As my dad says, “Where there is challenge there is opportunity.”
Do you know that feeling when it’s the day before school starts and you still haven’t finished your summer reading? The summer before ninth grade, procrastination affected my life in a profound way. With only a few days until the start of school, I had finished just one of the two books we were assigned for summer reading. Instead of enjoying my last few moments of freedom, I spent that time doing homework. This caused me stress and made me miss out on time with friends, which was an unpleasant way to end summer vacation.
My parents have always told me that education is my first priority in life right now, kind of like a job. They expect me to be prepared for every test and have my homework completed before class. My motivation always starts off strong each school year. I put in 100 percent effort at the beginning of the year. But I struggle to maintain that energy as the months pass.
One night, my father and I were having a conversation about college. He told me it doesn’t matter much if you get into an Ivy League university or just a standard college – what matters is how you got there and what you did to accomplish it. This really spoke to me, because it made me focus more on the quality of my work rather than the quantity.
In middle school, I never really understood how much the school work I was doing would affect my future. I didn’t think about what I wanted to accomplish in life. My grades in middle school were good, but the motivation to always put in my best effort began to kick in my freshman year of high school.
I never imagined that my grades in some of the harder classes I’m taking this year could be better than my grades in the standard classes I took last year – but they are. My parents taught me that success comes from putting in the most effort I can. Thanks to their encouragement, I started to believe that trying my absolute best is a thousand times better than simply doing something to get it done.
After just a few weeks, I started to notice how my new mindset was changing things. I started putting more effort into my work, from spending that extra five minutes on a math problem, to doing a few drafts of an English essay before turning in the final copy.
Thanks to that one conversation, I have changed the way I go through life. Now I would rather work hard for something and enjoy the pleasure of success, than not try at all and get half as much out of it as I could. Motivation can easily become a habit if you repeat a routine that helps you avoid procrastination. Doing this will keep you on the path to reaching your goals.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.