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Any time we approach a new year, there’s a lot of talk about setting new goals for our careers, our families, our fitness, or other personal pursuits.

For me, it’s interesting to think about which goals will be achieved and which will be shelved. I often wonder: Is success driven primarily by the particular goal, or by the person achieving it?

My belief is that the achievers do, in fact, possess something that sets them apart from others. It’s not an MBA, money, or good looks — although those don’t hurt! Rather, the characteristic that sets achievers apart is much cheaper and easier to come by: Achievers, more so than others, are able to live their lives without fear.

It’s not that they have no concerns. It’s not that failure never crosses their minds. It’s that they are able to try new things without letting their fears stop them.

I’ve witnessed people who have never finished college land professional-level jobs faster than their degreed peers. They may have appeared less qualified on paper, but in reality, they had a lot to offer and were willing to put themselves out there. I’m certain that in some of these situations, the fact that they had little to lose and everything to gain came into play.

I suspect the ability to let go of fear isn’t a one-time occurrence. It’s not something a person is able to do for just the most important things or in a moment when everything is on the line. Rather, the ability to let go of fear is a way of life, achievers have turned living without fear into a habit they practice every day. When it does count, they’re ready.

Thomas Edison is often quoted as saying, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison must have failed on an everyday basis on his way to creating innovations that still influence the way we live today. Yet, in the face of all that failure, he still kept going.

In 2004, I quit my corporate job and moved cross country for graduate school. Not only did I not know anyone in Los Angeles, but I paid for my own education and living expenses for the time I was there. Looking back, I often wonder how I was able to conquer that kind of fear and whether or not I could do it again today.

I often ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” If I can’t come up with anything other than embarrassment or a little lost time, I try. Worst-case scenario, even when I fail, I learn something new. That new thing helps me to try again successfully or to set another goal — all without fear.

I hope your new year is filled with new goals, new experiences, and a little learning along the way!

A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at Copeland Coaching.



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