Working for a Bigger Purpose

This is a guest post by Jon Gordon. He is a sought-after speaker and the author of The Energy Bus, Soup, and his latest release The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work. Please visit the book’s website to learn more and for a details on a special offer. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

What if work wasn’t just work? What if work was a vehicle to live and share a bigger purpose?

A Man Standing on a Pinnacle - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/vernonwiley, Image #7112779

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/vernonwiley

I believe there’s a flawed perception in our society that in order to live a life of purpose we have to leave our jobs and go solve world hunger, feed the homeless, move to Africa, or start a charity.

While these are all noble, needed causes with many who are called to do these very things, for others of us our bigger purpose can be found in the here and now, in the jobs we have, right under our noses. And when we find and live this purpose, it will provide the ultimate fuel for a meaningful life.

You may not build libraries around the world, but you can find the bigger purpose in reading to your children. You may not feed the homeless every day, but you can nourish your employees and customers with a smile, kind word, and care. And while you may not start your own non-profit organization, you can begin a charity initiative at work. After all, “charity” means “love in action.”

You can make a difference every day and touch the lives of everyone you meet. While these people may not be starving because of a lack of food, you can provide them with a different kind of nourishment that will feed their souls (and feed your own in the process).

Here are a few examples:

  • I heard of a janitor who worked at NASA. And even though he was sweeping floors, he felt his bigger purpose was contributing to put a man on the moon.
  • I met a bus driver who knows his purpose is to help kids stay off drugs.
  • I met an administrative assistant who has become the Chief Energy Officer of her company.
  • I received an email from a man in the mortgage business who sees his job as a way to help couples save their marriages by keeping their homes.
  • I know a Popeye’s Chicken employee named Edith in the Atlanta Airport who makes thousands of air travelers smile each day.

The list goes on … ordinary people with an extra-ordinary purpose.

In any job our purpose waits for us to find it and live it.

I can’t tell you what your purpose should be, but I can tell you that every one of us can find a bigger purpose in the job we have.

I can tell you that every job, no matter how glorious or boring it may seem, will get mundane if we let it.
Purpose keeps it fresh. And when we are filled with purpose, we tap into an endless supply of energy.

Don’t wait until you go to Africa to start living with a mission. Don’t wait until the weekend to feed people who are hungry. Bring your mission to work, start working for a bigger purpose and nourish others in the process.

I gave away 50 copies of The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work. To qualify, my readers had to comment below. You can find the list of winners here.
Question: What is the bigger purpose for which you are working? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556825450 Donna Reames Rich

    I am not sure my comment posted correctly. I will re-try. I was saying that my great life purpose is to build relationships with and create a safety net in our home for my three daughters, Zoe, Chloe and Caroline. Our home is small but happy and cozy and I try to incorporate my faith and belief in them through positive plaques, posters and even words scribbled daily on the dry erase board of our fridge. In my little ordinary, every day life as a mother to them, I pray for them, specific prayers for their lives, their hearts and futures…whether I am folding sheets, picking up Barbies, or helping with homework, my goal is that I am creating a sense of stability and safety that will stand them in good stead as they grow up and venture out intot he the world around them.  I once longed to be a missionary. I actually was a missionary to the Philippines long, long ago, but now my mission is to three young girls who need my heart the most, who look to me for guidance, who believe in me one hundred percent as I believe in them. Mothering : simple and homely, ordinary and honest. I am not Superwoman but I am a Mother and that comes pretty darn close in my book.

  • Lwwarfel

    I’m working at Olivet Nazarene University, helping to prepare Christians to make a difference for God in our world.

