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 ©, Image #7112779

Photo courtesy of ©

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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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • Todd Burkhalter

    The work that we do is much bigger than just financial planning as many think of that topic. I truly believe that the work that we engage in with our clients helps families stay together with greater happiness. When someone has a grip on their personal finances it permeates throughout their life. They maintain less stress, thus impacting their marriage and their relationship with their children. In addition, we teach to Give, Save and Live promoting trusting God with the money has has entrusted us with gaining stronger faith and spiritual maturity.

  • Dale Aceron

    As a Father to 4 and a Pastor to many, I feel as though the bigger purpose that I am working towards is helping other parents in their struggles in parenting. I have a range of kids from age 4 all the way to age 16 and so I have been through some things that many of our younger parents have still yet to encounter.

  • Jontcarter

    Simple as it may sound, my family has a boat and we use that boat to teach others to ski. I cannot tell you how many kids we have taught to ski and what a mission it has been. Also, it is something the kids learn and never forget that positive moment. Sounds simple and it is.

    • Jon Gordon

      That’s great! Simple is very powerful, especially in such a complex world.

  • Luci

    When I was younger, I thought I was going to do something big to change the world. I spent long hours researching “important” jobs, to try and find my life’s calling, but to no avail. Went through college, got married, and was still waiting for God’s sign. I decided to try things that sounded interesting,hoping I’d get an “a-ha” moment. No luck. My husband and I had seven years of togetherness before we decided to have kids. Part of this was my concern that, as twins run in my family, we were going to have our hands full if we did have kids. As I figured, we had twins. As I’m sure has happened with many parents, once we held those little bundles of joy, it was all over. I never did get that “a-ha” moment, but over the years, I’ve come to realize that  it doesn’t matter WHAT job I do, but what I do in my life that makes a difference in the world. And my biggest priority is those twin boys. We had a difficult pregnancy, and weren’t sure they would even survive, but I think that made us realize all the more how precious they were, and how my “calling” was to raise them the best way we knew how. To be a positive influence on them, and our little corner of the world, and to raise them to become young men that would positively influence others, and keep the tradition going. It all fits so well, (and is so clear to me this father’s day): we know that this is our mission, and I can already see the fruits of it as my sons are working long hours as camp counselors this summer, making the world a better place for the next generation.

    • Jon Gordon

      Thanks Luci. I speak a lot about The Root and The Fruit. You have it nailed. When we focus on the root, we produce better fruit.

  • Deb Mills-Scofield

    As a consultant I work with many executives on strategy & innovation. My “work” is my passion. By helping leadership teams provide focus and direction and create cultures of innovation, they are also freeing their people to pursue their passions. As the company grows and succeeds, it can hire more people, providing jobs & opportunities and the cascading economic impacts, it can provide more to their communities (I ask my clients to match 10% of my fee and give that away to improve lives), and through changing the culture becomes a fabulous place to work. It is very exciting to see this happen…to see the creativity, the freedom, the empowerment employees feel which is a virtuous cycle. With 1 client, the janitor at at a plant noticed that toilet paper usage was up and felt free to tell that to the General Manager (which is amazing in itself) who then investigated what was happening, realized there were some issues with machines causing more downtime so people were taking more breaks and going to the bathroom, which led to a cuture in the plant of looking for “leading indicators” in strange places. The janitor’s job wasn’t just to clean, but to be a problem solver!

    As a Messianic Jew, my purpose with my work is to show the love of Ha Shem and Yeshua to my clients, By earning their respect and trust, and friendship, I am able to talk with them about meaning and purpose at work on a different level which many times gets them to view their employees differently (as someone G-d made & loves) and prayerfully may bring them closer to or create a new relationship with Yeshua/Jesus Christ. That is the most rewarding of all.

    Lastly, my children see how “mommy” has integrated work with passion and faith.

  • Jeanie

    I’m working with a team of people from a variety of faith traditions, some clergy, but many laity, who desire to get rid of predatory lending in our state–the state of Missouri.  With an APR of as high as 1995% we are the worst state in the union for this kind of lending!  Our legislature sees no need for reform (why would they? 4 big banks are pouring money into their campaigns!) to regulate this industry.  We did away with the usury laws that were in place prior to 1980′s.  Now the most vulnerable of our citizens are being sucked into debt spirals that have heavy costs!  It is gratifying work –to fight against uphill odds to work for the benefit of our society!

