When I was in college, one of my professors told us the parable of the stones, which goes something like this:
“We have some stones and pebbles that we wish to put into a jar—some large, and some small. If we place the small stones and pebbles in the jar first, then the large stones won’t fit. A better way to do this is to put the large stones in first, and let the small stones and pebbles fill the gaps around them.”
I’ve heard this story told in several ways, but the core of the story is still the same: the large stones represent what is most important in our life. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately, to be sure that I truly focus my time and energy on the things that matter most to me.
What’s been interesting to me, is how much my large stones have changed. For most of my adult life, career would have been pretty high up in my list of priorities. I wanted to be successful, and to do work that really displayed my achievement. I made many sacrifices for my work, some of which I think about with some regret today.
Now I define ‘success’ a bit differently. It’s that warm feeling in my body when I’ve done something good: that teenager’s life that I’ve impacted, the smile on person’s face, that neglected dog’s life that I saved, the grateful shy smile and ‘thank you’ when I help someone. When I look back on my life and the things that I’ve done, nothing in my professional career has ever warmed me like this. I now have the gift of being able to spend time every single day doing things that I think matter, and I am grateful for how very lucky I am.
So, as I move forward with my career exploration, I know I need to remain true to myself by making sure my large stones remain my priorities and the focus of my life. And I know to be sure to keep tabs on what those large stones are, as they can change. I’m also being careful that I don’t fall back into old patterns, just because they are comfortable. Some days, it’s a struggle!
It’s a great time of year to assess our priorities and to set our intention for the upcoming year. Just a thought.
Have a wonderful New Year, and may 2013 be everything you hope for, and more!