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The Rocks Before Sand Paradigm

better living education educational resources lifestyle lifestyle blog personal development personal improvemenet rocks before sand Aug 23, 2021
Beach with rocks and waves

(5 minute read)

By Bethany Rees ~ Founder of Rocks Before Sand

We typically love sitting on the beach right? It's so beautiful and calming to watch how the waves crash into the sand and rocks. 

But if the beach were a metaphor for your life with the waves representing the ever changing circumstances and situations you find yourself in, then would you rather live life like the sand or the rock? 

Sand is tossed to and fro based on the circumstance it is in (wind, rain, and waves). Only sand invades every crack of the environment in which it is in whether it is wanted there or not - think about your swimsuit, yourself, and your car after a trip to the beach. 

Rocks, on the other hand, stand strong and firm. They build strong foundations and withstand all the elements they are exposed to. Sure waves can erode rocks leaving their mark, but rocks aren’t tossed. They stand unshaken and unmoved. 

The truth is that living your life like the sand would be no life at all. You would also be tossed to and fro based on the wave of circumstance you are in. Yet so many of us experience life like the sand on the beach. We are quickly moving from one activity to another, constantly reacting to the waves of overbooked schedules, conflicts, stress, and anxiety crashing down on us. 

With such a huge rise in stress, busyness, physical and mental health issues, broken marriages and families, and just all out discontent with life, we must stop and ask ourselves... 

Is there more to life than just being tossed to and fro? 

The answer is a resounding “YES!” 

You can stop living your life on the sand and start living it on the solid rock!

You see, in the throes of my 20’s and 30’s, I found myself raising small children and trying to build a career all while keeping up with the many demands on my schedule: church, sports, social activities, and my social media posts. Constantly being busy and trying to keep up with what I would now call a “social media worthy life” was overwhelming. I often asked my mother and mother-in-law, “why didn’t you tell me how stressful the 20’s and 30's could be in trying to do it all?” 

But somewhere between 37 and 39 (yeah, almost 15 years later), it hit me...I’m exhausted and there has to be more to life than just this feeling of being tossed to and fro like sand. I felt like I was just watching my life go by in a boatload of stress filled with exhaustion, anxiety, and little enjoyment. Despite having many blessings in my life (awesome husband and great kids), I felt little joy. By 40, I had an epiphany:

My life is full of choices and I can choose to change things. I don’t have to continue this way. 

For too long, I had been focusing and spending my time on the sand (the unimportant and non-urgent things) in life instead of spending time on my essential rocks (the important and urgent). So I chose to reverse that and I am now choosing to no longer live life on the sand but heading towards the rocks. 

Now I am intentional in having a “ROCKS BEFORE SAND” paradigm shift.


The Big Rocks Theory According to Stephen Covey

Great author and thought leader Stephen Covey, epitomized the importance of big rocks over pebbles and sand in a beautiful analogy. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey, 1990), he says that effective people put first things first. To explain this concept so we could understand it, he used big rocks in an object lesson. Essentially, Covey’s concept says that one should focus on the big rocks, or the important and urgent priorities, first in our lives and the pebbles and sand, or unimportant and non-urgent things, last. (Here is a 1994 video of this object lesson on Big Rocks.)

You see, most of our lives, relationships, time, stresses, and anxieties tend to be wrapped up in the “sand” elements of life, not the essential rocks. My new “Rocks Before Sand” paradigm will have my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors focus on my essential rocks first:

FAITH (my identity & foundation)

HEALTH (my present & future)

FAMILY & FRIENDS (my relationships)

CAREER & SERVICE (my purpose)

COMMUNITY (my impact) 

Build Your House on the Rock, Not the sand

Long before Stephen Covey used the analogy of big rocks, Jesus used a parable in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-27 to explain the importance of a rock foundation in Him.

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (online ESV Holy Bible via Bible Gateway)

I don't know about you, but I often act like the foolish man and build my life around the sand elements. When you build your house on sand it is easy to fall apart based on the waves of circumstances.

"When the Bones are Good, The Rest Don't Matter"

Even hit country artist Maren Morris mentions this concept through a different type of analogy in her hit song “The Bones,” that says just this:

When the bones are good, the rest don't matter

Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter

Let it rain 'cause you and I remain the same

When there ain't a crack in the foundation

Baby, I know any storm we're facing

Will blow right over while we stay put

The house don't fall when the bones are good

This blog, ROCKS BEFORE SAND, was created to share the journey of living life through this new paradigm shift. I and a team of writers will share stories and insights to help foster reflection, growth, and encouragement to build ourselves, our families, relationships, and careers on the essential rocks so that we can withstand all the storms that come our way. Our goal is to be a constant message of encouragement to put ROCKS BEFORE SAND.

Know Better. Do Better. Live Better.

Rocks before Sand!


Scripture: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock."

~Matthew 7:24-25

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