I’m wondering if you are like me? With life getting increasingly chaotic, over-scheduled, and stressful, have you ever asked yourself whether there might be a better way?

I’m reminded of a story that has had a profound and lasting impact on my life. The story comes from Stephen Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” In his book Stephen shares a story about a physics teacher who wanted his class to wrap their minds around the concept of volume. To help them understand this, he started with a large container which he filled to the brim with large rocks. He asked his class if the container was “full,” the majority of the class answered “yes”.

The teacher then added medium sized pebbles to the container, again, along with the big rocks already in it, filling it to the top. He then asked the class, again, if the container was “full.” The class responded with some saying yes and some saying no.

Next the teacher added sand to the container, filling in the spaces between the big rocks and the pebbles, all the way to the top. He, once more, asked the class if the container was “full.” By now the class was “on to him,” and responded “no.”

Finally, the teacher poured water into the container, soaking the contents, until the water was to the uppermost edge. He asked the class, “what do you think the point is that I’m making, here? A student replied, “That you can always fit more into your life.” To which the teacher replied, “No, it’s that if you don’t put the big rocks in first you’ll never get to them.”

That story led me to look at my own life just like that teacher looked at that container. How was I treating my “big rocks” when it came to making time for them in my life?

I had made a commitment to myself to take better care of myself. I knew, from experience, that it was all too easy to say that taking care of myself was important, but at the end of the day I never seemed to have to time to actually do it. What if I were to make self care a “big rock?”

What if I made nourishing my own body, heart, and soul a “big rock?” What would it mean to me to insist that I create and maintain a lush oasis for myself in the middle of this desert of priorities that always seemed to be overwhelming me?

Right there and then I made creating this lush oasis of self care as one of my “big rock” goals for the year. I knew, if I was going to succeed, that I needed to start with keeping it simple, but at the same time filling that oasis container as full as possible.

After I had prioritized all of my goals and tasks and established which were big rocks, which were pebbles, and which was sand. I then set up the container called “self care oasis.” I allocated one hour a day to my “self care oasis” and established three key criteria that were a “must have.”

The self care oasis criteria included that it had to have elements of beauty, companionship, be spiritually inspiring, not be technology based, require physical engagement, and leave me feeling better than I did when I started. With the simple template to guide me I started to create the reality of my “self care oasis” mixing and matching elements that met my criteria and fulfilled my desire.

As I continued to work the “big rock/pebble/sand/water” model in my life I was able to weave other elements of other goals into my oasis experience. For example, I invited someone I wanted to get to know better, in preparation for collaboration down the road, to a Yoga class and tea afterwards. It was a great opportunity to test synergies and to socialize.

There were times when something I tried simply didn’t rise to meet my “self care oasis” objectives and desires, but, overall, I’ve got to say that I was delighted with the results. Including self care as a big rock in my life plan and actually making it a reality enables me to renew, re-energize, and re-engage as I take on life.

Big Love,


Photo: Amanda Flavell

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