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Aug 14, 2020

When I interviewed for my current role, one question stood out. I was asked what my personal goals were. I was expecting to be asked what my professional goals were, which I was, but I wasn’t expecting to be asked about my personal goals. From a managerial perspective, it was an astute question.


As a manager, you want to hire someone who has personal goals, and knowing those goals gives you insight into their motivation and what they enjoy. As a manager in the context of professional sports, knowing someone’s personal goals means that, when you’re asking them to work long hours for weeks on end, you know how best to support them. 


I define personal goals as things you aim to achieve, not related to what you do for work. I feel it’s important to define personal goals separately from self-care. Self-care is what you do to take care of your mental, emotional, and physical health. The WHO includes hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle (sporting activities, exercise, leisure), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits), and self-medication in self-care. I feel strongly that personal goals and self-care are essential to a successful career but also to having fun and feeling fulfilled.


We, as PTs, work in a care giving profession. If we are not able to take care of ourselves, how can we expect to take care of someone else? If we can’t care for ourselves and perform at our peak, how can we expect our athletes/patients to perform at their highest level? 


Self-care and personal goals look different for everyone. For one person self-care might be prioritizing exercising each day to maintain mental and physical health. Their personal goal might be to run a marathon. For someone else self-care might be making sure they eat well. Their personal goal might be to start a family, and thus their dietary choices aimed at supporting fertility or an IVF procedure. Self-care and personal goals are often intertwined, but I have come to believe that no one or no organization has the right to make you feel badly for self-care.


Over the long term, if you work in a place where you can’t take care of yourself, are you going to last there? What will be your longevity? I also think organizations should support personal goals, particularly when they complement work. That being said, I have been told otherwise.


I’ve been told that personal goals while working in pro sports equate to having too big an ego. If my personal goal is impeding my work or reducing my contribution to the team, then yes, I can see where a personal goal might be interpreted as ego. Ego is putting yourself above others, and your interests ahead of the team’s. An example of this would be someone using their title with an organization to bolster their personal social media business.


But if my personal goal runs in harmony with work, and by striving towards a personal goal I’m happier at work, more motivated, more passionate, then isn’t that personal goal a good thing? 


I started playing Australian Rules Football (footy) in July 2016. Coming from soccer, it wasn’t too hard a transition. In finding footy, I found a competitive outlet and supportive community that I’d been missing in soccer since college.


In 2017 I made the developmental US National Team (the USAFL Liberty). It was a huge achievement for me personally. I’d grown up dreaming of playing for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. Here I was, at 32, in a place to represent my country!


I traveled to Australia with the Liberty on a 6 game tour. A month playing footy in Australia set a fire within me to make the top US team, the USAFL Freedom. I wanted to play with the Freedom in the International Cup (the footy equivalent of the World Cup). From the time I left Australia in September 2017 that was my personal goal.


I got up early to lift on road trips, did sprints in December in Detroit, scouted fields to kick in Atlanta, and went for long interval runs in Charlotte. My hard work paid off, even with performance anxiety during try-outs that I’d never dealt with before, and in October 2019 I was named to the Freedom! My sights were set on IC2020. 




And then COVID19 happened. 


To this point, my personal goals of making the Freedom and playing in IC2020 ran alongside my work well. They coexisted, overlapping at times, but supported each other. Footy and training kept me motivated and having fun at work, and work paid for (as well as informed) my footy training. I was incredibly lucky to have very supportive bosses who were willing to give me a day off to attend National Team Camp or US Nationals when it didn’t stress our work schedule.  


But now IC2020 is IC2021.


Suddenly my training has been upended, the whole team in flux, and the goal that so perfectly seemed to fit now has a huge amount of uncertainty around it. My place on the team isn’t necessarily secure, but more concerning is that, with an uncertain 2020-2021 NBA schedule, I may not be able to play in IC2021. Even if I make the team again and the tournament goes ahead, if the NBA is playing during IC2021 I may not be able to take 3 weeks off.


What do you do when suddenly your personal and professional goals are in conflict? 


I have an amazing job! Really. A phenomenal job and opportunity. I get to work with amazing people and I have learned a ton over the past two years. But at the same time, representing the US as an elite female athlete, has been my dream from the time I was a little kid. I’ve dedicated more hours to reaching my goal of IC2020 than I can count. Yea, I’m not going to the Olympics, but I don’t play an Olympic sport! Yea I’m an amateur athlete, but this is my life!


Footy is a huge part of my life as is my work, so what do I do?


Well, my answer right now is to wait and try not to worry!


I can’t control the NBA schedule.

I can’t control COVID19. And I can’t control what will happen globally over the next year.


I can control my training.

I can control my day to day life around work, and my pursuit of happiness.


So, I am trying not to worry about what happens. Until I have more information I really can’t worry. I will only be depressed and anxious if I do. I will wait until dates are set for the NBA season. Wait to see what happens with the pandemic. And wait to see what the next year brings. I may have a big dilemma on what to do when I have more information, but I may also have more information and options at that point to inform my decision. 


I can’t pretend that I have an answer for what to do when personal and professional goals conflict. Just as every person’s goals are different, every situation will be to different. Your goals, their importance and value to you, and the wider context of your life will all influence the path you choose. However, I truly believe that following your passions personally and professionally are what will make you truly happy! 


Thank you for reading!


Amy Arundale PT, PhD, DPT, SCS


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