14 Nov 2021

Before you quit, ask yourself why do I get up each morning?



It’s currently a rare day without loud chatter about ‘The Great Resignation’. Droves of people globally questioning the true value of what they do at work. When we consider the term ‘value’, what springs to mind? Perhaps words tucked away deep within us like purpose, meaning, or even the true reason we get up in the morning.


Quitting is not a new concept. So, what makes The Great Resignation different? According to Texas A&M University’s Anthony Klotz who created the phrase, The Great Resignation has resulted from a double whammy; an increase in jobs quit & people burnt out. 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, and according to recent research by Microsoft 38% of Australian workers are also considering walking away from their current job. On the contrary, this week The Age reported there was no evidence of The Great Resignation in Australia, with only 7.6% of Australians switching jobs in the year past to Feb 2021. (In the late 80’s job resignation in Australia soared to 19.5%).




Regardless of fact, opinion or prediction, there does seem to be a shared commonality surrounding The Great Resignation. We seem to be questioning ourselves more often about work and life. The last 2 years have seen some take a step back from work and spend more time doing other things. For some, there has been a relentless ‘always on’ over connection to work. Most of us have worked either flexibly, remotely, hybrid, or for periods not worked at all. Working parents have faced additional burden juggling childcare, home school and their careers. For thousands of people their seems to be an underlying existential frustration and questioning. Does my work and life have meaning? Do I need to make change? What happened to my balance and happiness? Can I find better purpose? Do I even have purpose?


Frustration, uncertainty and an untethered rudder can feel daunting, overwhelming and ‘bad’. But ‘bad’ can be positive, our catalyst for change. In accepting the possibility for change, we take a step towards far greater satisfaction in work and life. According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. Our ikigai is defined as ‘the reason we get up in the morning’. According to renowned ikigai authors Garcia and Miralles, ‘it lives deep within each of us, and many of us are yet to find it’. Those that have been fortunate to find their ikigai feel deep value in their every day, a purpose and lightness in their life. Shining in the centre of The Great Resignation conversation is a reminder for each of us to stop, search for and find our own ikigai. Before we make any decisions on work or life, perhaps we need to ask ourselves a few ‘ikigai’ honest questions… What do I love? What am I good at? What can I be paid for? What does the world need?


Based on a diagram by Mark Whinn




It’s helpful to also remind ourselves, that The Great Resignation is an outcome of a totally imperfect world. We live in a world that will always be imperfect, and as the imperfect human beings we are. To find our ikigai we must also be vulnerable and accepting that this world, our lives and our jobs will always change. There will always be uncertainty and life will always throw us ongoing challenges. Every one of us can choose our attitude and actions to respond to any imperfect circumstance. When we do this, in the words of Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl, ‘we choose our own way’. Finding true ikigai teaches us to understand that regardless of imperfection, our lives will always be full of opportunity for growth, achievement and happiness.





For employers, there is so much positive opportunity to be gained fuelled by the fundamental shift in how people think about the role of work in their lives. Workplaces can cultivate the concept of ikigai in their organisations. Finding more innovative opportunities for people to participate in passion projects, or to utilise more technical or human skills that people are naturally good at.


Flexibility has fast become a non-negotiable for many people and how an employer makes their employees feel is front and centre. Empathetic and compassionate leadership can also go a long way to make people feel inherently valued. Humans are wired for deep connections, and while flexibility and hybrid work environments are top on the desire list, it also imperative to build and maintain real human connections. Connection enables ongoing links into senior management and an overall sense of shared belonging & purpose.




As individuals, finding ikigai and really questioning what you want in life may not mean quitting your job. Perhaps it is simply revisiting what makes up your life bucket, an assessment of how you have portioned your bucket. Ramping up your time, focus and energy in some parts and cutting back in others. There is no magic recipe for finding happiness, but we can try hard to find moments, tasks, and occasions where we can readily reach a state of flow. Flow, which Garcia and Miralles define ‘as the optimal experience state where you are completely immersed in life’.


One commonality that individuals have with a clearly defined ikigai, is they pursue their passions no matter what. These people do not give up. When the world seems against them and when the waves keep coming, they keep showing up and surfing the waves. This concept is familiar to many, it’s called resilience. Resilience is not just an ability to persevere, instead we should view it as an outlook that each of us have the power to cultivate, every day. Resilience helps us stay focused on the important things in life, rather than what is always stressfully urgent.


As The Great Resignation washes around us, let’s think deeply about our ikigai. Ikigai is different for us all, but before we make any decisions, remember to spend your days connected to what is meaningful. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, how truly exciting. As Viktor Frankl said, ‘your mission is to discover it’.



#Ikigai #Purpose #Career #Leadership #Coaching


Poppy Griffiths is a professional coach and Director of UnlimitU a high-performance consultancy which supports the career and family success of working parents, personal and leadership development of women, and the positive mental wellbeing of people. If you or your organisation is interested in coaching, workshops, or speaker programs, please get in touch. poppy@unlimitu.com.au 


Poppy is UnlimitU's founder and principal success coach. "Every human has more potential, hidden, held back or in the making"