  • Amy Crawford

    I have the privilege of being a teacher.  With this incredible privilege comes a huge responsibility to be constantly mindful of the words I use when I speak to students and the manner in which I say them.  Because of the unique potential each child brings to this world, and because I’m a believer in the power of influence teachers have in the lives of their students, I founded a faith-based non-profit organization that reaches over 1,600 influencers each year at an annual event at the Tennessee Theatre.  My big dream is to see all teachers across this country to fully know, appreciate, and understand their calling to be positive influencers in the lives of young people. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissa.leembruggen Melissa Hager Leembruggen

    I have found that in my part-time teaching job at a community college I have tremendous purpose in helping my diverse students of all ages to become more thoughtful and competent communicators. But I’ve been struggling with my purpose as the owner of a business (its complicated). And then I have purpose with my family as a wife and mother. But then I am a little confused about my hobby/sport.

    So for me I like what you said in a reply comment a few days ago, “Purpose should not be compartmentalized.” It really should transcend the priority areas I’ve been identifying during my life plan activities from Michael Hyatt’s ebook. So hmmmm, maybe some things just got a little clearer. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/Serene_streams Renata

    Life and work can become mundane and routine IF we let it. 

    Everyday I begin my morning by reading my devotional and praying that I see people in this dying world through the loving eyes of Jesus.  Little things, that seem insignificant to most, are the genuine kindnesses that make an eternal impact.  I have discovered these priceless gems to be a warm smile to a stranger we pass or lending a helping hand in carrying groceries for an elderly neighbor.  I pray that God reveal to me a new jewel of joy to give to others and show the love of Jesus. 

    In doing so, I took notice of a homeless lady always in the same location on my way home in obvious desperate need of love and help.  Being I always took half my work lunch home as leftovers, I now thought of her instead.  Every evening I cook it up before I leave and give her a warm meal that she looks forward to.  She’s so very appreciative and I continue to pray for her and her circumstances.

    So the “bigger purpose for which I am working” is actually the discovering these “little treasures of infinite love” that bestow immeasurable love and joy to a helpless, lost world. :-)

  • Magesh Sargunan

    Innovative marketing concept adopted. However I ‘m not writing this comment to win over ur book. I find it very meaningful & interesting to see our work in an altogether different perspective. I tried hard for finding one for me & finally ended up as ‘Since I work in an Automobile firm as Cost Reduction Specialist, my bigger purpose in life is to ensure developing new vehicles which will emit less to help reducing pollution levels & saving and keeping our environment clean. Going Green way”

    -Magesh

  • Pam Gray

    To make an investment in the lives of others.  I am God’s instrument to inspire others to lean on Jesus Christ through every aspect of their lives.  To show others how to keep their faith while going through any type of adversity.

  • Seth

    As a student minister, I am striving to grow students in the word of God! 

  • http://karendalycook.com KAREN COOK

    My bigger purpose is loving people in the midst of their brokenness. As a marriage & family therapist my desire is to help people as they process their pain and hurt and emerge a healthy and hopeful person in Christ.  I am living my bigger purpose and there is so much freedom in knowing that I am using my occupation to glorify God. 

  • Chris

    As a father, husband and professional I have multiple levels of “working”.  My professional life puts me face to face with small business owners across the United States.  My purpose for working is to be assured that their business is profitable enough to have meaning.  Small business owners know their customers, their products and their goals but many times they have trouble maximizing their efforts on the right prospects and customers.  I come in to be sure they invest their time, effort and resources on ideas that will immediately impact their bottom line so at the end of the day their business brings happiness to them and their family through a sense of worth, accomplishment and profitability.

  • Laurabo

    This sounds like a great book and I would love a chance to read it.

  • http://shonaneff.com Shonaneff

    OK, so here’s one more comment in the already overflowing cup of abundance :)

    This concept is SO simple it is profound in today’s world where doing things in a grandiose manner seems like a must. I see people much younger than me with established writing and speaking career . . . I’m just getting started and my life it half over as far as age.

    But, I spent many years raising kids. What an important ministry I had within the confines of four walls. I didn’t  need to jet to the four-corners of the world to show God’s compassion and kindness to the world, I did it with the children I was blessed with.

    There are people called to travel the world for God, but equally important are the people in our own circles.

    Again, some of the most profound principles are the hardest to grasp because they are so easily overlooked.

