Stop Doing Your Best Work in the Wrong Places

As the massage therapist turned and twisted my neck, asking me questions about pain levels and range of motion, he made a casual comment. “If we do our best work on the wrong muscles, it doesn’t fix anything.” I almost broke into tears right there on the table. (which would have been more awkward than the fact he doesn’t wear shoes at work). He was right, about my neck and life. I shouldn’t be putting all of my best work into the wrongs things, I’ll never get the results I’m longing for. Neither should you. Stop doing your best work in the wrong places.

Define your best work

Don’t try telling me you’re not doing anything great. I know that’s not true. And, don’t try excluding yourself because you don’t have a job title or the job you do have isn’t making big bucks. Your best work has NOTHING to do with a job title or income. 

You might feel overwhelmed by life like everything you do falls short. You’re not the only one. Sometimes, life feels like a never-ending to-do list. Believe it or not, your best work is hidden in your ordinary life, behind the piles of laundry and dirty dishes.

If time and tasks weren’t an issue, what would you enjoy doing? Sometimes you’re afraid to admit your dreams because they feel silly, you don’t feel qualified, or other people don’t understand. There’s a little bit of guilt too because mamas aren’t good at cheering themselves on. We focus on our families and push ourselves aside. It’s what we do.

It isn’t a trick question and there certainly isn’t one right answer. I could give you a list of things I really enjoy doing and it’s probably not like yours. For one, I’m the kind of mama who likes to take her kids on big adventures, usually involving an airplane. The girls are already trying to bargain their way into my next trip to Guatemala. Traveling might be one of your things too, but I also really love the really nerdy parts of business too—systems, processes, spreadsheets, and lots of planning. I’m just naturally good at it.

Acknowledging the things I love and the work I enjoy makes all the difference. Not everything I do falls into those categories, but when I seek out activities that do, I feel alive and fulfilled, even when it’s hard work.

You need to stop hiding the things that make you great. Hiding the talents God’s given you is false humility, you’re not respecting him by denying his gifts. Being awesome is not something to hide. It’s time to use your gifts and find your joy.

Stop Doing Your Best Work In The Wrong Places

The non-negotiables (aka God and your family)

Before somebody accuses you of neglecting your family or being a bad mama, let’s just make a couple things clear. The correct order goes like this: God, husband, kids. Everything else—up for grabs after these three.

God: he makes it pretty clear he’s the priority. He literally designed you, so even when you doubt your abilities, it’s important to remember his vision. If you’re intentionally putting him first, all the rest will start falling into place—family, purpose, confidence.

Husband: there are a million ways to make a great marriage, but they all begin with commitment. The two of you need to be aligned. Brandon and I have worked together for more than a decade, so much that people just refer to us as “the Shanks.” (it’s actually my favorite part of our work life) Even so, when I shared my dream of going to seminary and writing, he cheered me on and sacrificed to help me. However it works for you, it’s about working together.

Children: God didn’t design your best to be something that competes with your children. You’re their mama, they need you. He did create you to do great work though and sometimes that work shifts how you mother. Doing your best work and being a great mama are not mutually exclusive.

Choosing where to give your best work

Believe me. As an aware-but-not-yet-recovering perfectionist, I’ve tried to be perfect and do my best at every part of my life for a long time. It just doesn’t work and then you get frustrated.

You weren’t meant to be everything to everyone or do everything perfectly. Work, writing, ministry, friends—it’s important to carefully choose where your “best” goes.

Here’s the best news—you get to decide where and to whom you give your best work. After the 3 non-negotiables, there isn’t a set of rules for what you do. Everyone might have an opinion, but as long as you’re intentionally following God’s leading—you’re good.

The magical combination of your best work and the right place is where you feel needed, appreciated, and successful. There is a place where the best of you brings your spirit to life. Maybe it’s not work for you. Keep searching. When you find the right place for your best work, you’ll know it. I found mine in Guatemala.

Stop doing your best work in the wrong places

You have a gift to give the world and I can’t wait to hear what you’ll do. God didn’t create you to be constantly overwhelmed or feel unappreciated. He gave you a spirit of joy and a purpose.

Stop doing your best work in the wrong places. Do your best work in the right place for the right people.

  1. Complement: someone is looking for a person exactly like you, fill a need.
  2. Collaborate: you have unique gifts and abilities, look for other people with similar interests and create something even better together.
  3. Choose: pick the place where God leads you, you’ll know when you get there.

When you stop doing your best work in the wrong places, you open the door to the greatness of your gifts and purpose.


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