The Most Important Work You Do Happens in Secret

I never used to think it was true—that my most important work would take place in secret. In fact, the very idea that this could be true scared me half to death. When I looked at the people who I admired the most, most of them were “out there,” in the world, making a difference, saving lives and leaving their mark.

My worst nightmare was that I would die somewhere, in secret, without a splash, without any sort of noise or excitement.

But lately I’m realizing my worst fear is true.

The most important work I have done so far in my very short life has happened in the dark, with no lights or fanfare. There is no glitz or glam when my alarm goes off at 5am. There is no pizzazz in dragging myself out of bed to get just another few thousand words on paper.

But this is where the real progress happens.

This is where the work gets done, in the trenches.

It’s virtually impossible for us to understand this in a world where our whole lives are so very public. Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs. Trust me, my whole world is online. There are very few moments in my day where I’m not thinking about how I can present myself to the world in a way that will make me look fabulous.

Other than, I suppose, the moments of the day where I’m thinking about how I can present myself to the world in a way that makes me look fabulous without seeming like I’m trying to look fabulous. 


It’s a sickness, really. And we all have it. It will take all our effort and energy to escape.

But it isn’t until we escape it that we’ll find the significance we’ve been looking for all along.

Our most important work won’t happen as we’re trying to dream up some beautiful caption or photo to post on Instagram. It won’t happen in 140 characters. I’m not knocking social media here. I love social media. All I’m saying is our best work, our most important work, the work that will change us and therefore change the world, happens in private.

You know where I’ve changed most in the past year?

Therapy. It’s true. I went away for a week back in May. I signed offline. I stopped blogging. I took a break. I even gave up my phone for a time. Then, when I came home, I started meeting with a therapist regularly.

I worried I would lose momentum if I stopped blogging and creating content for the week I was gone. I worried it would derail me. Instead, it has catapulted me.

The most important work we do happens in private.

When I work with writers, I try to explain this to them.

I try to tell them how the writing they do in their journals, the drafts that never see the light of day, are not a distraction from accomplishing their writing goals. These are not counter-productive. They are in fact the most productive thing they could ever do.

It’s so hard to accept that truth and to embrace it.

We have to face all of our fears of being invisible. I get it. But it isn’t until we fully embrace those fears of being invisible that we’re able to be seen and heard in this incredibly amazing way. It isn’t until we stop worrying about being invisible that we’re able to execute the work we’ve always wanted to do.

Your most important work will happen behind the scenes.

So stop worrying about getting your big break or making yourself look fabulous or building some big platform. Do the work you’ve been called to do, behind closed doors. Don’t ask for credit. Claim the credit we all get when we spend a day in the trenches.

That will be enough.

If you’re interested in more resources regarding writing, relationships or any other topic I write about here, check out my Additional Resources page.

8 comments on “The Most Important Work You Do Happens in Secret

  1. Hi Allie,
    I appreciated your words this morning (1/15/15) regarding taking time to get some therapy. I think I’ll check out that site (Onsite) myself. I’m well along in years being born in 1939.
    I still pastor part-time near St Louis. During my Army Chaplaincy years (1970 to 1992) I trained as a therapist at the California Family Study Center in Burbank. They’ve moved to Encino, now, and changed their name to Phillips Graduate Institute.
    I appreciate you so much. I feel like I know you.
    Bright blessings,
    Bob

  2. Alli,
    It’s me again, Bob. I just went online looking for programs available at Onsite. Is this the address below:

    Onsite
    P.O. Box 250
    1044 Old Highway 48 N.
    Cumberland Furnace, TN 37051

    Thanks,
    Bob Lee

  3. This is such a wonderful post and I couldn’t agree with you more. This two years I have transformed immensely. I started with a commitment to taking care of myself. This commitment, the work, the process of bettering myself was all in secret, all behind closed doors, but the result is felt by those around me. The work itself is in secret, writing, reading, meditating, reflecting.

    Such a beautiful post, thanks for sharing.

  4. Excellent post. True across all fields of discipline, especially the arts. I can’t tell you how much this post motivates me to keep going in all aspects of life.

  5. Thanks for your transparency, Allison. I can’t help but to think again about the concept of us having written record of Jesus up until the age of 12 and then we don’t hear from Him again until He is 30 and about to start his 3 year ministry.

    There were 18 years of silence. 18 years of meeting in His secret place.

    Thanks again for the post. It was a blessing to read.

  6. My husband and I fight a lot too. You’re definitely not alone there. We’re working on it, though it’s hard. I don’t want to bring kids into such tension, but he grew up in a family of yellers. It’s interesting to work together to create our own version of normal.

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