Everybody wants to be successful in some way, shape, or form.
The trouble is, most people want to be seen or known as successful–more than they want to break the necessary bad habits required to actually be successful.
That’s because the lifestyle and rewards that come with success make everything seem easy.
People think: “Once I’m successful, I’ll have all the time in the world to do whatever I want.”
People think: “Once I’m successful, I’ll never have to work hard again.”
People think: “Once I’m successful, I won’t have to worry about things like money.”
And since those are the rewards they’re after, that’s all they focus on:
If they still don’t have “all the time in the world,” they’re unsuccessful.
If they’re still working, they’re unsuccessful.
If they’re still worrying about money, they’re unsuccessful.
As a result, they stay focused on all the wrong things–and ironically, never truly become successful.
People that fall short in life do so by their own volition. Unfortunately, they never realize it. They move through life chasing all the things they see other people enjoying at the end, without also seeing the habits, behaviors, and decisions those people had to make all along the way.
Here are three suggestions for how you can maximize your own chances of being successful:
1. Spend less time thinking about how you could work harder – instead just do the work
It’s amazing how many people can talk, and talk, and talk about all the things they’re going to do.
But it’s even more amazing how many people claim their ability to work harder than the next person, without ever putting in the work themselves.
It’s a brutal truth that we all like to believe ourselves to be more capable than we actually are. And we also like to think that anyone who has achieved success was just lucky, or “knew someone.”
But the truth is, unsuccessful people say those things so they can avoid acknowledging the real issue: someone else is doing the work, and someone else is reaping the rewards.
2. Invest your time rather than just “spending” it
I believe there are two types of people.
The first is someone who sees time as a token for consumption. They can spend their time-consuming movies, TV shows, social media. They can spend their time on vacations and travel and adventures. They can spend their time on friends and outings and concerts and events. Time is theirs to spend, and they’re always looking for new ways to spend it.
The second is someone who sees time as a token for investment–and when invested correctly, can reap the rewards of compounding interest. They invest their time in people and relationships that provide positive value. They invest their time into activities that nurture a desired skill or teach them something new. They invest their time into projects and pursuits that encourage growth in some area of their lives. Time is theirs to invest, and the more they invest in people and things that show compounding interest, the richer they become in knowledge, understanding, and even money.
Unsuccessful people spend time.
Successful people invest time.
3. Understand the concept of opportunity cost.
Every successful person I know lives their life by the rule of opportunity cost.
They understand that for every hour they spend doing X, that’s an hour they cannot invest doing Y. And they are hyper-aware of the delta between those two variables–meaning, while they might be making a fair amount of money doing X, they are missing out on the potential long-term gains of forgoing that immediate reward for a future payoff result for doing Y.
Unsuccessful people don’t understand opportunity cost. All they see is what is in front of them–not what they could potentially do now to reap bigger, better rewards later.
The challenge with adhering to the rule of opportunity cost is you have to stay true to the vision you have for yourself that has not yet been manifested. It’s not easy giving up what’s immediate, what’s gratifying now. However, that’s the small price you have to pay in order to invest your time.
There are only so many hours in the day. If you spend them all, there will be none left to invest.
This post was written by Nicolas Cole and first appeared on Inc.com.
Nicolas Cole is an author, Top Writer on Quora, and the founder of Digital Press. His work has acquired over 30 million views online, and has been published in Time, Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC, and more. He is best known for writing about creativity, entrepreneurship, productivity and personal growth.