Make 2016 S.M.A.R.T.

Goals

Happy New Year everyone! This Sunday marks the one year anniversary of my blog and I could not be more grateful for the support that I have gotten throughout this past year.

It has truly been a journey and a learning experience that has helped me grow as a person and hopefully inspired you from time to time. I started this blog in 2015 with the hopes of sharing my life lessons so that they might help someone else, but along the way I was a beneficiary of my work as well.

Moving into 2016 I have new goals for the year

. The second post I ever created on this blog was called “Goals… Not Resolutions”. It spoke about why I don’t like making new years resolutions, but I do like making goals. This year that has changed slightly. I still like making goals, but I like making S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Mesurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound

While I had a list of things that I wanted to accomplish for last year, only a handful of them were accomplished due to the fact that while I knew why I had set my goal, I did not have a plan to accomplish my goal.

This year I challenge you all to make your goals S.M.A.R.T.

As far as this blog goes, look forward to seeing more and better quality content. I am looking to expand, so I am in the process of creating a sister blog, called WAG (Worthy, Alive, and Grateful) that should launch no later than June. It will hold video content as well and will be used not only as an extension of this blog, but also a way for me to expand my portfolio and reach more people.

Again, I want to thank those who have been with my blog since the beginning and the people we have picked up along the way. I look forward to creating even better content for you guys this year and hope that together we can make 2016 a great one.

Christmas or Giftmas?

Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone, and it’s has got me thinking…

When we’re young, Christmas seems to be all about the presents. Conversations were centered around the age old question, “Have you been naughty or nice this year?” Let’s be honest, none of us ever openly claimed our naughtiness throughout the year, so most conversations were also met with an ever growing wish list that consists of more things than we own at that time.

As we grow up our wish lists get shorter because we come to find that what we need cannot be bought, and what we want comes second to spending time with the ones we care about most. For the few things that make it onto the wish list, they are practical and while the excitement behind Christmas is no longer the presents, it is met with a knew kind of excitement. An excitement of appreciation for the people in our lives and the few days we get to spend wth them before heading back to reality.

But despite the positive shift in our mentalities as we get older, I still wonder what presents have to do with Christmas. This is coming from the girl who believed in Santa Clause until she was twelve… yikes!

Christmas, along with every other holiday, has become so commercialized that it is almost difficult to remember why we even celebrate it.

Christmas is a celebration of Christ Jesus the son of God’s birth. So granted, I can kind of understand where the presents come in. Birthdays are a celebration of life and every year we receive presents on our birthdays. The only problem is Christmas isn’t our birthday, it’s His.

Also, the wise men brought gifts when Jesus was born. They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh but each present was not practical, instead they were symbolic. While the Bible does not tell the significance of these gifts, though out history it has shown that these gifts have symbolic meanings.

Gold – is a symbol of divinity and is mentioned throughout the Bible

Frankincense – is a symbol of holiness and righteousness.

Myrrh – symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction.

These gifts were all telling of Jesus’ life in one way or another because the gift of Christ was a symbol of His divinity (gold), his willingness to become a sacrifice (frankincense), and his willingness to suffer greatly and pay the price for our sins (myrrh).

I’m not saying don’t give gifts. Giving gifts increases the excitement around the holiday season and makes us think about others, but I am also not an advocate of not knowing the reason for the season. What we can do is give with the same principles that the wise men did when they gave their gifts to Jesus. They gave gifts with meaning.

I love the Christmas holiday and I love giving, but I also love the reason behind why we celebrate the season more. I  want others to recognize it too and give in such a way that reflects Christ not just gifts.

Stop Playing the Victim

Overwhelmed, Victim

It’s unfortunate how overwhelmed I get during this time of year, and I am sure I’m not the only one. My days are always a blur. I know that they consist of me waking up, studying, going to practice, studying, barely eating, studying some more, and repeating all of those steps the next day.

The worst part about this time of year isn’t even exams, it’s really just how overwhelmed I get when it comes to managing my time.

If being a student athlete has taught me anything, it is that time management is the key to success and procrastination is not an option. But even with this formula for success I still can’t seem to get a hold of my to-do list, and I’ve always wondered why.

Often I feel sorry for myself, and make excuses by playing the victim saying that things are simply unfair and that I have too much on my plate. But somewhere in the middle of my pity party for myself, I remind myself that at one point, I wanted to have all of these things on my plate.

