A question that I’m fond of asking my clients as well as people I meet as the year ends is,

“What was your biggest learning in the last 12 months…and what will you do the same or differently going forward as a result?”

The answers always are intriguing and more often than not I get, “Wow!  That’s a great question…I hadn’t thought about it.”

Most of us don’t. We’re so swamped just trying to get done what needs to be done that we don’t take the time to pause and reflect, let alone use our new-found knowledge to inform our planning and decision-making processes going forward.

As for me, I’ve got two that I’d like to share with you – lessons gleaned from the last year or so that I’m going to make Darn sure that I continue to apply in the year ahead.

My first and most important lesson?  “Win Win or No Deal.”

A wonderful life learning and what has become my rule to live by inall of my relationships – both business and personal.  Courtesy ofStephen Covey, author of another “Habits” book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, this one is Habit #4 and comes right after his fabulous chapter on “The Paradigms of Interdependence” – what I think is required reading for everyone who wants to have fully engaged relationships with all of the important people in your life.

Habit #4 basically states that if we can’t find a solution (or approach or path forward) that works for and benefits both of us, we agree to disagree agreeably – No Deal. As Covey says, “I don’t hire you or we don’t take on a particular assignment together because it’s obvious that our values or our goals are going in opposite directions.”

He goes on to say that it’s so much better to realize this up front in a relationship instead of downstream when expectations have been created and both parties have been disillusioned.  When you live by this motto you can honestly say, “I only want to go for Win/ Win – if both of us can’t win, then it’s okay to go our separate ways or not work together.”

The amazing thing for me as I’ve been applying #4 over the past few months is how freeing this “Habit” is – for myself as well as the other important people that I know and meet in my life.  It’s made a significant difference in how I approach my family, my friends as well as my business associates, prospects and clients.  I’ve been able to be more open, to not make compromises and have found as Covey says that it contributes to an emotional honesty that results in deeper and more meaningful relationships.  A very cool thing…

My second lesson?  “The past is unalterable.”

I don’t share this lesson lightly. I’m probably one of the worst people I know for second-guessing myself and using my mistakes as my personal whipping post.  No matter how much we beat ourselves up over a bad decision we made or what we didn’t do, however, all that we can do is learn from our past and use it to create the future.

The last half of 2011 I had this lesson highly visible – sitting right on my desk where I would look at it every day – a reminder that every day is a new day, that there is nothing I can do about changing the past (until someone invents a time machine  ) and all we can do is learn from our experiences – all of them – and go forward.

So what are your lessons from the past year?  What will you continue to do or do differently in 2012?  I’m curious to know…so email me.  I’d love to hear about them from you!