Helping children push past their own preconceived barriers has been part of my job description for a long time, but my art teacher recently gave me a fabulous visual of this vitally important concept. He drew a horizontal line on the board with a vertical dividing line one fourth of the way in from the left. The fourth was what most artists see as possible for themselves artistically (maybe creating landscapes). These are things they know they can do and are comfortable attempting them. Three fourths, or the majority, of the scale was designated as impossible, those things the artist would never attempt because the chance of failure was high (maybe sketching a human face or painting a horse with the complicated muscular structure). By forcing themselves to attempt the impossible, artists find they can do more than they thought imaginable. The marker shifts further and further along the horizontal continuum and there becomes less and less they are afraid to try. They are shrinking their impossible.
This concept is as true for human development as it is for creativity. In fact, I believe this idea is so critically important that I required a very huge leadership project of each of my children before they graduated from high school. It was centered in their passion, yet had to teach skills that they didn’t yet have. It had to be an adult level undertaking with a high possibility of public failure. Some people would look at that requirement and see a tiger mom. I look back at it and see two kids who came out the other side changed. They had a new confidence in themselves and a “nothing can scare me” attitude. That rock solid self-concept has served them well throughout the intervening years.
Few people, adults or kids, have the courage to try things that look unmanageable. However, it is only by daring to try scary things that any person can shrink their impossible.
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