We all handle change differently. One thing we know for certain is that change is a constant. Large or small, change is happening all of the time. So, learning how to embrace change is important. The question is:
How you do deal with change?
Dealing with change in the workplace is something that HR practitioners come across on an almost daily basis. But as somebody who is being impacted by change, how do you cope?
For many people, change is scary. It is a topic taught in many an undergraduate and post graduate management course. I myself have sat through many lectures on change management, listening with eagerness. Lapping up various models of change. But that’s for another post.
Years ago I was given a book called “Who Moved My Cheese” by Dr Spencer Johnson. It was a great little read. You can get through it in about half an hour, and it’s one of those books that changes everything.
I stumbled across the book again yesterday when I was cleaning out my study, and I read it again. I forgot how much I loved it.
I will summarise it for you.
Who Moved My Cheese?
It’s about four central characters. Sniff and Scurry are two little mice. Hem and Haw are little beings the size of mice who look and act like people. The characters all live in a complex maze, and look for cheese to nourish them and make them happy.
The maze could be a scary place, with dark corners and alleys leading nowhere. The maze could also be a place of hidden cheese treasures. It was easy to get lost in the maze.
So when the characters all find Cheese Station C, filled with delicious cheese, they are delighted.
Following this windfall, each of the characters developed their own routines. Sniff and Scurry would wake early and race through the maze, following the same route. When they got there, they would take off their running shoes, and tie them together and hang them around their necks so they were ready to be used again if they needed them quickly. After that they would enjoy the cheese.
Hee and Haw developed a different routine. They would wake a little later, get dressed slower, and walk to Cheese Station C. They now knew where the cheese was and how to get there, so there was no rush.
No one knew exactly how the cheese ended up in Cheese Station C. They just knew it would be there.
Hem and Haw were living the good life, thinking they had enough cheese to last them forever. They were very comfortable with their new routine, and they felt secure, happy and successful. Hem and Haw even moved their houses closer to Cheese Station C, and built a social life around it. Hem and Haw were very comfortable. They didn’t notice what was happening around them.
All the while, Sniff and Scurry continued with their routine. They would arrive at Cheese Station C, have a look around to see if there were any changes from the day before, then start to nibble on the cheese.
One morning when they all arrived at Cheese Station C – there was no cheese!
This came as no surprise to Sniff and Scurry who had been noticing a decline in cheese for a while. They were prepared, and they knew what to do. They took the running shoes they were ready to use, put them on, and set out to find new cheese. They knew the situation at Cheese Station C had changed, so Sniff and Scurry knew that they also had to change. Off they went in search of new cheese.
When Hem and Haw arrived at Cheese Station C later in the day, they were completely unprepared for what they found. They had not been noticing the subtle changes that had been taking place for some time.
“What? No cheese?”
“No cheese? No cheese?”
“Who moved my cheese?”
Hem and Haw’s reaction was one of disbelief. They were simply unprepared. They didn’t understand how it could have happened, and felt that it wasn’t the way things were supposed to be.
To them, “the more important your cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it.”
They returned to Cheese Station C the following day, somehow expecting to find their cheese. It was not there. After much disbelief, Haw finally wonders if they need to do something differently.
Hem really doesn’t think they have to change. After all, they are entitled to that cheese. They have worked for it, and someone else did this to them. He just wants to get to the bottom of it and hope it all reverts back to the good old days once it’s all sorted out.
Haw is thinking differently. Perhaps it will never be the same again, and they need to go back out into the maze and find new cheese.
Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry, in their running shoes, had been exploring new parts of the maze they’d never seen before until all of a sudden – hello Cheese Station N!! A new supply of cheese, the biggest they had seen!
Hem and Haw remain in their situation, trying fruitlessly to change it. Surely ‘they’ will have to put the cheese back soon? However, cheese never reappeared.
Haw realises they are not getting anywhere, and sees what his fear is doing to him. He finally gets up the courage to find his old running shoes and leave the maze to search for new cheese. Hem would not leave his beloved Cheese Station C, even though it continued to remain empty. Hem is comfortable there, and he’s scared of being out in the maze. He doesn’t want to get lost, and doesn’t want to feel foolish if he can’t find more cheese. He’s afraid there’s no new cheese out there, or if there is he won’t know where to find it, and is convinced that ‘they’ will eventually put the cheese back.
Haw knows it’s time. He says “Sometimes, Hem, things change and they are never the same again. This looks like one of those times. That’s life! Life moves on. And so should we.” And off he went.
While Hem was still thinking “who moved my cheese?”, Haw was now thinking “why didn’t I get up and move with the cheese sooner?”
Moving through the maze wasn’t easy for Haw. He did feel afraid when he didn’t recognise parts of the maze. The maze was a confusing place. He would get lost sometimes, and his progress was slow. But if Sniff and Scurry could do it, so could he! And he kept going, even though there were times he wanted to go back to Cheese Station C. Haw reminded himself that “movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese”.
Haw started to enjoy himself, and he realised why. “When you stop being afraid, you feel good!” He started imaging what it would be like finding new cheese, and he would think about what he could gain instead of what he was losing.
For Haw, “the quicker you let go of old cheese the sooner you find new cheese.”
Haw realised that what you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine, and the fear you build up in your mind is worse than the actual situation. He realised that will be continuous, whether you expect it or not. For Haw, “old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese.”
Haw then stumbles upon the incredible Cheese Station N, piled high with new cheese. And he saw his old friends Sniff and Scurry. Haw tied his shoes together and hung them around his neck.
He wondered about Hem. Was he still in Cheese Station C, waiting for someone to deliver new cheese?
Haw decided that he would not go back to find Hem, and that Hem would need to make the decision to change himself. Haw did not slip back into his old routine of staying comfortable. He would inspect Cheese Station N every day to check the condition of the cheese so that he would not be surprised by any unexpected change.
Haw wrote a summary of what he had learned in the maze:
THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
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
Savour the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese!
Be Ready to Change Quickly and Enjoy It Again and Again
They keep moving the cheese
Why do people fear change?
It is easy to fear change when you get comfortable. It is natural to want to be in a state of comfort, and keep doing something or remaining in a situation that is familiar.
It is natural to fear failure. No one likes to fail. Haw knew that you could learn to deal with change. He realised that you did not need to overcomplicate matters or confuse yourself with fearful beliefs, and he knew that there is always new cheese out there.
When You Stop Being Afraid, You Feel Good!
Which character are you?
- Sniff, who sniffs out change early?
- Scurry, who scurries into action?
- Hem, who resists change and denies it’s happening because he fears it will lead to something worse?
- Haw, who learns to adapt when he sees that change can lead to something better?
I’m sure that at different times in our lives and in different situations, we have been parts of all of these characters.
Overcoming the fear of change isn’t easy. Taking small steps to get out of your comfort zone is a great place to start.
Find your new cheese – it’s waiting for you if you look.
Many people want to change their life and live it on their terms. People who are on this page may be investigating a new career from home. I’m here to tell that you that there is always new cheese. And you can find your new cheese. You can be taught how to find cheese, you just need to be willing to sniff it out.
Imagining Yourself Enjoying Your New Cheese Leads You To It
You will be OK. Trust in yourself and make it happen.
Leave me a comment or question below and I’m happy to help.