Living up to one’s full potential can be hard to quantify.  Could a 98% on a test have been a 100% if more study time was devoted?  Perhaps, but there are also more obvious circumstances where one does not live up to full potential.  For example, one might have run a mile 3 minutes slower than a mile ran a week before.  Or, one could not do an assignment, receiving a failing grade for not putting in any effort.  However, one can obtain motivation from these failures to perform at their maximum at the next opportunity.  Personally, a low test grade was a time where I did not live up to my full potential.  While procrastination, lack of effort, and an overestimation of my own abilities kept me from succeeding, the failure itself motivated me to change my priorities in order to achieve my full potential.

Upon receiving a low test grade in a European history class, I noticed that procrastination contributed greatly to my lack of knowledge of the material.  I had read most of the required chapter the night before the test instead of gradually reading and rereading the material.  I chose to watch television or play video games instead of focusing on school work.  As a result, I was not prepared for the test and suffered accordingly.

A lack of effort also characterized my actions prior to the exam.  While reading the assigned chapters, I would skip the extra material that was recommended but not required.  For example, a section with a source document from the time detailing a scientist’s concern that other scientists were too interested in scientific instruments failed to capture my interest and was promptly passed over.  In addition, I neglected options for extra credit, such as filling out an informational packet with vocabulary terms and questions based on the chapter.  In this way, a lack of effort contributed to my poor grade.

An overestimation of my own abilities allowed my procrastination and lack of effort to continue.  After consistently receiving high marks with little effort in other history classes, I continued my previous habits.  However, I learned the valuable lesson that even if something is not broken, you should continue improving it.  A business that does not improve its product overtime will lose ground to a competitor that does.  In the same way, I failed to improve study and work habits to adapt to a harder course load, resulting in a low test grade.

Fortunately, the failure gave me motivation to change my priorities and in turn, my study and work habits.  While I could have let the failure resign me to a life of mediocrity, I took it as a wake up call.  Not only was I not living up to my full potential in terms of test scores, my work ethic was severely diminished.  From failure came realization of a work ethic problem, and from realization of the problem I was able to improve.  The failure itself gave me motivation to improve because I did not want to feel such unnecessary disappointment and dissatisfaction in my performance again.

My priorities, distorted by years of success with little effort, had to be rearranged.  While hobbies, such as video games, used to come before school work in order of importance, I had to place school work ahead of such entertainment to reform my work ethic.  With my priorities placing school work before personal entertainment, I was able to read the chapters over time, go back and review the material, and put in more effort outside of class.

If I had another chance at the test, I would use the lessons I learned to better prepare for it beforehand.  Reading the chapters over time, reviewing the material, and completing extra credit assignments would be steps that I would take.  Since the test I failed to succeed on wasn’t the only test of the year, I will be able to take these lessons and apply them to other tests in the same course.  However, the lessons I learned are applicable to any aspect of future work that I do, as a strong work ethic is a valuable attribute in any work environment.

A low test grade resulting from procrastination, lack of effort, and an overestimation of my own abilities motivated me to change my priorities in order to better reach my full potential.  My work ethic, study habits, and test scores improved as a result.

This essay was submitted Colin Easter for the December 2010 – Scholarship. See and vote on your favorite essays here. When asked what he would do if he won, Colin replied “If I win, I plan on using the money to pay for college tuition.”  Collin was referred to the scholarship by Barb Friedberg.