To get results most people don’t, you need to do what most people won’t.

We’re closing in on a couple of key ACT exam dates in February. There are some really hard-working students out there who are tired. It’s shaky leg time. It’s mile 20 of a 26.2-mile marathon. It’s that moment when you’ve climbed down into the canyon, and now it’s time to climb back up the other side.

It’s time to dig deep. It’s time to do what most people won’t, so that you can earn the results most people don’t. Here are thoughts for finishing strong, when you feel like giving up.

Remember Your Why

In our work with students prepping for the ACT, planning for college and tackling college applications, we’re sticklers for setting goals and reviewing them often. Keep your why in front of you. I don’t mean the numeric goal you’re trying to achieve. I mean remembering WHY you want to hit that goal.

Why did you set out on this journey in the first place? What’s the goal you’re aiming for? Is it admittance to the college of your dreams? Is it earning merit aid to reduce the cost of college? Is it proving to yourself what you’re truly capable of if you give it your all? Is it silencing that small voice inside your head that whispers you can’t do it? When you’re in the valley and have a steep climb ahead, get clear about your why, recommit yourself to it and take the next step forward.

Focus on the Next Step

Planning the work and working the plan is a key part of our work with students prepping for the ACT, and it’s a key part of reaching any goal worth achieving. A rock climber knows that in order to reach the top of the cliff, they need to focus on the next step of the journey. No matter what your goal is, avoid the tendency to focus on the finish line. Instead, keep your eyes on the next step you need to take.

When we’re prepping for the ACT with students, we keep our eyes on the next task. Students will often hear us remind them to, “Don’t focus on the number. Focus on the question right in front of you.” The end goal can be daunting. And when you’re in the valley and feeling tired and discouraged, it can feel unattainable. Put your head down, review your plan, get clear about what your next step is and take that step.

Celebrate Progress Along the Way

No matter how far you walk, the horizon will always lie the same distance ahead of you. It doesn’t mean you haven’t come a long distance already. When we’re focused on a big, hairy, audacious goal, we can experience a similar effect. When you’re weary and have a steep journey ahead of you before you reach your destination, you may forget that you’ve already come so far!

In our work with students prepping for the ACT, we establish baseline scores and progress along the way and encourage students and parents to note progress made along the way. This is critical for maintaining momentum toward the end goal.

Look back. Review your progress to date. A rock climber will soon become discouraged if they only look ahead and never look back to remind themselves how far they’ve already climbed.

Take stock of specific skills you have that you didn’t have a few weeks ago. Review where you were when you first started and celebrate the fact that your hard work is paying off! Be encouraged by the fact that if you’ve made that kind of progress, you have it in you to climb the rest of the way, if you just keep doing what you’ve been doing and trust the process.

Visualize The Glorious View from the Summit

I love the mantra, “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”

Close your eyes. Imagine being done with the ACT, or reaching the top of whatever mountain you’re climbing. How’s the view from up there? How do you feel, knowing you dug deep, kept going when you felt like quitting and gave it your all in order to reach your goal? Let that image motivate you to keep going.

At the same time, if you really feel like quitting, imagine how you’ll feel the day after the ACT exam if you DID NOT put everything you’ve got into working the plan you outlined, doing the work, applying what you’ve learned. Imagine how you’ll feel if you phoned it in for the last part of the climb and came up short.

Numbers are great. But what really makes me smile is seeing the look on a student’s face when they’ve pushed through challenges and doubled down on the work. That’s the best mountaintop view of them all. More important than hitting a specific number is fulfilling the promise you make to yourself to give it everything you’ve got and prove to yourself what you’re truly capable of.

Ask yourself now, while the journey’s still hard, “is this the best I can do”? Not in terms of results, but in terms of effort. Am I giving this my best effort? If you give it your best effort, if you follow the plan, if you do the work, then the results will come in time.

The Right Sherpa for the Climb

If you plan to take the ACT in the next six months and have questions about how our ACT Test Prep Coaches can be your Sherpa for reaching your goals, give us a call. We’ve helped countless students reach new heights when prepping for the ACT, finding the right colleges and earning acceptance and merit aid to their college of choice. We’d love to help you. Schedule your free consult today to learn more.