  • Binsurobinson

    i will pass the free offer ..but i like what u said …dont wait to go to Africa to begin living on purpose …
    maybe this is a good year to start !! NOW !!

  • Denise

    I run a large church’s nursery.  I have approximately 35 staff, 10 volunteers, maybe 300  parents/grandparents/guardians, and twice as many children 5 and under that I feel I am helping to know God and see Jesus in everything around them.  So I don’t think I need to find a higher purpose in my work.  But there is one. It’s God’s higher purpose: to keep ME closer to Him.  Many people can do my job.  But I think God put me here because I see God best through young children.  Without this job, I would struggle so much more trying to follow Him. 

  • Tim Geoghegan 

    Finding purpose has been my aim now for 4 years> I always told people I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. The reality was that I was not sure what I was supposed to be doing with my life. There were a lot of possibilities open to me and yet I was nearly paralyzed by this issue of purpose. I didn’t want to live a meaningless life and by worrying about it I found that was exactly the path I was headed down.

    I began to see that my purpose was to help other people become the best they could be, and by doing so I was much more fulfilled in my own life. I had found my purpose, to serve others in my field. It was both liberating and exhilerating. The really interesting thing is that now I have many more lucrative and influential oppotunities available to me that I never would have had, had I not found my purpose and lived it out.

  • Chris Gambill

    The bigger purpose in my life is to continually help people remember and respond to the reality of God. God has blessed me thus far by allowing me to do that in a full-time ministry capacity. But I know that even if I wasn’t a pastor, it would still drive what I did and how I lived my life. I count it a privilege that my work, calling, and purpose are all entwined. 

  • Cheryl Trowbridge

    I teach K-6 Art and I freely share my lesson ideas and tips for teaching on my blog:  My bigger purpose is to inspire creativity in children and in the adults who teach them!

  • Jonathan Schmitt

    As a pastor and college administrator, my purpose is to help other men and women find their true purpose as well. I am a guide who helps unleash the potential of others.

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  • B_Schebs

    I am towards the purpose of allowing people to connect everyday.

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  • Mara Walker

    My purpose is to be a “lump of love and respect” for all of God’s creatures and to bring to people the light of God….

  • Sgmcneil

    My bigger purpose is to nurture and support my children so they can be happy adults.

  • Ssemrau

    I love jon Gordon - I wish I know what employers in the GrandRapids/Lansing/Battle Creek, Michigan area were using his teachings so that I could go work there!!

  • Colin

    As a musician, music producer and educator for 18 years, my primary aim has always been encouraging and empowering people through what I teach or the time that I spend working with them. I feel so lucky to have such a great medium to work with – within the pursuits of learning and creating music are so many principles that can equally be applied across to everyday life. The nature of my work affords me the opportunity to initiate these conversations and get my students and clients thinking about these things in a sphere beyond music and finding their own solutions and making adjustments to their lives. This is undoubtedly the most rewarding part of my job. 
    As from next year, I’m moving to Malaysia to start a music school that has a syllabus designed to maximise learning opportunities for different learning styles and to integrate new and emerging technologies – but the core vision remains the same – to be empowering people to grow. 

    • Emily Calhoun

      Colin, let’s talk! I’m also a music educator and our views are very similar. Our school is one of the first to give every student an iPad, so we can share some technology ideas as well. Emily 

  • Jeff Randleman

    I’m a youth minister.  My purpose is to reach teens with the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

  • Banne53

    With our purpose, we find the reason for our existence, thus begin a passionate life with focus, dicipline and determination.

  • Bobbi

    I truly believe me life purpose is to bring joy to everyone I’m in contact with either personally, professionally or spiritually (it all comes back to this one.)

  • VMouton

    In the business world, I have always believed you should enjoy what you do day in and day out. I’ve never taken a job that I couldn’t visualize that being the case. You’re right, you don’t have to feed the homeless to find that greater purpose. One of my favorite experiences came as a Realtor in the joy of finding my clients the perfect house at whatever stage of life they were in. Nothing like it!