My friend once said, “You can’t cry about having a lot on your plate when the goal was to eat.”

She was correct! At one point in time I was crying because I felt that I wasn’t doing enough, that I wasn’t pushing myself far enough, and that the opportunities were simply not there. Now that I have what I’d been wishing for, how can I cry about it being too much?

I feel that often we wish our circumstance were different but do not envision the struggles that might come along with our new responsibilities.

My mother used to say, “To whom much is given, much is required”.

Next time you find yourself getting overwhelmed with your long to-do list and load of responsibilities, keep in mind that at one point you wished you had these same opportunities in front of you. Realize that with your responsibilities comes adversity, but with adversity comes growth. I doubt in a year, you want to say that you are the same person you were a year ago, so stop playing the victim and embrace your newfound opportunities!

 

Where does your confidence lie?

Confidence

It had been a very long day. It was supposed to be my off day full of rest, relaxation, and productivity, but it had been hectic from start to finish.

My day from start to finish

  1. I’m in season so I barely have time to do homework.
  2. This was the third day I had been without my car.
  3. I had to walk 20 minutes to class in the pouring rain.
  4. Most of my homework was incomplete.
  5. The classes I wanted to register for were full with no wait list.
  6. I had to spend my down time going to teachers’ office hours and begging to be enrolled in their classes… none of them could help me.
  7. I filmed as the sports anchor for our campus news show and was terrible. I struggled mightily to read the teleprompter.
  8. I had to walk 25 minutes home from the library at night.

As you can see my day was a lot less than perfect. At the end of the day I noticed a missed call from my mom so I called her back. From there I began to explain my awful day, but her responses were not enough. I don’t know what I was looking for her to say. I’m not sure if anything she would have said would have sufficed at the time. Regardless, whatever she was saying wasn’t enough.

I feel that often times a lot of what people say is not enough for me anymore. People will give advice for my situation, but yet my problems are never resolved and my frustrations grow. Why does this happen?

For me, this happens because sometimes I find myself putting my confidence in flesh rather than the Lord. Recently, I learned a hard lesson. Even my mother is flesh.

That day I was looking to my mother to solve all my problems, show sympathy, etc, and she couldn’t. Even if she did it probably would not have been enough for me. But God’s grace and love is.

Fortunately, God surrounds us with good support systems. The friends you have, the family members that always support you are all gifts from God, but that should not be the reason you do not seek Him in your times of trouble.

“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more.” – Philippians 3:4

God stated it there. Why have confidence in flesh when you can put your confidence in who made the flesh. This is not to say that I am not thankful for my mom and how she listened to me that day, but I learned that I cannot look to people to fix and understand my problems. In this world everyone is going through something, but the only way to find peace in your situations is to seek the Lord not man.

 

Identity: Who Are You? Whose Are You?

Identity

What is your identity? If you were to ask me this question I really don’t think I could give you a straight answer. I think it’s because I am changing every day, but also because identity can mean many things and can be found in many things

How my mom views me, is different than how my dad views me, which is different from how my friends view me, and how my classmates and teammates view me…. you get the point. But with all of these different, sometimes opposing visions of myself, its hard to figure out who I actually am in the midst of everyone’s opinions.

I have absolutely no scientific proof behind this, so take it for what you want, but I feel that we, as humans, are very easily swayed. Just consider social norms for example, and what we consider to be right or wrong. When you were born you didn’t know all of these things, you were taught these things by society. For example, your identity is socially constructed.

I feel like I’m turning into a mix between a sociology professor and counselor, but just stick with me. We are ultimately a product of our environment. We would like to believe that what we like and dislike are unique to us, but that’s not true. We are easily swayed and that includes our identity.

With that being said, I would love to be seen as a funny, kind, brilliant, athletic, the list goes on, and to some I am exactly that, to others I am probably nothing close. Now it would be easy to say that despite everyone’s views of me, I have a solid and unchanging view of myself. I would be lying.

Often I am swayed by the thoughts and expectations that others have of me, just like everyone else. If someone thinks I am smart, and I take pride in their opinions and value their view of me, I tend to want to do well in school and be well spoken.

It just so happened that I genuinely value my education more than words can express, and I happen to be well spoken as well, but it doesn’t always end up that way.

Sometimes I get caught up in the opinions of others that do not match up with mine and have a negative effect on the outlook I have on myself. For example, for the amount of time I put into basketball, I would love to believe I am pretty good. Some beg to differ.

