Johnson & Johnson: In Need of a Life Reboot? The Human Performance Institute Can Help

The Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute has been helping people find ways to better balance their lives for 27 years—and thanks to a new state-of-the-art facility in Florida, it’s poised to take that mission to the next level.
Originally Published by Johnson & Johnson.

In August 2018, Sharon Zarabi felt as if she’d hit a wall. The 35-year-old had been promoted from a full-time dietitian to the director of a bariatric program at New York City’s Northwell Health, Lenox Hill Hospital four years earlier, but, as she put it, the title hadn’t come with a job description, so she was still counseling patients while also running the program.

“I was trying to balance work with a social life in New York City. Plus I’m a perfectionist—I always want to provide the best service and deliver optimal care. I was pulled in so many different directions and was constantly giving to others that I started to neglect myself,” Zarabi explains. “I needed a little refresher course about life.”

So she signed up for a 2 1/2-day course at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute® (HPI) in Lake Nona, Florida.

Verdant walking and workout paths surround the new building


Like Zarabi, clients come to HPI to recalibrate their lives. Since the institute opened in 1992, it’s been teaching people how to perform in the face of unrelenting stress while also maintaining their health, well-being and sense of purpose, says HPI co-founder Jack Groppel, Ph.D.

Now HPI is poised to empower people even more as it unveils a brand-new facility in Lake Nona that has been designed to optimize HPI’s mission to help people unleash their potential.

“Peer-reviewed studies show that the content of our approach works,” Groppel says. “But we’ve also realized that content alone doesn’t change behaviors—the environment you’re placed in is really critical to helping people change their behaviors and mindset. With the innovative environment of our new building, we truly believe it’s exponentially going to improve how we can help people improve their lives.”

How Next-Level Design Thinking Can Help You Reboot Your Approach to Life 
So how will the revamped facility deliver on this lofty goal? There are countless ways HPI’s new design and technology can push people out of their comfort zone and help them grow, says Jennifer Lea, Director of Global Portfolio Management and Innovation, Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.

Jennifer Lea (right), Director of Global Portfolio Management and Innovation, Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute®, discusses some of HPI’s new offerings


“Our ability to be our best self, and perform well, depends on whether we are physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with what matters most in our lives,” explains Lea. “The new building supports learning to do all of that.”

In the fitness center, for instance, says Groppel, high-tech equipment will teach participants how to find their target heart rate and align their bodies properly to give clients the feedback mechanisms by which they can grow and improve, while the state-of-the-art kitchen will enable participants to learn how to make the dishes they’re being taught to eat.

When you take HPI’s flagship 2 1/2-day course, you work with coaches to rethink your approach to exercise, nutrition and performance psychology—and the new building is designed to reinforce what you learn. Case in point: There’s an immersive, interactive digital experience that prompts people to share what they are grateful for, what has had an impact on them and what new rituals they plan to embrace.

The goal is to get people to declare what exactly they want to change in their lives and make a commitment to do something about it, explains Lea. By writing your declaration down, she adds, you realize that you have the power to change your story. “And by sharing it during the HPI experience, it creates this sense that we’re all in this together,” she says.

“Instead of giving yourself so many excuses of why you can’t achieve your goals,” says Zarabi, “you’re changing the dialogue of the story.” For her, that change even included the way she wrote in her journal—instead of just venting, she began to record her accomplishments and what she was grateful for, which enabled her to start delegating more and saying no to people and things more often than she used to. “I learned that it’s OK to do this because it’s going to allow me to take that energy and put it somewhere more productive,” she says.

Why It’s All in the Purpose-Driven Design Details 
In order to manage their energy, people need time to reflect and recharge (what HPI refers to as the grace element) as well as engage in intense physical activity (the guts component). “The grace and guts theme informed the interior spaces and the flow of the guest experience, even down to the colors, materials, shapes, sounds and scents,” explains Ernesto Quinteros, Chief Design Officer, Johnson & Johnson, who oversaw the overall design for HPI’s new facility.

The building’s grounds are peppered with Zen private spaces designed to promote relaxation and rejuvenation


Before they started construction, Quinteros and his team mapped out the entire participant experience, from the moment someone registers online for a course to even after they return home. So the experience participants have informed the design—everything from a self-guided mindfulness path and green spaces designed for personal reflection to motivational graphics on the floors and walls. From the moment you step inside, says Quinteros, “the floor drops down and the ceiling expands, creating a warm, inviting arrival and also an immense sense of possibility. The spaces encourage the mental and emotional state we want you to embrace during the course training. We want someone to say, ‘Wow, I’m feeling this,’ as they experience it.”

And that really underscores the overall HPI message, says Groppel. Once you embrace the notion that managing your energy can boost your health and help you better engage with what’s most meaningful to you, he explains, “it’s a way of living that’s very doable to sustain, and you’ll have the tools that will stay with you for a lifetime.”

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