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Reflecting, Embracing, and Living

Visionary business leader, Anja Kümmerlein, takes time to look back at 2018, to look forward to 2019, and to remind us how important it is to stay present in the moment.

2018 is almost over and I am asking myself where it went. Surely, January was only yesterday? Time really did seem to speed up this year. And, as I am busier than ever, now is the time of the year to consciously hit the brakes, stop and reflect on what happened, where I am today, and how I got here. Perhaps, most importantly, as the new year approaches, it is time to ask the question: do I want to continue like this?

How about you? How did you experience this year that is now coming to an end? I suggest we take a closer look together.

First, sit back and observe. Try to step out of the now for a minute as a reader, or in my case – a writer, and adopt the observer position. Connect to the real Me; the real You. The real you is the person that you feel deep down inside of you, the one who is whispering to make themselves heard. From this perspective, we can see the different roles we have and play in our lives. In my case: the mother of three, the wife, the friend, the director of my company, the balloon pilot, and myself – the person I am when I am alone.

Secondly, sit down and write down what’s going on in each area and how you feel in each role. Ask yourself the question: is where you are where you want to be? I suggest that you think about this question and write the answers below each role but also try and listen to the answer from deep down inside of you. What does your gut tell you? How do you feel? Look for answers not only with your mind but also with your heart.

And since we are Human Beings and not Human Doings, I always ask myself to what extent have I been ‘Being‘ and not only ‘Doing’. Was my doing in alignment with my being or was it only doing to achieve a certain goal, doing for the purpose of doing something that was maybe not really in alignment with myself? I understand that this is a tricky question as our ego obviously always gets, or tries to get, in the way and will justify, explain, and convince us for its own purpose. Sometimes, our ego will even blindfold us, tricking us into believing that what we did or do had or has a deeper meaning.

Are you still with me? Let’s elaborate this process with a personal example. In my role as director of my company, a lot happened in 2018 and occasionally I ask myself how much I manifested consciously and how much happened without any conscious involvement. My company develops and distributes organic food that is mostly without allergens and supposed to be healthier than the mainstream food found in big supermarket chains. My guiding principle is not to work with companies that are unethical or produce food that has a negative impact on our health. So far so good. Looking at market opportunities and considering the ultimate aim of most big companies being to earn money, I find myself often in a dilemma. Do I follow my dream and what I believe is my purpose and therefore do not accept certain products and certain parts of my client’s behaviour, or do I follow their interest of profit maximisation?

Reviewing the last 11 months, I can see moments where I was unsteady. I accepted some products that were not 100% aligned with my health definition and still felt that clients had the power to influence me. How did this happen? Why was I not able to stick with my intuition? Why was I doing things to please my clients and why did I let my ego take over?

At the beginning of this year, I learned about a process that can help unpack the answers to some of these questions. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey advocate a method called ‘Immunity to Change‘ that helps to identify the underlying patterns of our thinking that render us immune to real change. Kegan and Lahey then suggest creating a SMART experiment to eventually overcome the immunity identified, because as the American psychologist James Hillman used to say, “Ideas that we have, that we don’t know we have, have us”.

This powerful process enables us to understand why we fall back into old behaviour patterns. Once we have identified in our roles what we did not appreciate in 2018, we can define what we would like to change in the coming year. Then, I encourage you to test your immunity to this resolution to increase your chance of succeeding in 2019!

In a first step, write down your commitment or your goal. Your commitment should be true and important for you with a direct implication for your life. Ideally, you should feel a sense of urgency about it. Once you have identified this, state it in an affirmative, positive, and crystal clear way.

To illustrate this method, let’s continue with my example.

1. I am committed to standing up for myself and my conviction on how to create successful relationships with my suppliers and clients, offering only products I can relate to 100%.

The second step is to look at what you are doing and not doing to undermine this goal. What are you doing instead? Ask yourself which of your behaviours work against your defined goal. The deeper you are willing to dig and the more honest you are with yourself, the richer the version of this map will be.

2. Some of my behaviours are: I don’t say ‘no‘ enough to certain products. I don’t prioritise my projects enough. I have no written statement of my beliefs. I avoid acting on what I feel.

Once your behaviours are clear, it’s time to take a third step and explore what the underlying fears and competing commitments are. Let’s analyse what is so engraved in our cells that we automatically fall back into patterns we consciously don’t agree with anymore. This is for me the most interesting part of the exercise and I encourage you to be brutally honest. Keep asking the question over and over: what you are worried about when you do follow through with your new goal? Put your fears in a ‘Worry Box‘ and dive deep to identify the competing commitment that is triggered by this fear.

Here are some of mine:

3. I am worried that I will not be successful if I do what I believe as I am afraid it is against the mainstream thoughts of what products we produce, sell, and buy. I am afraid I will offend people with my opinions. My competing commitments are accepting what my clients are asking for and believing my suppliers know more than I do.

Now, before we create the SMART experiment to immunise us, let’s identify in the last and fourth step the BIG underlying assumptions. These assumptions reveal how you see the world and give you the insight you need to understand why you act in certain ways. Knowing this will enable you to overcome these barriers to change. Ask yourself what happens IF you do not execute your hidden commitment anymore. This can look like this:

4. IF I offend people with my beliefs, they will think I am crazy and not work with me anymore. IF I do not sell the products they propose to me, I will have nothing else to sell and go bankrupt.

But is this really true? How do you know it? Kegan and Lahey propose you create an experiment to check if the assumptions will prove true once we live up to our new goal. They call it a SMART experiment as it is a Safe, Modest, Actionable, Research-based Test that will “gradually build a psychological space between ourselves and the Big Assumptions in order to move them from subject to object”.

So, next time I meet someone who is working in the same field as my clients, I will ask them many questions to test their reaction to my belief system. Slowly, I will reduce the products that do not fit 100% with my vision and steadily introduce products that are wholly aligned to it. And, step by step, I am more and more in being mode, and less in doing mode.

Now, it’s up to you to create the 2019 you want! If you would like more information on the ‘Immunity to Change‘ concept, you can check out And if you would like to share what you want to change in 2019, I am curious to read about it. Always remember: change nothing and nothing changes!


Anja Kümmerlein is a visionary entrepreneur who, as founder and Managing Director of Brussels-based Good & Food, has spearheaded innovation in healthy eating. Good & Food specialises in distributing Organic, Allergen-free, FreeFrom, and CleanLabel food, working with a number of major European retailers. Anja is also consulting on a European Research Project into sugar alternatives. Her background as a senior change consultant and manager has seen her work with many global corporations to implement and manage change, and she brings this experience and insight into her current role and her life. She is also a Gas- and Hot-Air Balloon Pilot with a passion for long-distance flights above the Alps and the USA.

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