Do you have a book, a quote, or a poem that you revisit periodically, yet somehow find fresh and relevant every time you take it in?  A piece that always speaks to you and helps you press the “reset” button, even if your situation has completely changed?

Today’s EWC video-share may become one such piece for you. Have you heard about the empty pickle jar philosophy?

Image: Embrace the pickle jar philosophy for finding your priorities

Source: Dr. Lynda Ulrich

I know it’s been shared on various social media platforms, but somehow I had missed it. What a thought-provoking, positive concept! Even if you’ve seen this, give it another look and see if you can find relevance in your current challenges. After the awesome video from Gregg Mrowka, I have shared a personal story on this subject. It contains a BIG insight that took me 30 years to learn!

I’d love for you to benefit from it much sooner. Enjoy!

Applying The Empty Pickle Jar Mentality…

So… is it possible to be constantly mindful of our priorities?

We all want to be with that guy or gal, the one who seems able to consciously choose their perspective and to manage time in a way that honors family and friends. Some people seem to live the empty pickle jar philosophy with ease, but why are they so rare?

Some of us can stay on track with this in spurts, but I don’t mind telling you that in my family, we seem to have an inconsistent “prioritizing gene.”

I have always had trouble saying “no” to the requests of others. Along those same lines, I can’t stand to let an opportunity get by, therefore I used to spread myself far too thin.

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Then one day I came across a saying that nearly knocked me over. I’m embarrassed to admit it took me 3 decades to grasp the simple mathematics of time in this one. Give this little thought experiment some consideration:

One half of deciding what you want is deciding what you are willing to give up to get it.

How do you do on that kind of balancing act? As crazy as it sounds, this relationship never occurred to me.

I never gave one thought to which things I was automatically saying “no” to when I said “yes” to the things I thought I wanted: a cleaner house, a nicer car, the latest new cell phone, working out every day no matter what. You could have pushed me over with a feather when I first realized that my time and attention are finite. Do you know someone like me?

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It may seem self-evident to you, but if I’ve lost you, here are some examples of the mindlessness that I regret. See if some of these sound familiar:

  • I never noticed that when I said “yes” to working late on my business, I was saying “no” to being able to mindfully read to my children before bed. I worked so long and hard that I often fell asleep mid-sentence!
  • When I said “yes” to wanting an insanely huge garden, I was saying “no” to being able to swim in the pond with my kids on long, lazy Saturday afternoons.
  • And what about the little things like watching the evening news – (almost always bad news). When I said “yes” to watching CNN or FOX or MSNBC news… I was saying “no” to being able to go to bed with a positive mindset.

How about the magnetic draw of your social media? Are you looking at your phone more than the faces of the people you love? Do you say “no” to your phone when you are out to dinner, or should you be paying more attention to the person you are with when your phone vibrates?

Instead of mindlessly letting our old habits carry us along, I’m posing that we could start on a little journey into mindfully watching what we are prioritizing with our attention.

Sunset family beach runners

Source: Dr. Lynda

I made some major changes in this area about three years ago and both my family and business life improved dramatically. In the beginning, you will learn a lot about yourself, so I made it a bit of a game. You won’t believe how much attention it takes to manage your attention!

But if you stay with it, in just a few days you will easily feel the payoff! Family, friends, and co-workers will seem to sparkle a little when they interact with you. The people you could be prioritizing will notice. My brother just came out and said it one day, “Hey, you are a lot nicer than you used to be!”

Two of my favorite ‘payoffs’ are the fact that I’ve got a 16-year-old son who actually wants to go on vacation with his parents, and a daughter who just graduated from Harvard, and who chose to run this website with me instead of going on to job opportunities in NYC.

I suspect I must have learned this valuable lesson just in time.

Ready to make the change?

Being mindful – noticing and choosing what you are giving attention to – is like beginning to use a muscle that has not been used in years.  Remember that you will need practice, and allow for many mistakes.

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But here’s the payoff: I remember the first few times I said “no” to an added request or something I thought I wanted. It was only a matter of days before something happened that left me patting myself on the back for the wise choice I had made.

Remember the empty pickle jar philosophy!

In the beginning –  every hour or so –  stop to notice what you are doing and impulsively thinking about. Then ask yourself, “Is this a golf ball, or the sand?”

It will soon be the holidays and the New Year at the time of this writing. This may be a good time to turn over a new leaf, and you may get some great payoffs in delightful responses from the people you care about.

Meanwhile, stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda


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  1. “The Empty Pickle Jar Movie for Simple Truths.” YouTube. Gregg Mrowka, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2015. <>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world. Hear her latest conversations with thought leaders on the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast--new episodes every Wednesday!