What Do You Believe?

cartoonI’ve never really thought of myself as an artist. The ability to draw has always felt like an innate talent – some people have it; most don’t. From the get-go, I put myself firmly in the “doesn’t have it” category. I used to watch in awe as friends would sketch out beautiful landscape scenes or quirky cartoon characters, seemingly without even thinking about it. Occasionally, I would make my own feeble attempts at a drawing and then quickly hide it from sight; secure in my belief that drawing was just not my thing.

Then last week, I came across this TEDx presentation by artist Graham Shaw: “Why people believe they can’t draw – and how to prove they can.” He starts by asking how many people in the audience feel they can draw. Not surprisingly, very few hands go up. Shaw goes on to say that the ability to draw actually has very little to do with talent, but a great deal to do with belief. Just like I used to think, he says most people simply adopt the belief that they can’t draw, can’t sing, or produce any other enviable talent. It’s that belief that keeps us from actually accomplishing the things we want.

But the most interesting thing about Shaw’s presentation is that he walks the audience through a process that actually proves they can draw. I won’t spoil it for you here. You need to watch the video for yourself. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and be prepared to follow along. That’s what I did.

As the video concluded, and I looked down at my own piece of paper, covered with reasonably good cartoons (like the one I’ve shared here), I couldn’t help but think of the other ways my own lack of confidence has held me back. Could it be that what really keeps us from achieving our goals isn’t a lack of talent, but a lack of belief? Maybe you’ve expressed (or at least thought) one or more of these limiting beliefs:

“I’m not a leader.”
“I can’t sell.”
“I wish I was a better writer.”
“If only I was good at ___.”

What if, as Graham Shaw suggests, we challenged those beliefs? What we decided that, in spite of a lack of resources, experience, or outside influences, we were going to give it a shot – and we just gave it our best effort? Then we tried again, and again, and again…until our beliefs actually caught up to our ability? What could we accomplish?

Obviously, fifteen minutes of drawing doesn’t make me an accomplished artist. You won’t see my work showcased in a gallery any time soon. However, by following Shaw’s lead, I’ve been encouraged to make additional attempts. None are perfect, but each is better than the last.

I can’t draw well, but now I believe I can draw; and each attempt gives me the confidence I need to try again and continue the process of getting better at it. Ultimately, I think that is the belief we need to hold on to – that we can, and should, always be working to improve.