When SoulPancake asked 11,000 people what stood between them and where they want to be, they were expecting the usual suspects: time, money, health, stress, even laziness. Imagine their surprise when the top reason was fear.

For six individuals in particular, the fear of being misunderstood, buckling under outside pressure, having to compromise, and — in a couple instances — failing all over again kept them from living their dream. But eventually they overcame these fears. Patrick Ferguson, a boxer afraid to get in the ring after losing his first fight, said, “The nerves never really go away until you start throwing the first punches.”

It’s possible for others to adopt a similar attitude. For one, a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry found oxytocin, what many experts refer to as the love hormone, “inhibits the fear center in the brain and allows fear stimuli to subside more easily.” It’s not so much the fear is erased, but it’s overwritten with positive experiences; psychologists call this extinction.

"Oxytocin actually reinforces extinction: Under its influence, the expectation of recurrent fear subsequently abates to a greater extent than without this messenger," Dr. René Hurlemann, study director and associate professor of psychiatry and psychotherapy at the University of Bonn Hospital, said in a press release.

The oxytocin, which was administered as a nasal spray in this study, inhibited “the fear center” of the brain: the amygdala. This part of the brain was far less active compared to those in the control group, whereas other, fear-inhibition regions of the brain were actually stimulated. Hurlemann admitted fears worsened for participants before they eventually became less intense, and at a greater rate than if they hadn’t received oxytocin. Cuddling, kissing, and hugging are romantic gestures believed to boost oxytocin levels.

What’s more, a study published in Psychological Science found overcoming fears may be as simple as watching another person do the same. After participants were shown a series of face pictures, they received an electrical shock on their wrist when shown a particular face. And when watching a video where this face appeared again, participants showed a significantly lower fear response to the face compared to those watching a video without the face.

Of course, this is often the kind of thing that’s easier said than done, in part because how well people cope with emotions is influened by their genetic differences. A Duke University study successfully used a drug to block an enzyme called fatty accede amide hydrolase (FAAH) in mice, decreasing fear by increasing endocannabinoids — a brain chemical responsible for a marijuana-like high. This can translate to humans.

In 2009, researchers found “a common variant in the human FAAH gene leads to decreased enzyme function with effects on the brain's circuitry for processing fear and anxiety.” More importantly, the amygdala is less active in humans with this variant, suggesting they may be better able to control and regulate their fear response.

Brain chemistry aside, negative feelings are enough to deter people from going after what they truly want. In his book The Upside of Your Dark Side, Dr. Todd Kashdan cited a study from the University of Hong Kong that asked participants how much they would pay to recreate positive feelings (happiness and excitement) and how much they would pay to avoid negative feelings (fear and embarrassment). Participants would pay $79.06 to recreate happiness, but they would pay $83.27 to avoid fear; $92.80 to avoid sadness; $99.81 to avoid embarassment; and $106.26 to avoid regret.

“These dollar amounts offer a window into how motivated we human beings are to alter our inner and outer worlds. … This is a problem because we have zero control over what other people will say and do to us; we only control how we think and act,” Kashdan wrote.

Emotional self-regulation is one process that empowers this sense of control. This skill, Psychology Today reported, allows people to focus on their deepest values rather than feelings. Yes, "feelings are an important part of how humans create meaning and motivate behavior," especially the primal emotion that is fear — but focusing more on the value of feelings is more beneficial to overall well-being; emotional labeling can help.

Kashdan cited an UCLA study on exposure therapy — a type of behavioral therapy used to treat fear and anxiety disorders — patients who were afraid of spiders were prompted to work through their fear by either thinking optimistically, engaging in experiential avoidance, or clarifying and labeling their exact emotions upon seeing a spider. And therapy patients who worked with optimism and avoidance were worse off from where they started than those who labeled their emotions.

“Emotional labelling supercharged their ability to handle spiders: they reported less fear and showed less physiological reactivity when shown a spider, and they climbed more steps in their fear hierarchy, switching from a threat mindset to an opportunity mindset,” Kashdan explained.

OK, so that business you want to start isn’t exactly a spider. Neither is that career change, or dance class, or decision to simply dust yourself off and take another risk. But, working to translate threats into opportunities seems universal. Science may still be working on how we can control fear from a gene perspective, but mentally, we’d have to agree with Kashdan; we have more control than we like to think.

 “People will often tell you no more than yes," Maud Arnold, a tap dancer, said towards the end of the SoulPancake video. “ Don’t accept the yes, ever.”