Have you heard that story about the professor who fills a jar first with larger stones, then with pebbles, then sand? There’s various versions of it around on the internet, but here’s one to remind you:
A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 5 centimeters in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full?
They agreed that it was.
So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.
They agreed it was.
The students laughed. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognise that this is your life…
“The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff.”
“If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. 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 dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.
“Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
The last few weeks have been incredibly intense here. I mentioned a few posts ago that I’m pregnant… And in addition to the usual exhaustion, nausea and constant hunger, I’ve faced the scare of threatened miscarriage, followed by minor surgery to protect the pregnancy, and post-operative migraines as the spinal anaesthetic wore off.
So, um, business… What’s that again?
This week I feel relatively normal for the first time in ages (hooray!)… And I’ve had some moments to reflect on what it all means for me and for Soul Business. To have to grind to a halt for a month or more, then pick up the pieces and re-evaluate.
I’ve learned some powerful lessons for Soul Business. And I suspect they might be helpful for you and your business too…
1. Remember the rocks. Like the story above, I need to remember what is most important to me in my life. These last months, quite clearly, my health and the health of my unborn child are paramount. As guilty and helpless as I felt about not being able to meet my business commitments (like writing my weekly blog article), it is clear to me that these things must come second to my health and wellbeing.
2. Give up the need to be consistent. One of the most fundamental – and also radical – principles of Soul Business is about giving up the need to be consistent. It comes from a phrase that Ghandi spoke as he transcended his inner need to follow the spoken and unspoken rules of society, to instead follow the deeper calling of his soul’s wisdom. And look where this wisdom led him… Sometimes, our sense of “should” gets in the way of what is possible. Part of being true to the rocks in your life is listening to your own soul, and being true to it’s calling… even when it is unconventional or unexpected.
3. Be realistic. As you follow the (“inconsistent”) twists and turns of the road of the soul, it’s important (if you’re running a business) to adjust your projects, goals and expectations accordingly. For me, this has meant taking stock of where I’m at now. Not last week, or last month. My pregnancy has meant that my work trajectory for the coming year has changed drastically. It was really useful for me to lay it out for myself, so I could get a clear picture of my capacity…. (I’ve got about five months left where I’ll be around for 10-15 hours a week for Soul Business (I still look after our two year old and manage other projects including our home). From October I’ll have maybe 2 hours a week for at least six months to a year, and eventually increasing again to about 10 hours a week from October 2010.) Being the primary carer for a newborn baby is not your usual business person’s schedule. But being real about the capacity I do have allows me to adjust my business plans appropriately. Watch this space for how I intend to use my time
So. I hope that’s helpful for you too. Some questions for reflection, if you care to comment:
What are the rocks in your life? Where does your business fit?
Do you adjust your projects, goals and plans to follow the wisdom of your soul – or the other way around?
I look forward to your comments.