  • Jenny2229

    “What if work wasn’t just work? What if work was a vehicle to live and share a bigger purpose?” = Great Stuff here. Wish we could all think like this 24/7 as we should. Keep it up!  –

  • http://twitter.com/steveblumer Steve Blumer

    I’m a pastor and the challenge is to “professionally” be all that the bible says to be and to be all that I preach others to be.  Success for pastors seem to be attributed to how many people go to their church, etc.  I believe that people are attracted to true authentic Christianity because of the true authentic God, but that doesn’t automatically connect our workings to a certain result.  If one church has more and more people coming to Christ while another one, just as true and authentic and all that, isn’t, it makes a pastor want to leave and “Go where God is moving.”  I like how the title of the book is called “The Seed” because I’m reminded of how in the bible it talks about some people planting seeds and other people watering that seed, but it’s God who gets the increase. Finding happiness in life and work for God requires me to know that I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do and not focus on desired expected results.

  • Twitter.Com/JennyLynnSEM

    “What if work wasn’t just work? What if work was a vehicle to live and
    share a bigger purpose?” = Great Stuff here. Wish we could all think
    like this 24/7 as we should. Keep it up!

  • http://twitter.com/jgwfrog Jeremy Weddle

    Your line that says “You may not build libraries around the world, but you can find the bigger purpose in reading to your children” is amazing.  I thought of the new Trace Adkins song “Just Fishin” when I read your sentence.  There is indeed a bigger purpose, and when I read to my kids I’m not “just reading”.  Thanks for the post.

  • Greg

    I have struggled with this for a time, but feel like God has slowly changed my attitude to be that of a servant. I work in a cube, crunching numbers, yet my job can impact peoples’ paychecks. Therefore, I see my role as that of a servant. It’s very trite, but it is very true. I want to glorify God through the job that I do. Somedays I do a better job than others with this. Thanks for this great post, Jon.

  • http://myfreshlybrewedlife.com/ Barbie

    I work at my church.  It would be easy to assume that the people I encounter every day have it all together.  That is so far from the truth.  Even in the church, there are hurting and broken people that need the loving touch of the Father on their lives.  I remember when the Lord brought me here.  I have a heart for the Body of Chirst and to use my gifts to bring hope and encouragement to others.  Whether I am serving my Pastors, working in Children’s Ministries, or ministering to others, I know that every day I have an opportunity to change lives.   It’s all for His glory!

  • Russ_hersman

    I work for a world where Bible poverty has been eradicated and where everyone has access to God’s Word in a language and medium that communicates best to them.

  • Lamzie

    I would have to say my bigger purpose would entail, sharing the love of GOD through what I do as well as what I say.  I believe it is of the utmost importance to share the love of GOD on a individual basis.   I teach character through precept and example.  I enjoy sharing JESUS by the way I treat family, friends and stangers and never based on how they treat me–all people.    I endeavor to esteem the least of us.  Loving and living for JESUS is a wonderful choice and its never to late. 

  • Linda

    As a stay at home mom for the last few years (hardest job I’ve ever had! :) , my job has been to build up the charater of my children, and lead them to live their lives.  As well, as I have found “school yard ministry” and volunteering an amazing way to connect people with Jesus.  Currently, I am looking for part time work, so I can still be focused on our family.  Any job/profession that I do I want to encourage and inspire people to live the lives that we are meant to live…God focused. 

    • Linda

      Ecclesiastes 5:19, “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work — this is a gift from God.” (NIV)

  • Zenful83

    Without a doubt, the bigger purpose for which I work is love.  In true spirit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we all are essentially seeking love and approval.  Too much negativity surrounds us on a daily basis, leading us to guard our hearts and build walls to keep out compassion, empathy, and genuine love.  I have worked in several different fields, finding a common thread between them all.  If you truly serve others with an open heart and allow yourself to show and let in love, your life becomes full.  Being able to bring a smile to someone’s face no matter what you’re doing for work is more rewarding than a paycheck!  I could not agree more that your work isn’t about your duties to the company but service to others with an open heart.

