There are many qualities that I believe hat we, as people, should commonly strive to acquire. These qualities include honesty, integrity, kindness, tolerance, compassion, to name but a few. However, there is one value that I hold above all others and that value is effort. Why is effort so important? It's because without it, no other value would matter.

You see, we are each born and raised to have different traits. Some of us are athletic and others are academic. Some of us are introverted and some are extroverted. The simple fact of life is that it takes a combination of skills and attributes in order to survive and thrive. The wolf with the sharpest teeth would die of starvation if he was a slow runner. Thus, we find conflict. Some of us find it difficult to study for tests or to sit still in an office, while others can't bring themselves to lose a bad habit or exercise daily to better their health. Some of us couldn't care less about the hardships of others, while some of us worry so much about others' needs that we forget our own. It’s fine to have personal flaws – that’s what being human means – but if we do not put forth effort to better ourselves in such areas, we end up becoming one of those people. The introvert who makes no effort to make friends becomes the lonesome outcast. The extrovert who clings to friendship too tightly becomes the obsessive, needy child. The person who thinks little of others becomes the heartless jerk. The person who thinks only of others gets taken advantage of. It's a constant challenge to work on our weaknesses and it's one that we will never completely overcome, but that we must put forth effort into if we want to reach our potential.

That being said, we should also recognize the effort that others put into their lives, even if it’s in an area that seems trivial. We forget that, as individuals, we each excel and fail in different areas. As a result, we tend to judge people not based on the amount of effort that they put into something, but by the amount of effort that we would have to put into their struggles. "Why don't they do things the way I do things?" "How hard can it be to do this? I do this all the time!" "They're so cruel/weird/wrong. How could they be like that?" We like to assume that the people who aren’t as good as us at something are just lazy or thoughtless, rather than trying to help them. By "help," I don't mean to go and give them a lecture, I mean to lead by example, be there for them as friends, and put forth effort in your own life so that others can be inspired to put forth such effort into theirs.

Effort doesn't just apply to our weaknesses. Do you think any great person who we look back on in the history books was just born as incredible as they were? No, they poured their hearts and souls into what they did and they strove to be even better. They didn't settle with "I am good at this." They said, "I am good at this, but I will work to become great." Educators educated themselves, writers read, scientists studied, and warriors trained. These people worked to be more than what they were. This doesn't just apply to personal greatness. Mother Teresa, one of the most generous and charitable people to have ever lived, struggled with her religious beliefs for the majority of her life. Yet, she still worked to help others in need. Do you think that she was just so good at it that it was the easiest path for her to take? Likewise, did Martin Luther King Jr. protest the mistreatment of African Americans just because he was a good speaker? No, they both struggled both against internal and external forces so that they could make a difference and it was this kind of effort that allowed them to do so.

The thing about effort is that it applies to everything. Are you stuck in an unhappy relationship? You can choose the easy route of complacency and be miserable your whole life, you can put forth effort to fix what's broken, or, if that's just not possible, you can gather the courage to move on. Are you feeling lonely because no one seems to understand you? You have to work at making friends who will accept you for who you are, otherwise you'll be alone forever. Are you feeling as though your life has no meaning? You have to give it meaning. You have to discover yourself and then use that discovery to find your purpose. You have to work at putting that prejudice that you have to rest, to caring about the plights of others, to becoming the person who you want to be. You have to work at being kind, smart, strong, honest, loving, tolerant, honorable, and every other quality that a person should have. Without effort, you might end up being someone who you can live with. With effort, you will end up being someone who you can be proud of.