"Who Moved My Cheese?" is a story all about change and what it can do for us.
The cheese = what we want in life: money, power, a family, health, success, spiritual peace, relationship, hobby, etc.
The maze = the place where you spend time going after what you want - the "cheese".
It's a metaphorical story which opens our eyes to the many important principles concerning personal change. As I read this short story I pictured the "cheese" as being my work and job as an English teacher since that is pretty much my main focus in this phase of my life - though of course I am aware that not everybody's "cheese" is their job and work.
The first thing which caught my attention in this book was the realization that what we truly consider important in our lives is what we most hold on to and yet at the same time take for granted. This might sound like a contradiction but it's not. Take your family for instance: We all want a good relationship with them and so we create strong ties towards them still all the while taking them completely for granted.
We also tend to tie ourselves down to what is the safe and secure thing to do. We don't want to risk getting out of our comfort zone and so we build barriers thinking that that will protect us and maintain things as they always were. By doing this we go on to blurring our vision of what is actually taking place all around us to the point that we end up completely blinding ourselves to the outside world - what isn't in our "safe zone" parameters. But one bright sunny day, change walks up to our door - and who says it'll knock and ask politely if it may enter?!
Nope! The truth being that we have been getting constant warnings and signs but how could we have seen that if we've this whole time been blinding our vision? That’s just not a possibility anymore!
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?" This little eight word question slapped me straight in the face when I read it! That's the question we should ask ourselves when we've awakened to find ourselves wanting to kick off self-indulgence and the standpoint that we see ourselves in. This question makes you think and search deep inside so that you can find the answers to muster up the courage to launch out forward and into the unknown.
A quote that has stayed with me since my childhood reads the following: "There is no standing still. You are either going forward or backwards. There is no in between."
The reason for this is that the world doesn't stop for you. People won't stop for you. Nothing stops for you! Life is all about change and transformation. The fact that things always are changing is the only one thing we can be certain will never change - it's an old vicious cycle. Yes, the one thing we can always be sure to have in life is change!
How to deal with this constant change in our lives? Here are some thoughts which I extracted from this book to help me desire change and deal with it a little better:
- The sooner we leave our comfort zone the quicker we adapt to change.
- We need to take control instead of simply letting things just happen.
- Change won't take us by surprise if we are watching, waiting and anticipating it. Change can only surprise us if we don't expect it and aren't looking for it.
- Sometimes fear can be good. When you are afraid of things are going to get worse if you don't do something it can prompt you into action. It's not good when it keeps you from doing something, when it paralyzes you.
- Moving along makes you feel great! We have to let go of the past to adapt to the present.
- You start to change as soon as you learn to laugh at yourself and at what you are doing wrong. Reflect on the mistakes you have made in the past and use them to plan for the future.
- Envision yourself in realistic detail finding something better - something much better - and that will make a whole big of a difference.
- Many times we are held captive by our fear as we think that a change will only lead to something worse. But the truth is that what we are afraid of is never as bad as what we imagine it to be. The fear that we let build up in our minds is worse than the situation that actually exists.
- New beliefs encourage new behaviors. When you change what you believe you change what you do.
- Sometimes we need to let go of people that are holding us back. No matter how hard that may seem in the beginning if we do so we might even have a chance to help them later on once we've helped ourselves.
- It's safer to be aware of our real choices than to isolate ourselves in our comfort zone.
- The biggest inhibitor to change lies within us.
- Enjoy Change!!!
Wikipedia on "Who Moved My Cheese?”
Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, published in 1998, is a motivational book by Spencer Johnson written in the style of a parable or business fable. It describes change in one's work and life, and four typical reactions to said change by two mice and two "littlepeople", during their hunt for cheese. A New York Times business bestseller since release, Who Moved My Cheese? remained on the list for almost five years and spent over 200 weeks on Publishers Weekly's hardcover nonfiction list.
Allegorically, Who Moved My Cheese? features four characters: two mice, "Sniff" and "Scurry," and two littlepeople, miniature humans in essence, "Hem" and "Haw." They live in a maze, a representation of one's environment, and look for cheese, representative of happiness and success. Initially without cheese, each group, the mice and humans, paired off and traveled the lengthy corridors searching for cheese. One day both groups happen upon a cheese-filled corridor at "Cheese Station C". Content with their find, the humans establish routines around their daily intake of cheese, slowly becoming arrogant in the process.
One day Sniff and Scurry arrive at Cheese Station C to find no cheese left, but they are not surprised. Noticing the cheese supply dwindling, they have mentally prepared beforehand for the arduous but inevitable task of finding more cheese. Leaving Cheese Station C behind, they begin their hunt for new cheese together. Later that day, Hem and Haw arrive at Cheese Station C only to find the same thing, no cheese. Angered and annoyed, Hem demands, "Who moved my cheese?" The humans have counted on the cheese supply to be constant, and so are unprepared for this eventuality. After deciding that the cheese is indeed gone they get angry at the unfairness of the situation and both go home starved. Returning the next day, Hem and Haw find the same cheeseless place. Starting to realize the situation at hand, Haw thinks of a search for new cheese. But Hem is dead set in his victimized mindset and nixes the proposal.
Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry have found "Cheese Station N", new cheese. Back at Cheese Station C, Hem and Haw are affected by their lack of cheese and blame each other for their problem. Hoping to change, Haw again proposes a search for new cheese. However, Hem is comforted by his old routine and is frightened about the unknown. He knocks the idea again. After a while of being in denial, the humans remain without cheese. One day, having discovered his debilitating fears, Haw begins to chuckle at the situation and stops taking himself so seriously. Realizing he should simply move on, Haw enters the maze, but not before chiseling "If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct" on the wall of Cheese Station C for his friend to ponder.
Still fearful of his trek, Haw jots "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?" on the wall and, after thinking about that, he begins his venture. Still plagued with worry (perhaps he has waited too long to begin his search...), Haw finds some bits of cheese that nourishes him and he is able to continue his search. Haw realizes that the cheese has not suddenly vanished, but has dwindled from continual eating. After a stop at an empty cheese station, Haw begins worrying about the unknown again. Brushing aside his fears, Haw's new mindset allows him to again enjoy life. He has even begun to smile again! He is realizing that "When you move beyond your fear, you feel free." After another empty cheese station, Haw decides to go back for Hem with the few bits of new cheese he has managed to find.
Uncompromising, Hem refuses the new cheese, to his friend's disappointment. With knowledge learned along the way, Haw heads back into the maze. Getting deeper into the maze, inspired by bits of new cheese here and there, Haw leaves a trail of writings on the wall ("The Handwriting On the Wall"). These clarify his own thinking and give him hope that his friend will find aid in them during his search for new cheese. Still traveling, Haw one day comes across Cheese Station N, abundant with cheese, including some varieties that are strange to him, and he realizes he has found what he is looking for. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience. He ponders a return to see his old friend. But Haw decides to let Hem find his own way. Finding the largest wall in Cheese Station N, he writes:
They Keep Moving The Cheese
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
Move With The Cheese
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.
Cautious from past experience, Haw now inspects Cheese Station N daily and explores different parts of the maze regularly to prevent any complacency from setting in. After hearing movement in the maze one day, Haw realizes someone is approaching the station. Unsure, Haw hopes that it is his friend Hem who has found the way.
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