They asked 11,000 people: What stands between you and where you want to be? One answer stood out.

Everyone has their own definition of success, and our paths to it will vary just as widely. But anyone who's ever achieved one of their biggest life goals — "success" by their measure — will tell you it doesn't come easy.

What do people see as the main barrier to success?

That's what our friends at SoulPancake set out to discover. They polled 11,000 people with one simple question: What stands between you and where you want to be?


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Given the unique realities we all face each day, they anticipated a pretty wide range of responses.

But one answer really stood out: FEAR.

Fear was the #1 reason people gave for not pursuing the things they want to achieve. I found that surprising. But maybe that's because I'm hyper-attuned to a lot of what's been happening in our economy over the last several decades.

Take a look at this chart, for example:

People are being pushed to work more for less pay, which can — for a lot of people — make it hard to imagine leaving the daily grind to chase uncertain aspirations.

And if you're among the millions of folks who are really struggling, time and money may not be the only challenges you face in the pursuit of your dreams.

According to Johannes Haushofer, a researcher at MIT's Poverty Action Lab, poverty is more than a financial matter — it's also psychological:

"A growing body of literature now shows that poverty makes people more stressed. Stress makes people risk-averse, and it makes them more short-sighted, in the sense that they are more likely to make decisions that benefit them sooner than in the long term. That may put a limit on how much you are willing to invest in the future."

But like The Atlantic's Derek Thompson says, "None of this is an argument against poorer families trying to save or plan for the long-term. It's an argument for context."

I want to live in a society where everyone has a fair chance to follow their dreams. Who doesn't? We tend to see that decision as a matter of the individual. And at the end of the day, it is.

But if we want more people to face their fears — of failure, rejection, or even just change — we have to begin reimagining society in a way that allows us all to see the real and magnificent possibilities of doing what we love.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.