Creativity, Leadership, Motivation, Personal Development, Strategic planning

Of mice and cheese and little men

I’m going through a transition now. It’s been a challenging time at work the last year or so and I’ve been feeling inadequate, insecure and have been struggling with my motivation. Before, I’d experienced my job as been extremely fulfilling. I was highly motivated, had a great deal of autonomy and was doing work I felt made a difference. Unfortunately, for reasons I won’t go into now, that changed. I was stuck and needed to do something, but what?

I like books and feel that I learn a lot from them. Therefore it was no surprise when the book Who Moved My Cheese, by Dr. Spencer Johnson popped into my head. It was a book I’d read a number of years before and it really made sense. Now it also became very relevant.

The subtitle of the book lays out its theme, An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. The story is an allegory about how we handle change with some suggestions for how to do it better. The main characters are Sniff and Scruff, two intelligent mice and Hem and Haw, two very small humans. All four go daily into the maze in search of cheese. After some time they each find their own cheese. Subsequently they are able to find the cheese faster and faster until they are able to find it without any effort. Then something unthinkable happens. They each enter the maze and move to where they know the cheese is, but when they get there the cheese is gone! The two humans respond with shock. They ask, “Why is this happening to me?” and declare, “It’s not fair.” And they just sit there immobilized. After some time has passed, Haw asked if perhaps they should seek the cheese somewhere else? Wherein Hem responds by complaining even more, claiming that the cheese being gone wasn’t his fault.

Sniff and Scurry on the other hand weren’t very surprised when the cheese was gone. They had been noticing a steady decline in the amount of the cheese for quite some time. After double checking that they hadn’t missed anything they put on their maze running shoes and headed off again to look for new cheese, which they found after a bit of effort.

Johnson summarizes the allegory with the following key points

  1. Change Happens – They keep moving the cheese.
  2. Anticipate Change – Get ready for the cheese to move.
  3. Monitor Change – Smell the cheese so you know when it is getting old.
  4. Adapt to change quickly – The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.
  5. Change – Move with the cheese.
  6. Enjoy change – Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese!
  7. Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again & again – They keep moving the cheese.

I think I need to get out of Hem and Haw mode and into Sniff and Scurry mode. How about you?


4 thoughts on “Of mice and cheese and little men

  1. Ed– what a perfect analogy for my present season as well. It’s been a while since we have caught up, but certainly will pray for you in this season as I walk through my own.


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