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As high school students, you face a multitude of challenges unique to you. Seemingly endless activities and obligations compete for your precious time. It would be exhausting, and detrimental, to try and do it all: take AP classes, play in the jazz band, compete as a varsity athlete all three seasons, participate in the school musical, and devote copious amounts of time and energy to improving your SAT skills.

We all set goals and aspire to achieve them. But how many people do you know who have actually applied their primary focus towards a specific goal, turning that goal into reality? The old cliché is true: “Anything worth having requires hard work.”

Even a cliché, when reframed and applied in a new context, can have revolutionary results. Yes, it takes hard work to achieve success on the SAT. It also takes a willingness to manage your time wisely and apply yourself diligently. Rather than concentrate on the end goal, on how much you really want a perfect score, you will see better results by focusing on the journey. I don’t mean simply paying attention to the steps you need to take to arrive at your goal. I’m talking about a larger, and in many ways more difficult, question: What are you willing to give up, to sacrifice, to achieve your goal? 

Firstly, I’m suggesting you look at your schedule and decide what sacrifices might be made. Could you cut back, even in one area? It’s definitely possible to have a full course load, be very involved in one extracurricular, and find the time to prepare for the SAT. The more disciplined you are, the more you can take on. I’m merely suggesting you evaluate this discipline. Be honest with yourself about how much is too much.

For most goals worth achieving, maintaining the status quo is simply not enough. We’re all busy. We’re not only accustomed to routines, but fond of them. Meaningful progress happens when we prioritize, when we make the decision to break habits. Success is a direct result of sacrifice. When we turn off the television, we free up additional study time. When we stop mindlessly surfing the internet, we make room for productive learning. When we decline an offer to hang out with friends after school in favor of memorizing vocabulary, we’re making a deliberate choice to prioritize the SAT.

Does this sound less than pleasant? Maybe. But if putting in the hard work was easy, then everyone we know would be achieving new and amazing goals all the time. And remember: you can always binge watch that TV show after your victorious test day. Your commitment to the SAT is important, but you won’t have to study forever.

Ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up to achieve my goal?” The answer will tell you how important the goal really is.