Gotta love fables. There’s something about metaphoric stories that stick with us and teach far beyond what a textbook can offer. In “Who Moved My Cheese? An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life”, author Spencer Johnson, M.D. makes understanding Change an enjoyable and impactful read.
Who Moved My Cheese is a simple story about four characters who live in a maze. Their very purpose for being is the pursuit and enjoyment of “Cheese”. Early on in their lives, all four characters discover “Cheese Station C”; a great wealth of cheese that they enjoy for a very long time. Eventually however, the cheese disappears. It is here that the story begins.
Scurry and Sniff, (two little mice) are simple creatures. When the cheese “disappears”, they immediately head back out into the maze in pursuit of New Cheese. Hem and Haw (Littlepeople) on the other hand, respond to the lack of cheese with a sense of betrayal and loss. “It’s not fair!” yells Hem, “Who moved my cheese?!?!” Hem and Haw waste many days thinking about the situation and wondering when the Old Cheese might return. Finally, as hunger sets in along with the stark reality that the Old Cheese is not going to return, Haw sets out into the maze in pursuit of New Cheese. As he pursues his “New Cheese”, he writes what he’s learning on the walls, in hopes that Hem will use them some day and follow him. Eventually, Haw finds his way to “Cheese Station N”, which is piled high with all different types of cheese, enough to last a life time. Scurry and Sniff, it turns out, had arrived at Cheese Station N long before.
Who moved My Cheese? really is a marvelous little book. Full of brilliantly simplistic insights into our hopes, dreams, fear and actions, the story acts as a gently yet imaginative reminder of some key facts that we all need to acknowledge. Namely:
The Big Idea
No matter how content we may be with things as they stand currently (and often because of it!), change happens. Heraclitus (535BC – 475BC )is the original source of the expression “The only thing constant is change”. In our cores, we know this to be true. Nothing stays the same forever. In fact, it’s even more accurate to note that change is happening every day. Little by little we, our situations and the world around us are growing and adapting.
If that’s true, then why are we so often immobilized by new circumstances? And better still, if we know change is going to occur, why are we not proactively working to change it in a way that benefits us and the world around us?
Monitor your current situation regularly for mold
“Noticing small changes early help you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come.”
Who Moved My Cheese?, page 68
It’s foolish and naive to believe that everything in life is going to remain exactly as is. It’s better to be aware that change can come at any time and to be open to the possibility. Your best option, though, is to be diligent in taking inventory of your situation on a regular basis. Just like proactive checkups at the doctor’s office can help stem future problems, so should you perform your own “checkup” on your future endeavors on a regular basis.
Are things progressing the way you had planned?
What new factors exist? What sort of impact could they have?
Move your own Cheese.
“It’s a lot better to initiate change while you can than it is to try and react and adjust to it. Maybe we should move our own Cheese.”
Who Moved My Cheese?, page 83
No matter how content you are (and more often when you are comfortable!) head out into the maze every now and then to see what other options exist. Not only will this help you stay abreast to new potential opportunities, it will also keep you sharp and remind you that the maze really isn’t that scary a place. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Whether you initiate it or let it drag you along, change happens. How it affects you is directly related to the attitude you take. Will your foray into the maze be a terrifying one, or exciting? Do you know what it is you’re looking for? As Haw discovered, the more clearly you can picture your Cheese, the more exciting the pursuit is and the more likely you are to find it.
In his intro, Kenneth Blanchard reminds us that, “both the mice and the Littlepeople represent parts of ourselves – the simple and the complex. (Who Moved My Cheese?, page18). We all have doubt, we all have uncertainty and fear of the unknown. And yet – change happens. The question becomes “Which part of yourself are you going to embrace?” Are you going to be Hem, stuck at Cheese Station C, wishing the Old Cheese would come back and blaming the Universe for your misfortune? Or are you Haw, charging back out into the maze in pursuit of greater accomplishments and gains? See you at Cheese Station N.