3 Steps to move forward from failure

Have you ever had one of those weeks where things don’t work out? It’s not much fun is it? You feel like you’ve failed. It can be hard to move forward from failure.

We can face this situation with 3 simple steps.

  • Feel (be disappointed for a short while)
  • Change our frame of mind (put it in perspective) and finally,
  • move forward.

This feeling of failure we have comes from something pretty common. According to a survey conducted by the National Science Foundation in 2014, about 70% of adults in the United States report feeling like they “don’t measure up” in some way.

Tough Week

This week I’ve had a number of big disappointments. I’ve had a few initiatives get ‘put on hold’ – which is the project management equivalent of limbo. I’m also working on the budget for my area for next year, and like many of us in tech – there’s a lot less money around for next year than this year. I’ve also had a really good team member hand in their notice.

I was surprised how upset I was by all of this. Sure – they are all disappointing, but these are all tiny bumps in the road compared to some of things I’ve faced in my family over the last 5 years. Normally I find that a bit of time – normally 24 hours, plus some exercise and talking it out with someone, tend to put me back in a better place. But that didn’t work this time. I was struggling to move forward from failure. I realised that I was so disappointed and upset because I really cared about the initiatives, the team, and the hopes and plans for next year. We know that failure is part of doing new things (see post on caring enough to fail). But this was a bigger than average disappointment. So I let myself be disappointed for a little while longer.

Bigger Picture

Then I started to put it into perspective. I spoke with 2 different people I know outside of work this week who’ve just been laid off. They were both really upset about it. Suddenly, my disappointments didn’t seem so bad. I started to re-frame things. What could I learn from this? What could I do differently next time?

Having re-framed the situation – I was already starting to move forward. I was (mostly) through my funk. As a team we decided what to focus on now that our resources had been freed up, and I started to look for improvements to make in team structure after as I look for a new team member. 

When I reflected on this, I came up with my 3Fs for dealing with failure:


Let yourself feel disappointed or upset when things go wrong. It’s ok to feel like that. Acknowledge and accept them. Give yourself some time and space to process your disappointment. Take a break from the situation that caused it and do something else that you enjoy.


Try to find something positive in the situation, even if it’s small, or look at the big picture. Reframing your disappointment can help you see it in a different light and allow you to move forward from failure.


Look forward and take the next step. Reflect on what caused your disappointment and what you can do differently in the future. Use the experience as a learning opportunity and allow that to power you as you move forward from failure.

If you’re still struggling … there’s a 4th F

Friends and Family

Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist and share your feelings with them. Sometimes talking it out can help you gain perspective and feel better.

Remember that disappointment is a natural part of life and everyone experiences it at some point. Be kind to yourself and take the time you need to heal and move forward.

Whatever you do, do it with heart!

Comments are closed.