January is big business. The most lucrative time of year for anyone hoping to profit from our collective guilt and self loathing.

Eaten too much Christmas pudding? Better sign up for an 18 month gym membership you’ll only use twice. Or better still, do what I did and buy a treadmill that you’ll use half a dozen times and that will act as a handy clothes horse for the next 5 years until it fills with dust and stops working.

Found it hard being around your family so much this Christmas? Better call your lawyer. A solicitor friend told me last week that apparently the first working Monday of the year is known fondly in the legal sector as ‘Divorce Day’.

I can only assume such law firms ‘celebrate’ Divorce Day dancing on desks to Dolly Parton and munching volovants as the calls from woeful wives and heartless husbands roll in like last minute Christmas shoppers at Argos.

Spent too much this December? Now having trouble paying the gas bill? Better call one of those nice payday loan people. What better way to start the new year than with some brand new high interest debt?

Had 2 weeks off work? You’re probably dreading going back. Here’s 50 Facebook or LinkedIn articles about why this is the year you don’t have to and definitely shouldn’t. After all, you’re a strong, independent (wo)man that don’t need no poxy job, right? Go on, stick it to the man! Reach your potential. New Year, New You. Oh and please buy my new ‘inspirational’ self help book before you completely run out of money.

This time last year, while I just about resisted the urge to run away from my family and/or try to find the treadmill under all the boxes and discarded children’s toys in the garage, I found an article entitled something along the lines of ‘10 reasons why you need to quit your job in 2015'.

The article was reassuringly well written and made some convincing arguments about the stifling effect my employment arrangements were having on my dreams of entrepreneurship, my undiscovered creativity and my ability to spend all day playing Xbox.

I practically wrote my resignation letter in my head before I’d even finished sharing the article with everyone I knew.

After spending most of January seeking out and hungrily consuming dozens upon dozens of similar articles/blogs, many written by revered entrepreneurs and all claiming the same glorious epiphany, I then spent February, March and much of April intermittently questioning the meaning of life, writing a couple of (terrible) business plans, coming (I realise in hindsight) rather close to a nervous breakdown and actually really definitely 100% resigning from my job.

Now don’t get me wrong, change is, usually at least, a good thing. And I definitely think that inspiring someone to reflect upon their lives and look to make positive changes is just super. Go get thin. Go get the girl/guy, go get botox or whatever. Dreams are good.

However, as many of these same authors circulate pretty much the exact same “escape from the repression of your paid employment” article 12 months later, I feel the sudden and apparently impossible to ignore urge to present a more sober, sensible, perhaps even less irresponsible argument on how to make positive changes in your life this year without consigning your family to the food banks.

Because, despite your dimwit boss who is definitely holding you back, the brain dead colleagues who spend all day talking about some shitty jungle TV programme, the life-sapping commute on the overcrowded bus that smells like Poundland toilets and the fact you’ve always secretly wanted to make a living painting still life models, now probably isn’t the the time to jack it all in and follow your dreams just because the month starts with a J and some rich people said so in a blog.

After all, if things really were that horrible, you probably wouldn’t need to be ‘inspired’ to tear up your old, previously acceptable life by some smug, self-made mouth-breather, hell bent on bumping his/her pulp fodder up the Amazon pecking order. You’d already be doing something. Wouldn’t you?

Of course some jobs are crap and, honestly, I think I would actually find it easier to write about why I really do think you should seriously evaluate the origins and validity of your belief systems that led you to your current salary prison.

Specifically, the belief system that led to you amassing a crap-load of student debt and sleepwalking into an open plan 9–5 for 40–50 years, serving little tangible purpose in the world, helping nobody but your boss (who you hate) or some faceless shareholders (who you also hate), chasing bullshit/fictional promotions and spending half your ‘compensation’ on the mortgage for the house you apparently have to own and not rent and the latest gadgets and clothes that those nice advertising people make look so irresistible on the telly box. The telly box that you spend most evenings glazing towards rather than talking to your loved ones because you used up all your energy and enthusiasm on that job you hate but need to keep to pay the mortgage and buy things you don’t need.

Et cetera.

I’m a little tempted to follow up this (increasingly punctuation-averse) post with another one entitled ‘why you actually need to quit your job this year after all’. I can comfortably be that much of a hypocrite.

