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October 2013 SAT: Does being content with the way things are prevent people from improving themselves and doing better?

In this blog post, we’ll discuss one of the writing prompts from the October 2013 SAT.
This is the entire question from the College Board:

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

Most people think that contentment—being happy with the way things are—is the perfect state of affairs. After all, what could be better than being so satisfied with how things are that you don’t want anything else? But contentment has disadvantages: if we are content with the way things are, we are not motivated to change things, to improve ourselves, or to do better. We must therefore always choose between being content and pushing ourselves to do better.

Assignment: Does being content with the way things are prevent people from improving themselves and doing better? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

1. You should include an example of a time when you were content, but still strove for success. The “why” is really important, because that better answers the question, than just describing the incident.

2. Golden Age of Greece/Rome: This is an easy example of when even though the conditions in the empires were higher than ever before, people still strove for more innovation, giving rise to some of the greatest achievements all time.

3. The Roaring 20’s: Another societal example of “overall” contentment that included a lot of innovation.

4. “Going above and beyond:” You may be content with a certain condition, but other factors (outside of your happiness) might push you to continue to improve. A book character would be a smart third example (assuming you use either 2 or 3). Book characters might be harder because a plot centers on the character not necessarily being content in the beginning, but if you can think of something you’ve read it would be great!

5. Contentment in One Sector: The best argument to make here is that contentment in one thing will push people to improve in other things. (e.g. Bill Gates achieved all the financial contentment he could possibly imagine, so he now works towards achieving emotional/spiritual/mental contentment by helping others.)

We welcome you to write a response and submit it to us for editing! Just email us at [email protected] Any other examples that you thought of? Comment below!