    At home, my greater purpose is to show my children how to enjoy life and learn from life’s experiences. Our oldest child has Down Syndrome, so talk about some great teachable moments! He, alone, was the reason for my paradigm shift to thinking this way to begin with when he was born 14 years ago:-)

  • Theresa ‘Caplinger’ Harris

    I’m still working on my goal of becoming a health psychologist, but while I work on the recognizable part of my dream I am compelled to help others feel good about all the steps they take to become healthier mentally, physically, emotionally. -It’s easy to set a health goal, achieve it and feel great. I believe each victory along the way, each baby step in the right direction should be celebrated. My purpose is to provide inspiration and practical ways to make small changes to reach big goals, to feel great about right direction and not just crossing the finish line, to find beauty in the mundane.

  • Jeff Mc Clung

    I am the Children’s Pastor at High Desert Church. The heartbeat of HDC Kids is to help parents take on the primary role in the spiritual development of their kids. When this happens our families will become the world-changers their Oikos desperately needs them to be. With the business of life and the influences of the world, parents can easily lose focus on what matters most. High Desert Church desires to help parents help their families by guiding them into meaningful worship of God, together in meaningful relationships with each other, and nurturing a meaningful role in their lives so that they will be mobilized to demonstrate God’s love to a broken world.

  • Dana Doyle

    What a great, thought provoking post!

  • Jennyferlv

    My bigger purpose is still unfolding to me.  I feel like all these amazing energy forces have suddenly been dropped into my lap.   A conversation with one of my bosses leads me to the Jon Gordon weekly emails which amaze me all the time.   They help me question the kind of leader I am and that I want to become.  Someone else suggests a book that will tie into something Jon says which then ties into a situation that I encounter.  Everything is so interrelated.  Sometimes we are on our path and can’t see it because we are looking too hard or can’t believe that is it ours path to take.   I feel like I am gathering all this knowledge to help others, to motivate them to a better person than they were yesterday.  It is all about starting small and then a year later – all those small steps have moved you miles.   Just this past week I stepped out of my comfort zone to suggest that we start a company library.  Why keep such good reads like the Seed and the Energy Bus to a few people.  You never know until you talk to people if they would be interested in finding the joy that is their given right.  I hope this is just the beginning of how I can touch people’s lives. 

  • Cs

    The problem that I see in so many people I work with is that they live compartmentalized lives. Each day they work in many of those compartments and these are only linked by how one compartment affects another. They have the work compartment, family, church/religious, school, other friends, and personal compartments, to name a few. This results in having a purpose for each one, instead of focusing on the single purpose to which God has called them. When we are focussed on God’s call, all of life comes together around it and it impacts everything life.

  • Heather

    My bigger purpose…is the LITTLE things! As a school administrator, the “atta girls,” the warm smiles that greet people each morning, and the two simple words..that mean SO much…Thank You! Thanks to Jon’s many insightful books..I have been inspired to send a daily email to my staff…a quote and a “little explanation” of why I picked it was sent every night. I did this EVERY day for 180 days…every day of the 2010-2012 school year. As my first year as principal, this made such a positive impact for my campus and built many NEW relationships….since they were paying the POSITIVITY forward by passing it on to their other friends! In all, my BIGGER purpose…is definitely taking the TIME for the little things! ;)

  • Paul Davidson

    As a missionary who recently returned from overseas, I was able to work with many volunteer teams over the summers.  Time and time again I discovered that many of those who came over to work alongside us were not really living the same radical life at home on a daily basis like they were on a foreign soil.

    After much prayer, I am now back stateside mobilizing the American church to “live sent” on a daily basis.  As many others have said previously in their comments, it’s all about living out our faith on a daily basis, realizing we have a missional God, and that we are “sent out” ones just as God sent himself, the Son, to the world.

    This sentness has transformed my purpose in the last 2 years and I absolutely love it!

