The “Boulders of Sisyphus” vs. The “Big Rocks of Stephen Covey”.

The “Boulders of Sisyphus” vs. The “Big Rocks of Stephen Covey”

by L.T. Force, Ph.D..


Recently, I heard a presentation referencing “The Boulders of Sisyphus”. The speaker - in alluding to the nature of the story - spoke of how for eternity, as punishment, Sisyphus was sentenced to roll a boulder up a mountain. The only problem, as part of his punishment, each day the boulder would roll back down the mountain. Sisyphus was sentenced to this work for all of eternity.

As I am listening to this presentation, I also spent this summer studying the work of Stephen Covey. Years ago, I read his book: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: ( This time, I decided to ‘listen to his book - in audio format". I learned so much from his writings. In fact, I just finished his work titled: “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness” ( - again in audio format - where Covey, once again, references the: “Big Rocks”: (

What I started to think about is the similarities and differences between the metaphors of the “Boulders of Sisyphus” and the “Big Rocks of Stephen Covey”

First thing that comes to mind - the connections between: “Boulders and Big Rocks”. Just the image of both entities - creates a sense of similarities. But beyond similarities there are also differences. Where Boulders are defined as: “a very large rounded piece of rock’ and “Big Rocks” (from Covey’s work) are defined as: "Your priorities....they are the tasks, projects, or goals you absolutely accomplish. They are your mission-critical objectives—not items on a messy, sprawling to-do list."

What a difference! In the story of Sisyphus - “the Boulders” are a form of punishment. Whereas, for Covey, the “Big Rocks” are self-created - as helpful tools for productivity and goal accomplishment. The take away? We create our own: “Boulders and Big Rocks” in our life.

You decide which one you want in your life….it’s that simple.