You Can Always Change it Later: A Mantra for Perfectionists

You Can Always Change it Later

If you’re a perfectionist — and it gets in the way of your productivity — consider this your new mantra.

I can always change it later.

This is what I tell myself when I’m struggling against the resistance.

What if it doesn’t work?
Couldn’t it be so much better?
What is the best way? Because I’m pretty sure this isn’t it.
Shouldn’t I figure out how to make it its best possible self before I release it to the world?

If you find yourself putting things off, or not shipping at all, or worse — never even starting — you need to do two things.

a) Get the fuck over yourself. Nobody’s paying attention anyway.
b) Get the fuck on with it. Otherwise people will never pay attention.

Everyone feels this fear, this hesitation — especially those who run their own small businesses. Our income depends entirely on our output, and if our output is shit, well, how will we pay the rent?

But let’s be honest: it’s not as bad as all that. And anyway, I’m not suggesting that you ship shit. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. And — forgive me if I’m stating the obvious — it’s impossible to get anywhere near perfect without even testing anything.

So think of it like that: you’re just testing everything, to figure out the best way of doing things.

Give yourself permission to do it — to ship, to publish, to announce, to email, to pitch, to whatever — without making it perfect. Because you CAN, believe it or not, change it later.

  • Upload a crappy theme to your website? At least you actually have a website up. Change it later when you find a better theme.
  • Publish a blog post that’s not as stellar as you want? Get the message out there in the first place. Change it later when you refine your idea.
  • Create a new course that could be run better? Learn from your students what could be improved. Change it later when you’ve gotten some live feedback.
  • Draft a guest post pitch that doesn’t quite capture what you’re going for? At least you’re connecting with bloggers. Change it later and pitch it to someone else.
  • Write a prospecting email that doesn’t get any responses? You’re just learning what works and what doesn’t. Change it later and target different companies with it.

Change it later, when you’ve figured out a better way of doing things. For now, just get the fuck on with it, so you can actually get to the point where you can figure out the better way.

‘I can always change it back’ also works. If you’ve landed on a new idea, and you think it just might be incredible — but what if it isn’t? — there is no harm in testing it to find out. It’s not the end of the world if somebody sees something of yours that isn’t perfect, or isn’t right, or has the complete opposite effect to what you intended.

I faced this dilemma a couple of weeks ago, when I was deciding whether or not to give away the first week of my course for free. I was worried that people might read it and then decide they didn’t want to take the course after all (what if they thought it was shit?), or that they would decide they didn’t need to take the course after reading the first week, because they could figure it out for themselves (‘oh, that’s all there is to this? I don’t need to take a course for that’).

No matter how much my friends told me it was a great idea, or how much I reminded myself that all my students have loved the course so far, I still couldn’t help feeling the fear. Then I reminded myself that I could always change it back. Turns out it was a fantastic decision: my email sign-ups have soared since making the change, I’ve had several lovely emails from people thanking me, and I’ve already filled a handful of slots for the next session of the course, despite not actually having announced it publicly yet. (Soooo, I guess that was it: registration is open!)

If you never create anything you need to change later, that’s a pretty bad sign. Because that means you’re not improving. And if you’re not improving, how can you expect your business to get better? To make more money? To reach more people? To make a fucking difference?

So go do that thing you’ve been thinking about for 17 weeks. BECAUSE YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE IT LATER.

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