  • Teresa

    I’m a mom who ministers to my family and also to other moms in the throes of raising young children. As a Speaker/Parent Motivator I share authentically about the good, the bad and the sometimes overwhelming events that parents experience daily. Often I get caught up in the expectation that I should be doing more; expanding my speaking territory, my platform, etc., but after every presentation there’s a mom or two that help ground me in reality by offering their heart-felt gratitude for what I was bold enough to share. The occasional email that tells me what a huge difference I’ve made in someone’s family life always stops me cold — and reminds me that my purpose is right in front of me, and I’m fulfilling it one mom at a time.  Thanks for the wonderful post that gives feet to everyday purpose.

  • Cindie Thomas

    I am a Life Coach and love helping women find their unique calling…I am passionate about wanting them to see that God does have a plan for their life and that they can live their lives seeking to serve Him in every way. I believe it is important to give 100% of yourself in all that you do and to do it all for His glory.

  • Nomixformula

    The bigger purpose for which I am working?  A way to share my time,
    talent and energies… connecting with others through my heart and sharing the
    joy that I feel of gratitude, a life of purpose,  faith, thankfulness  and surrender.

    The bigger purpose for which I am working?  A way to share my time,
    talent and energies… connecting with others through my heart and sharing the
    joy that I feel of gratitude, a life of purpose,  faith, thankfulness  and surrender.


  • Kim Derrick

    My purpose is to have a lasting, positive impression on my children, biological and otherwise.  In teaching them to do the small things of being helpful to others, kind to all, and giving of their time and energy to make their corner of the world a better place, we are paying forward all the generosity that has been granted to us. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m currently an area director for a discipleship ministry in St. Pete, Fl. My bigger purpose has nothing do with me. There are numerous things that I want to accomplish. However, I know that at times they are all just worldly. I want to raise up a generation for Christ in St. Pete, Fl that at this moment doesn’t exist. I think it’s possible to do it by winning over one kid at a time. My biggest purpose is denying myself and taking up my cross daily and hopefully having a few people watching my every move.

  • Jobaker

    My larger purpose at this time in my life is nurture the students I teach…to let them feel loved and to know that someone does care about them.

  • Senoraallen

    This is at the root of what I want to get across to my students!  They each have something to contribute to the world, no matter how small their sphere.  Thank you for this!

  • Rich Beery

    I am a healthcare professional who has been employed, unemployed, self-employed, re-employed and now again self-employed over a span of thirty-plus years. It seems to me that Paul’s admonition in Col. 3:23 to “work as to the lord” is solid advice no matter what our employment situation. We always are working for some higher purpose. Even though we may see our “work” simply as a way to meet our own financial needs, we are working for someone else -unless we are self-employed – to meet the needs of others. I believe that in as much as we are meeting the needs of others in what we do, no matter what that may be, we are working toward a higher purpose.
    We must always consider ourselves to be hands and feet for God to work His will in the world no matter what that “work” is.

  • Scott M.

    As an auditor, I am often looked upon an the Internal Affairs within my company and out to get everyone.  While my official purpose is to make sure everyone is doing what they should, I believe my bigger purpose is to try to highlight and recognize integrity within the workplace.  I work for a large company that has been posting significant losses for the past few years and the desire for people to take short-cuts is immense.  I love my job and the opportunities I have to change perceptions and treat clients as people rather than suspects.  I had opportunity to join a mission in Africa and felt guilty to not taking it, but their is a mission for me here as well.

  • Catherine Garnett

    Working with purpose and intention is so important for a fulfilling life. No matter what your job, I believe that cheerfully giving your best to your work contributes to the greater good of those around you and shares the spirit of giving that Jesus would encourage us to do. Giving someone a smile or lending a hand with a challenging project is just as important as giving money or traveling on mission work. All needs, whether large or small, are important to God – and should be important to us. I happen to work at an advertising agency, which some would see as simply helping companies make money. But my coworkers often come together to offer our talents to help when we see a need. We recently volunteered our time and talents and launched a line of t-shirts we designed to help raise money for tornado victims. And once a year we work around the clock for 24 hours to provide free marketing services to non-profits because we decided as a company that giving back to our community is part of our purpose. While it’s necessary to work to live in our society, the kind of work we do doesn’t have to define us. If we truly LIVE with purpose and ACT with intention, then we live a life that makes a difference to those around us, and that makes for a very rewarding life.