The point is: you can do what you want. Do it in January or do it in September. It doesn’t matter really. Certainly not to me. Just don’t do it because someone with clever, endorphin-tickling words and a popular twitter account said you should. Be smart. Have a plan. Start today. Give yourself options. Weigh up worst case scenarios. Decide who might need to help and support you. Talk about it with people you love and who love you.

Want to quit your job in 2015? Or just want to change something? Improve something? Improve yourself?

Good. So do I. Here’s a simple 3 point plan I made (when I eventually stopped worrying about my lack of qualifications for such a task). A plan that makes sense to me and that I am proving infuriatingly shit at sticking to. Hopefully it strikes a chord. Hopefully you will do better. Hopefully you’re still reading. Good luck.

  1. Stop spending money.

Seriously, take a look at what you’re spending. Write it down. Set yourself a target of cutting say 60%. Sounds huge doesn’t it? Challenge everything. Who says you can’t shop at the cheap supermarket? Who says you need to own your own home, or precisely that home with the 25 year mortgage vastly limiting your life options for A QUARTER OF A SODDING CENTURY.

Think about it. Is it worth working another 5 years to drive a slightly better car? I’ll probably write more on this later. I cut my spending massively last year. My wife was able to quit her job. We’re no worse off. Eventually I’ll join her. Baby steps.

2. Resuscitate your brain.

Try this: Come up with 10 things you love doing. This is actually really hard. You’ve probably forgotten. You’ll get to 5 or 6 and run dry. Try remembering when you were a kid, what made you happy? What were you passionate about? What excites you? Life is short – we should do things that excite us every day.

Now think of 10 possible businesses related to each of those 10 things. Bam! You’ve just listed 100 possible businesses you could try, all relating to your interests and passions. Pick 5 of them. Start maybe 1 per month. Spend as little money as possible on each. Get help if you want. Tell everyone what you’re doing. Unless you’re a moron, at least 1 of those 5 should be a decent business. It won’t be boring. What’s stopping you?

3. Diversify.

You’ve just (hopefully) started doing a load of things you love that could turn into businesses. You might be writing a book or a blog. You might be selling stuff on the internet, promoting yourself for a little consultancy work or making something pretty out of wood. Whatever. You might not be making any money just yet but you can and you will. Be patient. Keep trying different things.

Now sit back down and think of 10 more businesses related to your existing ones. 10 groups of people each business can help. 10 people who might pay for that help. If you can get to a point where you have 2, 3 maybe even 4 or 5 separate income streams, however small, suddenly you have some options, suddenly the day job is a little less important, less essential. Suddenly you’re not so scared of imagining life without it. You’re being smart. You’re diversifying.

But hey, not everyone wants to work for themselves. Once you’ve got your 100 businesses, get your CV updated, send it to 100 businesses matching the descriptions in your list. Get agencies to help you for free. That’s what they do! Do you honestly think you wouldn’t get at least one of these jobs? So what if it doesn’t pay as well. I guarantee you don’t need to spend anywhere near what you’re spending right now.

I actually felt happier and more in control of my life with every pound I saved compared to my old spending habits. Most of what I used to spend was to pay for disorganisation and laziness. I didn’t have time or energy to organise food, cleaning, utilities etc so paid a premium as my punishment.

Suddenly, I realised I was sacrificing the best years of my life working to pay for a cleaner or take away food or tradesmen etc because I didn’t have time to organise my life…because my wife and I were spending so much time at work. Everything was the wrong way around. It still is really, but I see now. I’m taking back control. One day at a time.

I’m not being deliberately flippant. Much of this is hard. It takes time and energy. You’re probably much lower than you’d like to be on both.

Also, I’m no expert. No example. Not really. But having digested thousands of supposedly inspiring and empowering words this past 12 months, this is what I think I’ve learned.

Maybe January 2015 really is the right time to break free. To liberate your brain and pursue your dreams. But it probably isn’t. You’re probably completely reliant on your boss not waking up one day and firing you. You’ve probably got 20 years to go on your mortgage, 2 years to go on your car loan. You probably still think £600 per month is about right for a family to spend on food. You probably still pay for Sky TV or the latest mobile phone on an 18m contract.

You’ve boxed yourself in, made yourself wholly reliant on one source of income to keep the carousel turning. You kid yourself that you’re in control. That this is the way you wanted things. And then you wake up. Maybe. I don’t know.

What I do know is this was me last year. I’m still trying to unravel. Trying to take back control. You can too. If you want to. But not yet. One step at a time. One day at a time. Baby steps.

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