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58http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2011/07/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---07_29_2011
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 07_29_2011
07/28/2011 09:01 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
July 29, 2011

In an old business demonstration made popular by guru Stephen Covey (“7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Free Press, 1989) we can learn a valuable life lesson. In one version of the demonstration, a large fish bowl, about 2 cups of sand, and three medium sized rocks are required. The demonstration begins with the challenge to fit all the sand and all the rocks into the bowl. Suggestions lead to three possible solutions. First, start with the sand. Pour it all in. It fits well in the bottom of the bowl. But, it fills up the bowl too high and now the rocks won’t fit. Try again.

                This time start with the rocks. Put them in carefully. They fit well. But, the sand can’t get around the rocks and most of it pours outside the edge of the bowl. One more try. This time begin with a little sand, then add a rock; put in more sand, then another rock; finally, finish with the rest of the sand and the last rock. Now it all fits.

                The demonstration proves a point. The bowl represents the capacity we have to accomplish all our work and obligations. The sand represents our small responsibilities. They are less critical but they are part of the process. The rocks are our big responsibilities and they are keys to the successful completion of our mission. The demonstration quickly makes clear that we can’t focus only on the small jobs at the expense of the large ones, and vice-versa. It would be ideal if we could enlarge the bowl, but more often than not, capacity is a fixed quantity and we have to work within our limits. The solution is found in the way we attend to small tasks while not losing sight of the big picture, and minding the larger vision while not losing hold of what matters every day.

                The demonstration is about much more than multi-tasking. It’s about being clear about what matters in our life. All of us would include family, work, friends, hobbies, personal time, faith and more. Covey and others suggest what we should define as large items and what we should call small ones. But, those are judgment calls. How to get it all done depends on how we choose fit it all in, but the answer rests with each of us, personally. In “God of Me: Imagining God throughout Your lifetime” (Jewish Lights Pub., 2011), we learn how to understand the difference as we aim to fit it all in. “When spouse/partners work long hours at the office, it isn’t only because they are happier at work among colleagues and friends who share their ambitions. It’s also because they are ambitious… New parents don’t work long hours to avoid children at home; they work long hours to provide for them” (p. 88-89). Over years, our priorities often change. What doesn’t change is the duty we have to attend to work and home, family and friends, etc.

                Now imagine that the bowl, which is our capacity to meet all our responsibilities, can actually grow with us over time. As we gain life experience, we should find that we have increasing amounts of patience, empathy, compassion, skills, abilities, and resources. They make us better able to assume more responsibilities that often come with growing children and demanding work. They also make us better suited to choose what really matters most. There will always be much to do (lots of rocks and sand), but there can also be increasingly meaningful ways to enlarge our hearts and souls to embrace all that our life has become, for good or for ill, and, God willing, for blessing.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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