  • Pam McDonald

    I work in leadership development in the world of wildland fire where an enemy, fire, seems to intoxicate its victims–the firefighter. These dedicated men and women perform admirable roles to protect life and property as best they can under incredible circumstances. A true sense of purpose brings happiness to many. However, for some the price paid in balancing family can be high.  My purpose is to provide pathways for firefighters to realize a sense of balance between a defined purpose and an addiction to the job and or power of the position.

  • Pam McDonald

    A special thanks to Billy Schmidt, FireGroundWorks blog, for referring me to this site and to Michael for always showcasing great leadership publications.

  • Bdeegan


  • Bdeegan

    The bigger purpose for me is sharing my knowledge with those in my life.  I believe that sharing this knowledge helps me lead them to better oral health.  Since this is mydailygoal I find great reward when my patients get excited at their subsequent visits.  We celebrate these achievements.
    Additionally, I share the benefits of the power of prayer to St. Jude whatever your need as you will find the answer.

  • Bonnie

    I’m working on a 40 year goal of turning acres of green space overrun with noxious weeds  in my neighborhood into a food forest.  I’ve just started.  I measure my success in five foot increments.  When I’m done, children and adults will walk into an area noisy with wildlife and lush with food. 

  • Sarahlynncreative

    My purpose: to  be Jesus to everyone I come in contact to. To call forth people’s stregths and help them find their destiny, strength and passions.

  • amykmac

    Great post! As someone who has always worked, lived & breathed in the non-profit world, it’s easy for me to identify my purpose in work. Many of my friends in the for-profit world get discouraged because they don’t think they have purpose but I tell them just what you say here: that they can have incredible impact just by loving the people they work with & serve everyday. Great post! God bless!

  • Lynse

    I am a woman with many purposes- some fulfilled, some in progress, and some still waiting to be known.  I have four grown sons, three grandchildren, two siblings and a parent who is bedridden.  I have been an educator, counselor, and educational administrator for 30 years.  In addition to the responsibilities that this  entails, I work FT as a director of special education managing the education needs of approx 700 students and 60 staff members.  As I ponder your question, it provokes a variety of responses.  My purpose revolves around being true to myself and the reflection of my beliefs no matter what direction my life takes each day.  Whether it leads me to deal with difficult parents, students, colleagues or supervisors, whether it means contacting doctors, hospitals or nurses for my ill parent, consulting with my siblings about family matters, talking to the annoying telemarketers on the phone at suppertime or simply rocking my grandchild at the end of the day, these people are the ones that have been placed in my path. EACH of them becomes my purpose for that moment in time and it is my words, deeds and actions that will determine the outcome. 

  • James R. Hepler

    If it can be said on the day of my funeral the things that I have listed, to my daughters and grandchildren, in an overly crowded funeral home, they can say, “he lived for the bigger purpose in life”. If my friends say to my family, “your dad: had prayer with my mother before her surgery; visited my parents in the nursing home; taught my sunday school class;gave me food when I was hungry; showed me how to live a christian life; led me to Christ; forgave me; always spoke to me; always found the good in me; was a great example and encouragement at church; was the most unselfish person I have ever known; saved our marriage; loved unconditionally; placed God first in his life; trusted in God when life was hard; lived his life  as a sermon and loved his family”. If this can be said, maybe my children and grand children will also live their lives with the bigger purpose in mind.

  • Donna

    My bigger purpose is fashioning a home, building relationship, with my three daughters, so that when they go out into this big, crazy world, they will have a center, an inner oasis, to turn to when they have trouble or struggles to endure. I love being a mother. Plain and simple, ordinary and honest, my work is never done but always changing. I pray for them as I flip mattresses and fold clean sheets, as I cook their dinners and wash their clothes and walk around the block with them and our dogs. I have words of inspiration up all over our home…plaques and sayings and even positive notes on a dry erase board on our fridge. I want them to go out into their lives with an evenness, a bright and beautiful spirit, and a deep down peace that will stand them in good stead no matter what they face “out there”.