This is an older question I answered on Quora. Seems appropriate now.
I was having lunch the other day with some people, and the conversation got to how they spend their free time. These guys weren't dead broke, but they weren't happy with how much money they had and weren't satisfied with the shape (physical condition) they were in either.
Now, unless these people have money, I mostly try listening because I think pretty different from most people about most things related to money and life. And most people don't want to hear my opinion about why they're disappointed with their results and how to fix them; they just want to bitch about how their results suck and that there's nothing they can do about it/the outcome was inevitable, and doomed from the start.
These guys were spending their free time going out 3-5 nights/week (they weren't 19 or 21 anymore either), they drink every day. They read zero books per year. They work the standard 40 hours per week and try to work less whenever possible. And they never go to the gym. Now, from my perspective these people deserved every fucked up output they got considering the inputs were complete shit, and I made the decision after the lunch was over never to go to dinner with these people again.
I want to make it clear first that I'm entirely receptive to people struggling and grinding it out and things not working. That's life, and when that happens, it sucks. If I can help, I will. I also want to make it clear that if you're not trying and the output is shit, you can just change the inputs. The problem is you.
From my personal perspective development is a pretty logical process that has an order. You start with habits because those set the foundation of what you're going to do with most of your time. It takes work because changing habits is a pain in the ass & occasionally it's not fun. Reversion to old habits is easy, and that's why most people quit.
Good habits are reading, exercising/productive hobbies, working, studying your field, quality family time, quality time with friends, etc. (That's mostly it)
Bad habits are drug/alcohol abuse, excessive partying, television, shopping, not working out, and shit that gets you nowhere just as quickly as the other habits get you somewhere. A little bit of any of those is fine; that means they aren't habits.
That's the basic gist of where you start. From there you can refine it if you're trying to accomplish something. You won't make one million dollars in 3 years if all those things aren't perfectly balanced. It'll be very close to impossible. That's fine if that's not what you're trying to do. But you should sit the fuck down and make sure that you've set yourself up reasonably to meet the goals you have so you aren't disappointed with an utterly predictable result. You're satisfied. And you shouldn't bitch uselessly and ruin other people's otherwise enjoyable lunches if all of the inputs of the system don't add up anywhere close to the desired output.
Accomplishing difficult tasks takes focus & tuning things out & relentless dedication and system optimization. My personal life isn't the topic of this rant, but it hasn't been perfect over the last ten years, and it has had no positive correlation with my success (you could make an argument for negative correlation). The worse things got, the better I did, and things got worse for me at various points than for most of you. So, for the most part, the bitching and excuses are unacceptable.
I understand when things are tough. And I know that not everyone wants financial freedom if it has a price tag on it called hard work. There's an old saying that people miss opportunities because usually it's dressed up in overalls & called work. Same thing. (Everyone wants financial freedom but it's hard to get it for free, and almost no one I meet is willing to pay the price.)
The point is to think about your life as a system and to focus on how to optimize the system. If income is revenue (money coming in) - expenses (money going out) then why does everyone focus on money coming in and totally ignore money going out? Both parts of the system are essential, and I'd argue the money going out is more significant than the money coming in. (You have more control over the money; therefore it is more important; just like volume is more important than profit.) One you control, one you don't.
If you rely on your body to focus and make decisions after 10 hours of concentration, then why do you treat your body like shit?
Why do you drink regularly?
Why do you smoke?
Why don't you hit the gym?
WHY ARE YOU SURPRISED YOUR SHIT ISN'T WORKING??!?!?!?!?
The way most people try to accomplish things is very one-dimensional and ineffective. To succeed you need to get AS MANY positive feedback loops moving in the same direction as possible. It's not THAT hard to accomplish what you want if you have everything going one way and pushing you down the conveyor belt towards some goal. When you're pulled in a bunch of different directions, and there's no consistent arch reaching across all the various components of your life THEN you can't expect to go anywhere quickly and should, in general, expect to be STUCK.
Everyone can do better, me too. But for myself at least I have my plan. I have how I'm going to get there, and I try to decide what road is best and optimize my systems to accomplish my goals. I try to figure out what is important (knowledge/family/health/time) and what doesn't matter (a new car/new watch). I try to carve out the useless shit and focus on what's important.
I could write for 15 more hours about how to optimize because this reaches into everything. I could write about different ways to accomplish different goals and get alignment within the system, but this is long winded already.
I want to leave you with the fact that it's OK to be ruthless in the pursuit of what you want. If someone is a waste of time or something is holding you back, you just cut it out like cancer and move on. It's too hard isn't an excuse. If you don't do it, then someone else who has the balls to will succeed where you fail.