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

Ready for a heaping spoonful of inspiration?

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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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

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Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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