When I learned of the topic for this quarter’s eZine, one of my favorite books came to mind—Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD. The story is a metaphor about life. It’s about dealing with change and avoiding stagnation. It’s a parable that takes place in a maze. Four characters live in the maze, and they must search for “Cheese” to survive. The maze is long and confusing, and the Cheese is often difficult to find.
The characters include Sniff and Scurry, who are mice. They are non-analytical and non-judgmental. They just want Cheese and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. The other two characters are Hem and Haw, mouse-size humans who have an entirely different relationship with Cheese. It’s not just sustenance to them—it’s their self-image, their belief system—and they become emotionally attached to the Cheese they have found.
The Cheese is a metaphor for the things we pursue in life—our jobs, careers, and relationships. The maze is how we navigate through the challenges we face in our pursuit of that Cheese.
As the four characters search for Cheese, the story reveals traits that either help them move forward or hold them back. It reveals how stagnation, apathy, complacency, entitlement, and blindness can affect the search for new Cheese.
One thing is certain: the Cheese is always changing and moving, and we need to change with it to survive. When the Cheese runs out, it’s time to put on our running shoes and search for new Cheese.
Can you relate to these characters?
- Sniff – Who can smell change in the air; always on the lookout for opportunities; acts more than reacts; likes to keep options open.
- Scurry – Who goes into action immediately; not afraid to try new ideas; acts more than reacts; likes to keep things simple.
- Hem – Who does not want to change; afraid to take risks; overanalyzes situations; reacts more than acts; likes to stay in his comfort zone. “It’s not fair!”
- Haw – Who is startled by change; likes to procrastinate; but then accepts change and moves on to enjoy New Cheese.
At different points in life, or even at different points of my day, I can be any of the four! During the story, Haw begins to write notes on the walls of the maze (“Writing on the Wall”) that hold lessons for us. They reveal ways to turn our Hems into Haws. Here are some of the lessons we can learn from the book:
- Change your beliefs about change. See change not as a threat but an opportunity. Make it work to your advantage.
- The more you learn about the maze, the easier it will be to navigate.
- Imagine new Cheese. “Fake it until you make it.” See yourself enjoying the new Cheese and make it a reality. Imagining yourself enjoying new Cheese will lead you to it.
- Why is it sometimes we cannot find new Cheese? The missing ingredient might be PASSION!
- Instead of falling behind and complaining about how inconvenient changes are, stay ahead of the game and learn new concepts. Take risks and don’t be afraid.
Many of us don’t move until we feel comfortable and safe. But growth does not come from stagnation, it comes from change. Though difficult, if we embrace change, we will find new Cheese.
- As humans, we all resist change. We hide behind our fears, insecurities, lies, food, alcohol, toys, comfort zones, stubbornness, or whatever else keeps us stuck. But these are just delaying the inevitable.
- Change is inevitable. Monitor your environment and anticipate change. Your Cheese may disappear!
- Noticing small changes early helps you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come.
- The quicker you let go of old Cheese, the sooner you find new Cheese. New Cheese is often better. Old beliefs do not lead you to new Cheese!
- When the Cheese moves, you either need to move with the Cheese or find new Cheese. Do not stay where there is no Cheese.
- It is safer to search the maze than remain in a Cheeseless situation.
- When you move beyond your fear, you will feel free.
- When you change what you believe, you change what you do.
- The fastest way to change is to laugh at your own folly—then you can let go and quickly move on.
- And finally, nothing gets better until you change.
Change comes in many ways, but two that stand out are those we initiate (proactive—a new job) and those that are imposed/forced on us (reactive—a layoff). In change, we find opportunities for growth—for finding new Cheese. As the writing on the wall states, “If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct.” We need to monitor, anticipate, adapt, and most importantly, enjoy change!
A quick and enjoyable read, I highly recommend Who Moved My Cheese?
by Maryann Lesnick, CP APMP, APMP-NCA President
Reprinted by permission from the Fall 2015 APMP-NCA Executive Summary