7 Courageous Steps To Handling Failure

23 Oct 2018

7 Courageous Steps To Handling Failure


It’s a dirty word to most people. No one likes to think they’ve failed.

It isn’t always easy to get over a perceived failure

Nevertheless, if you stuff up, there will always be plenty of advice from well-meaning people to help you move forward. Guidance usually comes in the form of vague generalities that tell you very little about how to prevent failure in future.

7 Courageous Steps to Handling Failure

Some of the more common ones:

• Look at the issue from a different perspective.
• Try and distance yourself from it.
• Look at it as part of a bigger context/picture.
• Learn from mistakes and failures and move on.
• Time is a great healer.

While these are valid ways of dealing with failure, they’re also so vague as to be just about useless!

So, what if there was a way that you could actually do what’s being suggested?

Good news!
Here’s a process that will enable you to gain different perspectives, distance yourself from the issue, see a bigger picture, learn from mistakes and let time heal — all in once simple process.

Sound good? Ok then, here we go…

So let’s start at the very beginning.

That’s a very good place to start. (You’re singing it aren’t you?)

Step #1 — Review the event objectively

Review the event, situation or whatever it is that you’ve labelled as a failure. Make sure some time has elapsed before you do this, so there’s no emotional charge. Be as objective as you can be. What insights can you glean from doing this?

Step #2 — Your opposition’s perspective

Now imagine the situation or event taking place on a raised platform, something like a boxing ring — but without the ropes — or the boxers and bloody noses!

See yourself and any other people that were involved in the situation on this platform. Imagine stepping into the body of one of the other people involved at the start of the situation. As you do this take on whatever you might know of their values and beliefs, seeing things through their eyes and hearing things through their ears, feeling what they might have felt. Run through the whole experience from this other person’s point of view. Ask yourself these questions:Question marks

  • What was going on with this other person?
  • How do they perceive your behaviour?
  • What was the real problem?
  • Who could have helped if you’d asked them?
  • What is there to learn from doing this?
  • What do you want to do now?

If there is more than one other person involved you can repeat step #2 of the process by, in turn, imagining yourself in the role of each of the key players and repeating the questions. Notice any new insights you get from doing this.

Step #3 — The impartial viewpoint

Now imagine that you’re the referee in that ring; you’re independent and you don’t favour either party. Review the event from this imaginary, impartial perspective noticing:

  • The interaction between the people involved.
  • What happened that made it a problem.
  • What action (or inaction) would have altered the course of events.
Step #4 — Understand the event as a whole.

Imagine you’re in a gallery looking down on that platform so everything that happened is much further away. Then rewind the event or situation back to the beginning. This time see the event and everyone involved in it. Notice the impact of what happened on the whole team/family/department as you see the event(s) unfold on that platform. Ask yourself:

  • How did your failure affect that bigger system of which you’re a part?
  • Were there other issues of which you’ve just become aware?
  • What is there to learn from this?
  • What do you want to do now?
Step #5 — Look at the bigger picture

Now to get an even bigger perspective on the failure, where this is useful.

  • How did your failing affect the whole company/wider family/community?
  • Was there anyone who could have helped if you’d asked?
  • What is there to learn from this?
  • What do you want to do now?
Step #6 — Check the impact over time

futuristic image

If you imagine your future self 5 years from now, how much significance did this event have in your life overall? Imagine yourself 10 years from now, how much significance did this event have in your life overall? You can repeat this part using longer periods of time. Notice how the failure is beginning to lose significance.

Step #7 — Review and put it back into perspective

The idea of this exercise is to help you put your failure into perspective — after all, it’s just feedback that you made a mistake and that some readjustment might be useful in the future. You might discover ways to diminish the consequences of your action or inaction. You can also determine:
• If there might be a way forward.
• Whether you need to apologise to anyone.
• Whether help was at hand if you had asked.
• What might have triggered the problem.
• If there are any other lessons.


Looking at a failure from different perspectives will remind you of what you learnt; learning that would cause you to respond differently if a similar situation were to occur in future. Failures are the inevitable consequence of moving forward and getting out of your comfort zone. Personally I believe that there’s no failure— only feedback.

And…most importantly

Once you’ve gleaned all the lessons, let the issue go and move on.