AndrewsCarol Andrews

Keeping It All In Perspective
After a couple of false starts on this column, I decided to write about what has been uppermost on my mind lately. This past month I was reminded again of the fragility of life and the importance of making the most of each day.

Let’s face it: Most of us face job stress, but clinical lab professionals often deal with an inordinate amount. The list of headaches is long: safety concerns, a severe labor shortage and increasing demands that lab professionals reduce errors and improve productivity with less money. (See our related story, p. 32, on how one lab is reducing injuries, decreasing turnaround time, and saving money by using closed tube sampling technology.)

Still, with all of these challenges, we have to remember to keep things in perspective. I’d like to share one version of a story that is presented to me in various forms every few months it seems. This time it was sent to me by my former boss, a woman who knows my penchant for taking my job just a little too seriously. (The story of how I insisted on working an entire morning while I was in labor and then gave birth to my second son less than an hour after finally leaving the office is legendary, I’m told.)    

Remember the Mayonnaise Jar
A professor stood before his philosophy class with some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

Next, the professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes!”

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. “Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things: your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions— 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: your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for 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 to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.”

Each time I hear this story, I promise to do better, but old habits die hard.    

Have a great month, maintain your passion for your job, but keep it all in perspective!

Carol Andrews
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