Joe Holder is his own best example.
Raised with progress wellness values, the personal trainer and motivator believes that productivity and physical health are inexorably linked. That emphasis on physical well-being for mental clarity has allowed him to do everything from play college football (while simultaneously studying the Sociology of Health and Medicine and Consumer Psychology) to speak at Harvard Law about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Most importantly, Holder is the founder of The Ocho System (OS), a philosophy that prioritizes a balanced lifestyle, combining a “food as fuel” attitude with positive thinking and efficient workouts. He applies this theory when working with personal clients at S10 Training and Nike and also while running community development for Health Warrior (whose mission is to positively influence health habits in the Western world).
Here, the passionate trainer explains why happiness is about achieving a state of active focus:
Live The Process: Growing up, what was your attitude towards health?
Joe Holder: Health and fitness were core components of my upbringing. My Dad is an MD who specializes in internal medicine, which he couples with a holistic, integrative approach to healing. Since my parents were hyperaware of the effect of health on achievement, wellness was a way of life for my siblings and me. All seven of us ate a completely unprocessed diet with primarily organic ingredients, which my mom (bless her heart) prepared. As a result, I excelled in sports, participating in three at a high level (basketball, football and track) and ultimately playing football at the University of Pennsylvania.
LTP: What moved you to develop your current wellness strategy?
JH: I lost my way a bit in college. Being from such a wellness-conscious household made school food a serious adjustment. A low-quality diet, coupled with the slightly archaic nutritional dogma that often accompanies football, diminished my health and played a role in the injuries I sustained. One injury in particular, an ankle injury that occurred at the beginning of my sophomore year, made me question my routine. Even through all the rehab my ankle refused to heal, so I reexamined not only what I put into my body physically, but also my mental sustenance. During this time period of rediscovery and maturation, I developed my wellness strategy, The Ocho System.
LTP: Can you describe the Ocho System for us?
JH: The core tenant of The Ocho System (OS) is to promote productivity through physical wellness. OS helps others make the revolutionary choice to take control of their health, which begins with physical revitalization and opens the opportunity for the same to happen emotionally and mentally. The OS couples the view of food as fuel with positive thinking and effective workouts. The end goal is to make us, as young professionals, more efficient and optimize what we do. We believe that once you have a taste of the clarity that results from instituting the OS in your life, you begin a greater journey of self-discovery.
LTP: Why is balance so essential to health and happiness?
JH: Balance is what we are normally programmed to do. The body naturally moves towards homeostasis, which is the stable state that ensures our cellular survival. However, in modern life, we often forget the importance of maintaining balance and neglect to exercise, which is often coupled with a poor diet.
Balance is key to health and happiness, but it is also not a passive act. When we are out of balance—whether that is with our diet, workout schedule or our emotions—we must be conscious of how to change to reinstate homeostasis. Feeling “off” shouldn't be a norm, so, when it occurs, we must institute practices to shift ourselves back to equilibrium. The OS seeks to facilitate these changes in order to set the body back to its natural, balanced state.
LTP: What is your biggest temptation or obstacle to wellness?
JH: Lack of time. This is why optimization and efficiency, which I seek to get better at every day, are so key. My work days can sometimes go from 6am to 10pm, which can leave little time for myself. However, I've realized that in order to give the most I can to others (which is a core component of my life), I have to make sure I give to myself, as well, and be recharged at the start of everyday. My biggest obstacle is often nurturing my own needs and realizing that it isn't a selfish act if it is for the greater goal of making sure you can offer yourself fully into service for others.
LTP: Why is getting/staying physically fit especially important right now?
JH: It’s important all the time, but people are starting to pay more attention because of the current pandemic situation. If you are capable, and blessed to be able-bodied and have access/means, not taking care of yourself is just plain selfish. You are placing an undue strain on the economic/health system and then people who need access to healthcare will have a harder time getting it. Getting physically fit will, of course, improve your immune system, but, if you do it for the right reasons, it will also improve who you are as a person and show you that, when you put in the effort, you get results. These are lessons you can take to all other areas of your life.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
JH: My definition of happiness comes from Professor of Psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His theory is that happiness is “flow” or “a state of ultimate concentration that occurs when we are completely engrossed with the task at hand.” (Check out his TED Talk for the whole discussion.)
I've experienced this feeling of flow during football and other sporting events. It’s that moment when everything seems to “click” and time slows down. You're in the zone. Your mind and body connect. Decisions are easy because you are operating with a clear set of goals. You are not working against any outside stressors or at least any stressors are uninviting and simple for you to handle.
Key point here is that happiness comes from the active act of accomplishment and focus. I am constantly working to achieve this mindset.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how do you do that every day?
JH: You all summed it up well: constant change and forward momentum. Living the process is always being cognizant of the need to be better, but not getting caught up in the fruitless search for perfection. It is instead constantly striving for excellence. So, every day, I set out with the goal to just do better at one thing or ensure that something of substance is accomplished. The momentum slowly builds into the continued realization of my goals. That is how I “Live The Process.”