Habits for Happiness
by: Colby Harris
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” - Sigmund Freud
Emotion formally comes from your response to the circumstances surrounding you. If you are in a hurry to get somewhere and get a flat tire, you will most likely respond with anger and frustration. If you score a date with an amazing girl you like, you will respond with compassion and excitement. If you lose someone you love, you will respond with grief and sadness. These formal reactions come due to the way you have trained your mind through day to day habits and emotional tests. More often than not, humans naturally give in to their emotions because of an instinctive susceptibility to negative emotions as well as a dependence upon others for positivity in their lives. This is more common than ever in my generation, and I, myself, am guilty of seeking others’ approval and support for my own confidence and happiness. Over the past year I not only transformed my mind, but my body, my circle, and my goals to help lead me to a happier and healthier life. Today I want to share my process with you in hopes that you can find your own ways to “level up” your life physically and emotionally.
The most powerful tool in your life is easily your mind. Although I know that sounds cheesy, it is simply the truth. Without a strong mind built for any obstacle or triumph, nothing in your life can progress. The human body and brain were made for stimulation and constant growth. We were not made to be stagnant and comfortable but to be spontaneous and uncomfortable. I found that waking up early in the morning was the best way to continuously keep myself in a distressed growth state. My magic time is similar to most highly productive people- 5am. Does it get easier? Yes, maybe a little bit over time. The one thing I can tell you though is it honestly has nothing to do with when you wake up, but what you do once you are awake. The struggle comes after you are out of bed, when you must make a decision to kick start your day and get moving, or take it slow and waste away your morning. As soon as that 5am alarm sounds, I get right up. I don't scroll my phone, instead I take a cold shower before going to the gym. For anyone who doubts the power of a cold shower, I encourage you to try it. That is your first mental challenge of the day, rising up to hop into that ice cold shower when all you want to do is snuggle up in your warm, comfy bed. Again, it does not matter what time you like to wake up. The important thing is that once you are awake, you have an instinct to attack the day. Nothing is more mentally rewarding than slaying your morning routine so you can set a positive and productive tone for your day.
After the mind comes the body. The importance of taking care of your body is beyond crucial to leading a happy and healthy life. At Thanksgiving of 2019, I weighed myself and came in at 194lb of mostly fat with little to no muscle mass. This was the heaviest weight I ever reached, it was the most grotesque I ever looked in my life. I had almost never been into lifting weights and only really cared about enjoying sports rather than training for them. I was working a clock-in clock-out job 40+ hours a week while also finishing my senior year of high school. I prioritized working, school, and hanging out with friends over trying to stay healthy and it showed in my appearance and confidence. It was at the start of 2020 I knew I had to make a change physically. Not only did I want to prepare myself for running Grit Camp that summer, but I felt the science was simple: if I wanted to be more, I would have to do more. Some people say that is insensitive, but to me, building my body physically through working out and dieting is not only amazing for my mind and longevity, but it's extremely critical for happiness. Dwayne Johnson did not become “The Rock” by sitting on his butt eating McDonalds everyday. Transforming yourself physically is admirable because it is extremely difficult- while being lazy is extremely easy. The discipline it takes to continuously take yourself to the gym and eat healthy is one of the hardest habits to develop.
Although now I still don't look like Channing Tatum or Zac Efron, I understand the work it has taken to progress. The gym is a Me vs Me conflict everyday; it is completely up to me to not only show up in the gym, but give it my best each time. Over the last year, I cut down to about 180lbs with tons of added muscle mass and lowered my body fat significantly along the way. Now I love the way I look! Not in a physical sense, but from a mental aspect my transformation means everything. I have a passion for it because I know I have been constantly working towards improving myself physically and have the results to show I gave it 100%. This is one thing that can-not be taken away from me; it's mine because my body was completely built by me. I recognize my own tenacity by measuring my progression to where I am today.
