a successful lifestyle that gives you purpose, passion and meaning. Those who have a solid, clear foundation are the ones who will achieve big things and make a difference in this world. These people follow their calling—they know that fulfilling and living out their values is their duty to serve.

Here are four questions to ask when you’re establishing your foundation:

1. If I only had one week to live, how would I live?

2. What are the top four rocks—the most important things—in my life?

3. How can I create a lifestyle that is in alignment with my rocks?

4. What legacy do I want to leave?

Your answers to these questions define the values most important to you. The first step to success is laying down the right foundation, so focus on your rocks and live according to them.

Purpose is essential to true contentment—because you may have a great career, be happily married and healthy but still feel that something vital is missing. Read a philosophic take on what creates happiness.

Tiffany Mason is a certified relationship coach, speaker and author. She is the founder of Mason Coaching and Consulting, a lifestyle coaching firm based in New York, where she empowers women entrepreneurs to design a meaningful life and marriage.