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The Big Rocks of Powell Performance

This term seems to be infiltrating pop culture, online forums and everything in between… big rocks. What does it mean? What does it mean to PP and how do we apply it to our clients / athletes?

You’re at the beach and told to fill a glass jar. Your goal is to get as much weight and stuff in the jar as possible, because the more you get in the jar the more you get as a reward for filling it up, we’ll explain that reward more later.

What would you fill it up with? You look around, you could probably get a ton of sand in there, but it's all small and very light. Yes, it will fill the whole jar easily, but it won’t weigh much so your reward long term won’t be much. If you’re thinking about wet sand… way ahead of you, it’s heavier but still not the best options. You search around, there are some beautiful seashells around, but again, not a ton of weight because they usually aren’t very dense or heavy. The seaweed or plankton… gross, don’t bother.

You look around again and you finally notice the larger rocks that still fit in the jar. They are heavy enough to provide some great weight. You throw them in because they are MOST IMPORTANT to reaching your goal… this is what we mean when we say big rocks. It means we are looking for the biggest bang for our buck, the actions, beliefs or ideology that leads to the most results.

For us here at PP it’s balance and maximizing these 4 big rocks and different parts that go into diet.

  • Psychology

  • Biochemistry

  • Environment

  • Physical

These 4 big rocks take up the majority of our jars we create for our athletes. After the athlete accepts and puts these into their jar there is minimal room for other stuff we can put in the jar. Yes, the athlete will see results by adding 1-2 of these rocks, and bigger results with 2-3, but until all 4 are accounted for they will always be missing something. Our job here at PP as the dietitian or coach is to help people figure out each of these and then help them create small habits and actions, they can take to move forward with each one.

Once we have an athlete who has set-up these big 4 rocks in their jar, we continue working with them to start filling the rest of the jar. Often next we work on closely related habits and actions that will assist well with the big rocks and start filling in the other cracks. This is a great time to start putting some of the smaller heavy rocks in, these are important too and still add weight and value to our day. These can include things like forming habits to change our big rock that is psychology, eating foods that produce the hormonal changes we want to make, making the best decisions for our environment and improving parts of our lifestyle to improve overall health.

  1. Big Rock - Psychology

    1. Small Rocks - Habits / mental health / capacity and ability

  2. Big Rock - Biochemistry –

    1. Small Rocks – eating food with desired hormonal responses, stress relief

  3. Environment

    1. Small Rocks - improve interpersonal relations, knowledge of life stage

  4. Physical

    1. Small Rocks – improving overall lifestyle, better training to improve performance

As you can see, these small rocks are just further steps into helping the big rocks be even more effective. Now that we have all of these in here, what do we add next? We get even more specific, and we add sand to start filling all the space between the big and small rocks. These are even more specific things that need to be addressed and change from person to person. Some of the more common examples are below:

  1. Big Rock - Psychology

    1. Small Rocks - Habits / mental health / capacity and ability

    2. Sand – creating small daily habits & doing 5 minutes of mindfulness & breathing.

  2. Big Rock - Biochemistry –

    1. Small Rocks – eating food with desired hormonal responses, stress relief.

    2. Sand – making vegetables, high quality protein sources priorities & minimizing processed food.

  3. Environment

    1. Small Rocks - improve interpersonal relations, knowledge of life stage.

    2. Sand – having conversations with important people in your life, setting expectations for you & people around you, knowing your values

  4. Physical

    1. Small Rocks – improving overall lifestyle, better training to improve performance.

    2. Sand – figuring out what you want your life to look like, prioritizing life & values, making small daily habits.

Step back and look at your jar, it’s now pretty full, a lot of the space has been taken up. Remember that all the pieces and things in there taking up the space can easily be replaced. Don’t like how much room the sand it taking up? Pour it out and put something else in its place. One thing that we break down in our habit articles is how each action we take is a vote towards the person we want to be. Every time you complete an action towards the person you want to be you are slowly changing out the things in your jar. Make it look exactly how you want it to. Once you know your big rocks and what is important to you as a person then the rest of it can be changed with better habits, actions and education.

Let us help you make your jar the best we possibly can fit the life you want and make sure your big rocks are getting all the support around them as possible. Our coaches would love to help you with your goals and set you up for long term success.


Can my big rocks change?

Absolutely! Any parents out there can tell you how fast a life changing event like your first child can change your outlooks, values and goals. The big rock of environment changes drastically and the small rocks and sand around it will definitely be changed for the foreseeable future until a rhythm and balance is found. Other major life changing events change your environment like moving and changing jobs which can change your entire life and how you approach your health and lifestyle. Then there are other big potential changes that can affect your biochemistry like injury or disease. This will lead to major changes in how the body responds to things and will change the small rocks and sand around as changes will be necessary to meet goals and expectations.

What should my jar look like?

That’s the great thing, is it’s up to you! You have complete control and should be able to fill our empty your jar of anything you want. One of the major things we talk about here at PP is that each person is different and that is shown specifically in this example where many people have different big rocks and drills, they need to figure out and then how the fill the space around those big rocks will depend on what they want to accomplish and support those big rocks. You choose what your life and your jar look like, we simply coach and help you to make it as exactly what you want.

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