While I am not the best women’s basketball player to step foot on the court, I feel that not acknowledging my talent at all is unfair. Yet, all too often I find myself listening to the few whose opinions of me are less than exceptional and after a while I start to believe them. That is with anything, basketball, school, friendships… anything.

It really stinks and is the leading cause of instability in my life. Think about it, when you are constantly second guessing your abilities, and ultimately your identity, because of how other people view you, it is no surprise that you will live an inconsistent lifestyle.

So where can you find consistency you ask?

Well, I’m not the best at this. Often, no matter how hard I try, I find myself prioritizing the wrong things. Looking for affirmation in all the wrong places, and feeling empty as I struggle to find a balance between who I am and who other people think I am. What helps me is to remember whose I am.

Yes, I am Sydney Umeri, the student-athlete, daughter, sister, journalist, aspiring sports broadcaster and entrepreneur, but most importantly, I am a child of God.

Too often I find myself straying from God, only to come back on my knees begging for his love and forgiveness. Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. – Philippians 3:1

Too often I forget just how wonderful He is and how He has a plan for me. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

Too often I forget that his timing and vision for me is perfect and better than anything I could plan for myself. Too often I forget that I am His and that my most stable identity is in Him. He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. – Acts 1:7

So If you are wondering how to gain a better sense of your identity in a worldly way, I do not have much advice for you. I have failed at it myself. But if you are wondering how to gain a better sense of your identity in a spiritual way, I would say know whose you are and that will make all the difference.

No Days Off!

Rest

“No Days Off!” “Sleeping is for the weak.” ” You can sleep when you’re dead.”

All of these phrases have one think in common. They all undervalue the importance of rest.

“No days off” is a phrase commonly used in athletics. The meaning behind the phrase is that, if you take time off from training, you are allowing someone to get an edge over you.

For the phrases that involve sleep they are touching on the fact that if you allow yourself to sleep you are missing the opportunity to make progress and get ahead.

While I do support hard work, resilience, and an attitude to always get better, I do not agree with these sayings.

Having played years of basketball, one of the most important lessons I have learned is to work smarter not harder. When I was younger I was led to believe that every touch on the ball was a quality touch, it was better than not getting an opportunity to practice at all. But now I have realized that not all training session are created equal.

For years my mother has preached the concept of diminishing returns. When you reach the point of diminishing returns, it means that no matter how much longer you go or how hard you try, you will not make any more progress. It means that you have plateaued, and only have the ability to stay the same or get worse.

Now you tell me, if getting an extra touch or rep causes you to take a step backwards, is it really worth it?

Now, as I play college basketball, I realize the importance of off days. They are necessary mental and physical breaks that allow myself and my teammates time to rest our legs, minds, and get other work accomplished before coming back to the gym the next day with a renewed sense of energy.

The same can be said for lack of sleep. There are only so many hours in the day and a significant portion of them should go towards sleep.

I frequently hear about college students pulling all nighters. While for some it might seem completely necessary, once they reach the point of diminishing returns it is not worth it. It would better serve them to get some sleep, wake up, and complete the assignment under a given amount of time, than to stay up all night trying to complete an assignment that would take less time if they had enough energy, brain power, and focus.

In a society that values “productivity” and undervalues rest, it is not surprising that we have become less and less productive.

I think the fact that God rested on the seventh day speaks volumes to the fact that sleep is important. I think understanding how ineffective we become without sleep/rest is important as well.

So why do we continue to frame rest as our enemy, and the thief of our productivity?

Next time you find yourself sacrificing rest for productivity, STOP! It’s not worth it.

Choose Happy

Happy

Rushing through the all too familiar Charlotte airport I was heading to my gate, E36 A.

After a weekend at home with my family I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that I was going back to Charlottesville. These days it’s like I only see my family in glimpses. It’s such a tease. I see them, finally get comfortable and then I have to leave.

As I walked through the airport with thoughts of the day’s to-do-list, a lady who manned a food stand was yelling, “Welcome to the happy zone. Happiness is a choice and I choose to be happy.” While she was louder than most, she probably was not actually yelling. But in an airport where people are anti-social and rarely exchange words with each other, the sound of her voice seemed to be the main thing filling everyone’s ears in the hallway.

I continued to walk by briskly, focused straight ahead as if I had not seen or heard her, and rolled my eyes. But as I walked away I thought about what she said.

