Overcoming Failure in Life: The Failure Checklist

If things aren’t going so well, it’s a great time to look forward, plan out a path, and set some goals. It’s also a great time for reflection. I always like to look back at the previous year and do some accounting… and ask myself; what went right, and what went wrong? While I like to focus on the successes, it’s also good to look at what went wrong. This simple reflection is helpful for overcoming failure in life.


Failure can offer great insight.

Failure can help us change direction

Failure can offer abject proof of something that didn’t work.

Unfortunately, admitting failure is usually painful. In so many cases, it’s easier to just move on, than to actually analyze the situation and learn from it. And here is one thing that I know for sure…

If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them.

So.. on this note I decided to come up with a failure checklist.

It works very simply…

You write down and describe the failure and then you answer four questions…

1. What can we learn from this?

2. How could we have done things differently?

3. Where do we go from here?

4. What does this make possible?

Actually taking a few minutes and writing down the answers can yield some amazing results. Putting things on paper allows our mind to consolidate thoughts and come up with solutions.

To make this easier for you, I’ve created the failure checklist in a MS Word template that you can download and print out for free.


If you had some things that didn’t go so well last year, why not write them down and take a few minutes and go through the questions.To help you get started, you might want to read a couple of posts on the subject that might give you greater insight…

How to Fail Well, a guest post by Nathan Rouse

What Does This Make Possible, by Michael Hyatt

This simple exercise has given me greater clarity as I plan out my goals for the New Year. It has given me some surprising answers to some tough problems. The act of actually writing them down has allowed me to visualize the problems and come up with solutions.

Question: Do you think a sheet on overcoming failure in life will be helpful? Are there other questions that you might ask?


  1. says

    Those are great questions to ask. There are a lot who feel that looking at failure isn’t the correct way to learn success. I can understand what they’re saying, but there’s also tremendous benefit in learning from our failures.

  2. says

    I agree, Loren. I’m a big believer in the strengths test and looking at what we do well, but our failures tend to be the best teachers if we ask the right questions. I certainly have learned more from failing than having things go right.

  3. says

    Hi John,
    I didn’t reach all of my goals in 2012 but I did reach most of them. I like to take quiet time during the day and be still and just reflect on my day, week, month or year. Sometimes we get to busy to do this but it is an invaluable tool.
    take care…

  4. says

    Yet again, another great post, John!

    I always perform a self assessment or SWOT analysis every 3 months or so, but I really do a comprehensive one for myself and my business at the end of the year.

    I’ve made many mistakes in my short life, and although I haven’t been a repeat offender, I dislike feeling like my failures were a terrible loss of time even though I learned from them.

  5. says

    Failure is a part of our own success stories in life. We should learn from the lessons it gave us, true indeed that if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them. Thanks for sharing a very informative post.

  6. says

    I agree that writing down your failures down on paper and analyzing what went wrong, what you did that led to it helps you see it in perspective and allows you to learn from the mistakes/failures so that it is not repeated. Loved the post, very helpful.

  7. says

    Looking back at your track record is a great way to find those hidden gems. Especially,as you say ,to look at it objectively. Asking the hard questions can help us work through the items that we may have put aside or paid little attention to. It may be that we need to bring in some help or delegate certain items to others.

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