After the mind and body comes the importance of your circle. I have a long history of being extremely reliant on the people around me for not just approval or support but for them to generate happiness in my life. From 5th grade to 6th grade I attended 3 different schools and became more mentally and socially lost than I have ever felt in my life. My home life had been obliterated while my parents processed a very rocky divorce in North Carolina and in turn, my mom moved me and my 3 siblings to Florida. We spent 10 months in Ponte Vedra Beach before moving to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. In Fernandina, I completely transformed the trajectory of my life and although I try to take the credit now, throughout middle school and high school it was my close friends that helped me learn to grow. Although there were a few people that played major parts in my life here, my good friend Jack Martin had always played a tough guy/cool guy role in my life since we met in 6th grade. We quickly became close friends and he was a very positive guy yet had no time for pity. He is the one who made me take a look in the mirror and ask myself, do I really want to just keep moping around like a sad loser? Or is it time I suck it up, take matters into my own hands, and enjoy this beautiful life I am blessed with. Throughout our friendship Jack also encouraged me to get my first job, showed me how to kiss a girl, and taught me how to properly dress myself like a man. Senior year of high school, Jack had an idea to start a pressure washing business and with his handyman know-how and my marketing skill, we reached over $5000 profit in our first month. This is the value of a true friend. I could sit here and share a thousand stories about times people have done me wrong or been toxic to my life, but I enjoy this one so much more. A true friend will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Be thankful for these people in your life because they are the ones wanting to hold you accountable and see you excel in this world. Weed out the negative, small minded people and incorporate positive, like minded individuals to your life and you will be amazed at the changes you see within yourself.
Lastly, I have almost completely altered my goals over the last year. Let me start by saying money should never be the goal, and I love money, flashy things, fancy cars, all that- I am guilty. The problem comes when those are the only things you seek and when you want them for all the wrong reasons. Me, I love cars and absolutely want to have a Porsche 918 Spyder sporting a 4.6L V8 engine pumping out over 800 horsepower, why? Because it is a passion of mine. Is it a goal to own that car? Yes, but it is not what gets me up in the morning. My goals have changed drastically because my perspective has changed drastically. Through running Grit Camp I was able to experience an emotion I had never truly felt before and that is gratitude. Gratitude towards me from the campers as well as an appreciation I found within myself to just be thankful for the opportunities I have. While running camp I saw so much joy in these kids while they are so young and innocent, I loved being able to feel their energy and their enjoyment of life. This made me step back and ask myself if my goals align with my true dreams for this world. In all reality what is anything worth that you do solely for yourself. The gratitude I feel from doing impactful work in this world is unbeatable. No Ferrari or watch or big house could ever make me as happy as feeling like I not only made a difference, but the people I impacted appreciated me so much. At the end of this summer, the majority of our campers and counselors sent in videos saying thank you to me and complimenting me on my efforts this past summer. Nearly 17 minutes long, it was almost enough to bring me to tears. To see the smiles on their faces and to feel the emotion emanating from them, it was a euphoria I can not explain. I can't share any of my goals with you but I can tell you none of them hold monetary value. Now, I am laser focused on just trying to leave the world better than I found it. Educating and assisting the next generation is my passion because now more than ever, there needs to be change in this world and the change will always start with the man in the mirror. Align your goals not only with the type of person you want to become, but the world you want to create.
Over the past 8 years I have completely changed my life, but it was in this past year that I understood the difference between maintaining, and excelling. If you want to maintain then keep doing what you have always done, with the same people, and the same goals. Now, if you want to excel, get uncomfortable! Switch things up, create serious challenges in your day to day that are fully reliant on YOU! Be accountable, eat good food, work out, find good people, and find your purpose in life. Everyone has a purpose and only you can figure out what it is. You will not find it sitting on your couch, I can promise you that. Habits create a lifestyle, and that's what Grit.org is all about. While I grow as well as our counselors, campers, and supporters, we believe it's not about the job you have, the sport you play, or the passions you pursue but the lifestyle around it. Each day you are building the physical and mental ability to tackle any task whether it be in business, relationships, or hobbies. Time spent in preparation is dire to the success of anything in this world so the question I want to ask is, how are you going to prepare yourself for the roller coaster we call life? Challenge yourself and build more grit.
Pictured below: From left to right, Colby's best friends - Will Rushing, Jack Martin, and Erik Brumme
Before and after pics from May 2020 to August 2021