6 Improbable Things, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Believe in Success

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.  – Charles Dodgson, Alice in Wonderland (or that time the Queen sounds really positive out of context)

I spend a lot of time alone working late into the night. And when I say “a lot of time”, I really mean very nearly all my time. I don’t have a boss to tell me what to do. I don’t have a partner who works with me. Having your own business is 24/7 and a huge responsibility that’s hard to walk away from, even when you need to for a while. I don’t necessarily recommend this lifestyle, but everyone’s had times where they have to live that way – for finals, for a major project. So aside from more streaming television and perky J-pop/hard rock than should be legal, how do I keep going?

If you’re anything like me, when you’re in work hermit mode, you talk to yourself. And WHAT you tell yourself is very important. I’m not just going to say, well, don’t be defeatist and tell yourself you’re a miserable failure. Let me tell you – fatigue and stress will wear down even the most positive attitude in the end. I should know; I lived with Cushing’s for at least six years, which means my stress dial was turned up way past normal maximum nonstop, and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it except try and find a way to outsmart it. How do you make yourself keep trying when everything seems against you? The trick is – you trick yourself.

Tell yourself a story. A personal fiction. In this fiction, you’ve done all the back-breaking work; you’ve solved all the problems; you’ve slept and eaten and breathed. But go past that. Athletes visualize doing their routine perfectly. They sit in bathtubs and pretend they’re in a bobsled; they don’t allow themselves to imagine crashing horribly, but that they’ll execute every turn just the way they should. They picture it in their minds so hard it makes it real. It sounds goofy, but they’ll all swear it works.

In your story, tell yourself something improbable. Tell yourself something that you dream about, in excruciating detail. It can be crazy, like the TARDIS appearing outside your house; but it’s better if it’s something that COULD happen (improbable, not impossible. SORRY WHOVIANS :'( ). It’s a best-case scenario to block out the worst-case that you’re inevitably haunted by in the lonely dark of night when you just want to give up and die. Make a movie of it in your mind. Say your favorite actor is coming to the play you’re in at your college. What will you wear? What will your conversation be like? Tell them how much you admire their work. Write their dialogue telling you how talented you are, how your efforts paid off. Imagine as many details as you can. Write a universe in which you get your perfect ending. BAM: you’ve given yourself a light at the end of the tunnel to focus on instead of the bumps and detours on the way. Indirectly, by telling yourself this story, you’ve started to accept the possibility of no less than six improbable things (or things which seem improbable right now):

  1. People can like you.
  2. You can like yourself.
  3. You are good enough to do the thing. 
  4. You are strong enough to do the thing.
  5. Even the worst times will pass.
  6. You can reach your goals and you can succeed.

Do you know what the craziest thing is about telling yourself lovely lies? Sometimes they come true. (NO BS I can vouch for this) You don’t have to believe in them, either. Just believe that they’re possible. Once you start to imagine what success will feel like, you start believing that success is possible – and then it IS. So find yourself an improbable thing or six, and cling to it like a life raft or a luftballoon. Hold on tight and it can take you where you want to go.

(Originally published on tumblr, archiving here.)

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Anne Darkly
Professional geek, plush artist, movie lover, writer trying to get back on the wagon. Or off the wagon. There's wagon involvement. Everyone told me to get a blog, so I did. Yee-haw.
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