  • Lisa Bowen

    My ultimate goal in life is to be the greatest mom and wife I have been called to be.  Throughout my 18 years on this journey it has allowed me many adventures.  From staying at home with my three children when they were young, supporting my husband throughout his career and education, becoming a non-traditional student (at thirty something) and recently becoming a college graduate. My purpose remains the same and gives me the strength to continue to face hurdles and obstacles that stand in my way. I am now working full time in the work force with the desire to network non-profits with individuals and companies that want to share their wealth.  I have no idea what that looks like but I do know that my purpose at the end of the day no matter what has happened is to love my husband and my children.

  • Ramp

    Chinese proverb: ‘When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, but others build windmills.’ I strive all the time to accept change and steer and make the most of it in my own personal life.Being in the line of making change happen & promote excellence as a full time job, I come  across people who just hate change and think not appreciated enough in what they do.
    From what I’ve read in this blog post I’d be very interested in reading more about what Jon Gordon has to say in this book.

  • http://twitter.com/tgm1215 Tim McGee

    I love it. I am right there with you. I talk about this all the time with my friends, family, and at church. There is so much we can be doing right where God has put us. I really liked your perspective on how anything can become mundane if we let it. It really hits on the fact that we are in control of our perception of the world and that we can find value and meaning in everything we do as long as we are doing it for the right reasons, with life and vigor! 

    Create meaning, love dangerously, and change the world! 

  • Keith Woodruff

    Meeting peoples basic needs.  After retiring I came to my second career of ministry in  the church I had attended for 10 years and found “need” that I never knew existed.  Every day we receive phone calls and in person visits by people who tell us, “I’ve lost my job and I don’t have any food for my children.”  “If I don’t pay this utility bill today they will turn off my electric.”  “I  lost everything in a house fire.”  “I lost everything when my house flooded.”  “I don’t even have any clothes.” “I have no where else to turn.”  The “bigger purpose” stares me in the face every day and we rise to meet that need with God’s grace and provision. To know that they are important and that we care and God loves them.

  • Jmax5

    Our purpose in life is reflected in Jesus word’s when He revealed the greatest commandment, “You must Love the Lord with all your heart , all your soul, amd all your mind and a Second is equally import: Love your neighbour as yourself.”   We find purpose in life when we are “Living into others lives” with a Love like the love of God to us.   The opportunities are endless, if you just open your minds and hearts to others.  This is the way of Christianity around the world, we need to catch it here.

  • Nancy Bouwens

    Bigger purpose…for the past 11 weeks I have spent my mornings with my gravely ill sister..bathing her, rubbing her feet and caring for her very personal physical needs. We have cried and laughed together. No headlines will be written of our time together…but it is forever written within the deepest place of our spirits. This post echoes what God has shown me through this journey….he has called us each to serve ….one by one..each day each moment serving and being Jesus with skin on for those around us.

  • Heather

    Wow–thank you for putting these words on paper, so they could be read by more people. There is so much truth in what you articulated.  It’s funny how we so often think that purpose must be over and above what we do everyday, rather than present  within what’s already there.  Thanks so much!

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  • Mschwartzintv

    The bigger purpose for which I am living is to help people embrace their own “innate” abilities.  I believe people overlook those things that they naturally do  because they come easily to them and therefore they discount the value.   Their is “magic” that ignites peoples passion once they discover their innate ability and learn how to apply that to their life and others they serve every day.

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  • Bespoke ;-)

    The purpose i  have been given is so clear , skills learnt by honest people stonemasons and fellow craftsmen . Used by greedy  businessmen  for there gain . will be provided to repair restore and protect . To feed our family’s not our lifestyle. Give what you have ! then the greedy will have no purpose .

  • Yomsy05

    I have gone through life as an Economist i discovered the basic thing is when are able to achieve your goal within the stipulated time.

  • Jennymack

    I am writing a 90 second report on my purpose with the company I work for, I am a bakery manager with a big grocery chain, and I am trying to find it, do you have any suggestions? If so please comment….anyone please…