Focusing on the Big Rocks

A legendary story about putting big rocks into a jar first before pebbles and sand and water has stayed in my mind since I first heard it. Stephen R. Covey, (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) is best known for telling the story, but I don’t think he claimed ownership. The basic premise is that we need to focus on the big rocks, the most important aspects of our lives, first. If we put in the big rocks first, then we will have room for pebbles and sand, or the less important tasks. But if we first fill our jar with sand or water—the unnecessary distractions—we leave no room for what is important, really important.

Independence Day marks the second half of the year. The first half of 2024 is gone. Can you believe it? On the flip side, though, we still have half a year to accomplish our goals. It’s the glass is half full, or the glass is half empty concept. Let’s look at it as the glass is half full. We still have 180 days to finish what we started on New Year’s Day.

In January, in One Word Can Change the World, and again in Starter’s Day, I suggested picking one word to focus on for the year, or to set goals in the five areas Jon Acuff lists as: career, financial, health, relationships, and fun. Then in Eternal Hope on March 31st as we wrapped up the first quarter of the year, I encouraged you to keep going, to stay focused. In March Madness terms, I reminded you that the score at the end of the first quarter is not necessarily an indicator of the final score.

So here we are now at halftime. How are you doing on your goals? Are you still focused on your word for the year? Remember, most people do not even set goals, so if you write your goals down, you are more likely to achieve them. If you feel behind at this half-way point, know that it is not necessarily a predictor of your outcome. And for most goals, unlike a ball game, December 31st is not necessarily the final deadline.

For example, my goal to get my book into the hands of my editor before my birthday was just an arbitrary date. In January, six months seemed reasonable to get my manuscript ready for review, which would then give me six months to get it in print, thus completing my first book at 60. I set that goal because I’ve been working on my book long enough and I want to get on to my next book and the next. Life will go on if Finding Joy is not available for purchase until 2025, but having accomplished my mid-year goal gives me momentum to stay focused on getting it published this year.

If we don’t set some kind of timeline for ourselves, we can push our goals so far into the future that they lose their urgency. Whether our goals are to lose weight, get organized, enjoy more time with family, pay off credit cards, or write a book, we need to set a date, make a game plan, and create checkpoints along the way.

Getting back to the big rocks idea, let’s stay focused on what really matters. What are your 3-5 big rocks? What are your most important goals for this year? Focus on your big rocks. Give them most of your attention. Don’t ignore the pebbles or the sand, but don’t let the minor tasks keep you from accomplishing your big goals. Then consider the water. Are unnecessary tasks stealing your time and energy?

Everyone has distractions. We all have little things that seem urgent—those sand in the shoes annoyances we must take care of in order to maintain balance. What I am saying is to keep your eyes on your big rocks. For a season, you may need to let a few of the pebbles go. You may need to say no to a few things you like (the pebbles, the sand, and especially the water) in order to say yes to what you love (the big rocks). But focus on how good you will feel when you reach your weight loss goal or become debt free!

Let’s stay focused together. This is our mid-year check. I will check in again around the first week of October. If you would like to share your goals, your accomplishments, or how you are doing with your word for the year, please email me or comment below.