“Happiness is a choice and I chose to be happy.”

Too often we trick ourselves into thinking that we have less control of our lives than we actually do. Many, if not all, of the things we do on a daily basis are decisions. So what if next time we chose to be thankful instead of complain? What if we chose to take responsibility instead of blaming things on others? What if we said hello instead of ignored one another? What if we decided to see the good in everything instead of searching for the bad?

What if we chose to be happy? Wouldn’t that make life just a little bit brighter?

Family and Fr-amily

Family

Friday of this past week was my birthday and I was fortunate enough to have spent it at home with my family. It had been a while since I had been able to celebrate my special day with them and with everything that has been going on in my life, it really got me thinking once again about what I am grateful for.

For me, if this past year, or even the recent months, have taught me anything it is that I am so fortunate to have a family like I do. To have a support system as strong as they are is truly a blessing. I really don’t deserve the love they give me sometimes, but to know that they are always there is reassuring.

To add to that, I am thankful for my closest friends: Raeshaun, Andrea, Wes, and Breyana. While my immediate family has always been there for me and always will be, I am fortunately to have picked up a few additions to the family along the way.

They say friends are the family you choose and it is better to have four quarters than 100 pennies, and I agree. These people are my four quarters.

It is rare to have people come along and care for you like your family does, but I am lucky to have found them, and they continue to bless my life as our friendships grow.

My biggest take away from being able to spend time with my family during my birthday is that once again, I have solidified what is most important to me.

It is not uncommon to get confused or sidetracked on your priorities given the world we live in, but for me I know that family is most important to me. They are most important to me because I am most important to them even when I don’t deserve their love.

Transactional Relationships

Relationships

Never apologize for doing what’s best for you. Not everyone will agree with your decisions sometimes and that’s okay. Sometimes people you care about and people who claim to care about you will disagree with your decision to do what’s best for you. That’s okay too.

Dr. Seuss once said, “…Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” He was correct! If someone who claims to care about you is opposed to you doing what is best for you, it is time to re-evaluate that relationship. To say you care and to actually care are two different things.

Many of the relationships we foster can be broken down to simple mathematics. They are transactions. If you can do something to help them and they can do something to help you than you are “friends”, “acquaintances”, “insert endearing word here”. But the minute you can’t bring something that they need to the table, you are worthless to them.

How sad is that to think that people only care because it benefits them. I’m not saying I am any different. If we are being honest, we are all guilty or have been guilty of this ourselves, but when this happens to you, know where you stand, know your self worth, and be courageous enough to act on what you know.

Everyone’s definition of what your journey should look like is different and ultimately only one persons vision of that matters… yours.

People’s perceptions of you change everyday. People doubt you everyday, believe in you every day, lose faith and interest in you every day, and grow to love you every day. If you took the time to pay attention and try to justify everyone’s ever changing thoughts of you, it would drive you mad.

So a simple way around this problem is to know who you are, and who God believes you are. Know who you belong to and understand that if He hasn’t shown His plans for you to you, He definitely has not shown it to anyone else.

With that being said, when you find yourself caught up in a transactional relationship, failing to meet the visions that  people have for you, just know that you are more than the opinions of man. You are a Child of God and your worth is found in Him!

Blind Expectations

Expectations

Have you ever walked through a store looking for a specific item? Let’s say your mom sent you to the store for something that you rarely, if ever, pick up.

You go to the aisle that you hope to find the item in and then skim each shelf. But what happens when you can’t find it?

If we’re being honest, we keep skimming the shelves until our patience wears thin and then we find an employee. The employee walks us over to a spot not too far from where we were just skimming and points out exactly what we are looking for. It was literally right in front of us.

Why does this happen?

It happens because all to often we create a picture in our head of what something is supposed to look like and search for that, instead of looking for things as they are.

This happens with people too. It’s not uncommon to make an assumption about someone, just to find out that they are nothing like what we wrote them off to be.

The same can be said for qualities we find in others.

To be successful, one must be determined and work hard, but there is not a specific blueprint for either of these qualities.

By having a pre-set vision of what hard work and determination looks like, you have a high possibility of missing these qualities in other people.

Qualities we find in others do not have to be packaged in a specific way or displayed in a way that is excepted by the masses. By having preconceived notions we limit ourselves to seeing the greatness in people around us.

With that being said, remember to stay open minded. Everyone brings something special to the table, and sometimes the best things don’t come wrapped up in a bow.