In the tradition of celebrating the new year and reflecting on the last, it is time to recognize not only what we resolve to change but what helped us to improve and sustain growth over time during the past year. Identifying positive and effective thought processes edifies our ability to stick to resolutions during impending and inevitable struggles.

By Kristina Pattison

Featured photo by Ben Herndon Photography

During the past year, many high-performing professionals and athletes taught me a myriad of lessons helping me to grow and perform closer to my potential. To share some of these lessons, I’ve identified people on my journey who exemplify four of these key concepts. I hope you too can adopt and wield these incredible tools.

SUPER POWER #1: POSITIVITY.

Andrew Pattison, Smokejumper, my best friend and husband. Drew demonstrates the power of positivity in situations that cannot be controlled. He leads and trains others to operate in unpredictable and sometimes dangerous or deadly environments—smokejumpers parachute into remote and rugged terrain to fight wildland fires. Drew is focused on possibility not limitation. “We will make it work,” he always says, like the notoriously industrious “can-do attitude” smokejumpers are known for. In that assertive statement, he empowers others to find a way. Drew shows me the biggest source of negativity and limitation lies in the mind. Reframing thoughts surrounding situations to focus on possibilities will create a path past self-limitations and on toward solutions.

SUPER POWER #2: KINDNESS.

Dakota Umbel, trail runner, skier, dog-lover. Dakota believes in the power of kindness in the face of adversity. Dakota asserts: “If you keep being nice, eventually they will realize they are being the jerk.” She is a master at peeling the emotion away from hard situations to approach conflicts with a more practical, analytical approach. International mediators call this, “going to the balcony.” Go to the balcony, watch the situation from the outside point of view, and you’ll be able to stop reacting to the discomfort or attack and make a positive response towards diffusing the situation and bringing it back to common ground. In a conversation with an adversary you may still disagree, but at least you are talking to each other. In a running race, this helps you stay focused on your own forward progress and stay in control of your emotions despite external triggers so you can run the best race possible. It also helps you develop kindness and compassion for yourself when things do not go as planned so you can remain positive and functional.

SUPER POWER #3: CONSISTENCY.

Max Bartlett, mixed martial arts fighter, ultramarathon runner, persistent and successful hunter, doctor of physical therapy, certified strength and conditioning specialist. Max’s key phrase is “consistency makes up for lack of ability.” Max is one of the hardest working, relentlessly motivated, physical phenom’s I’ve ever met. When I need a boost of motivation I think about this guy. Although he has a wealth of great friends, you won’t find him on social media. Despite his many physical talents, you will never hear him self-promote or brag. But he’s the first to admit that all of his super-human abilities are the result of consistent, hard, daily work. There are no shortcuts. He’s taught me the power of consistency is the true super-power behind what we like to erroneously attribute to “talent”. On several of our runs together, Max would wear a t-shirt for my benefit that reads: “Nobody cares, work harder.”

SUPER POWER #4 INTUITION.

Mike Wolfe, professional athlete for The North Face, running coach, owner of the Mountain Project training center in Bozeman, Montana. Mike could easily be associated with the catch phrase from Mountain Athletics that asserts: “The mountain doesn’t care.” For a mountain athlete, the key to survival is making good, sound decisions in harsh environments. But thinking takes time. Mike’s boundless ability to suffer is tempered by his uncanny ability to monitor internal and external cues and adjust his output accordingly and intuitively. Undoubtedly, this leads him to excel on the world stage in some of the most difficult mountain races globally. Accounts of special operations commanders highlight this seemingly innate ability to rely on the senses for intelligent and instantaneous decision-making in high-stress situations–both real (such as war) or simulated (like racing). But the evidence would indicate the opposite: repetitive high-stress situations train a person to rely more accurately on their senses for adaptability resulting in survival. Mike’s real-world experience in the mountains is exceptional, and he is an extraordinary example for making good decisions with stoicism, persistence and grit.

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