High Performance Thinking by James Rippe, MD

Improving performance is a powerful goal for most people. What tasks do you care passionately about performing well? Where do you yearn to improve or already strive to improve? The answers usually depend on your current circumstances.

     For someone struggling to lose weight, enhanced performance may mean incorporating healthy eating habits or more physical activity into the day. For a heart attack patient, it may mean starting a walking program or changing some of the bad habits that contributed to their heart disease. For the individual battling cancer, it might mean keeping a positive mindset or simply doing better tomorrow. For working parents, it may mean making more time to eat dinner regularly with their children.

     All these people share the goal of improved performance. Yet, too often they ignore two of the most powerful tools available to them - using their health as a performance tool and their mind as a powerful ally in re-framing issues in their life. Using your mind-set and mental attitude to frame issues positively is high performance thinking. International ski champion Diana Golden used high performance thinking to the max.

     I met Diana some years ago when we were each honored to receive one of the 10 annual Healthy American Fitness Leaders Awards from the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Diana was a phenomenal athlete. The most amazing thing was that she skied on one leg. Diana had lost a leg to childhood cancer at the age of 12 but was determined to live her life fully and without regret. She trained herself to ski at the very highest levels on one leg and for eight years dominated the World and U.S. Disabled Ski Championships, winning multiple gold medals in every championship. What I remember most about Diana was her infectious laugh and her encouragement to others to "overcome your fears, pursue your dreams and to never give up."

     When the awards ceremony arrived, there was some concern that Diana might have difficulty getting up on stage to accept her President's Council accolade. "No problem!" she laughed, swinging aside her crutches and hopping up the stairs on one leg. Diana inspired us all by showing us what discipline, hard work and the human spirit are able to accomplish. Her high performance life is also an inspiration to every person who faces a physical or medical challenge. Her pure joy in being alive made everyone around her feel like a better human being. When at age 38 Diana Golden died of breast cancer, the headline for her obituary captured something of her can-do spirit: "Diana Golden Wins Her Last Race, Leaves Cancer Behind."

     What do I mean by performance? It's simply the ability to do those things in your daily life that are fulfilling and bring you the most meaning and happiness. It's the ability to meet the challenges that life throws at you without losing your balance or confidence. It's the ability to keep moving toward your goals, whether the way is smooth and easy or stormy and rough. The key quality that distinguishes people who are able to perform - whether they are news-making elite athletes or executives or the unsung heroes of "regular America" - is their ability to employ high performance thinking. People who engage in high performance thinking share 8 common traits listed below:

     Passion: Passion is the fuel that drives performance. It's what allows some people to get more out of life than others. If you're passionate about your health, you'll be passionate about your life and then suddenly, you'll start seeing good things happening everywhere.  

     Trust: Trust is fundamental to both high performance thinking and high performance health. There are three equally important components: trust in yourself, trust in others and trust in God.

     Courage: Change takes courage. Set your goals up in small steps and give yourself credit for having the courage to try to make changes. Change can and will happen.

     Discipline: Appropriate structure enables people to move forward progress every day. Discipline frees up space, time and resources - not just for work on goals, but for other important activities, people and interests you value.

     Focus: Focus describes the ability to prioritize tasks and devote single-minded attention to each task in order of importance.

     Consistency: Continuing to treat health as the passive absence of disease is a foolish consistency. But aiming every day toward your best health now is a wise consistency.

     Happiness. Many of us spend a considerable energy trying to figure out what will make us happy. Those things which bring me joy also bring me good health and that kind of joy and happiness is essential to good health.

     Prayer. Prayer is empowering. It's also individual. I encourage you to explore prayer as a way of enhancing high performance thinking. 

You can accomplish whatever you can dream. The essentials of high performance thinking can help you achieve your dreams, including achieving high performance health as a springboard to dynamic living.

     Dr. Rippe is the author of "High Performance Health: 10 Real Life Solutions to Redefine Your Health and Revolutionize Your Life" (Thomas Nelson Publishers, May 2007, $24.99), which reveals his health makeover strategy in a distinctive 10-step mind, body and spirit program. For more information, visit www.rippehealth.com.