Change is hard. I kid you not! Like billions of other people on the earth right now, I am faced with new challenges every day. I can smell (a need for several) change(s) all around me. But, I tell you, sometimes I get scared. I dread whatever it is that change might bring, though like they say, ‘change is the only constant in the world’. The National Youth Service Corps programme is set to throw some ‘disturbance’ into my ‘system’, I’ll most likely be serving far away from Lagos where I’ve lived all my life, but I keep having this quiet nudge to embrace this imminent change. Reminds me of a book I first read six years ago.
I borrowed Dr. Spencer Johnson’s 1998 book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’, again from the same friend recently. I had instantly fallen fell in love with the flat hardcover after reading the blurb and hearing so much about it from a few colleagues then. It was great reading the 94-page book again.
Written in a rather simple plot, the four little characters – Hem & Haw, two Little people, and Sniff & Scurry, two mice – have to deal with several variables in continuous search for cheese. They run around a Maze looking for new cheese, a metaphor for comfort and sustenance, from one Cheese Station to another. Easily seen as a book for children, it reveals profound truths, which can be applied to individual lives, families and even the biggest of multinationals, about change. The story was created by the author to help him deal with a difficult change in his life. He learnt to take his changing situation seriously but not take himself so seriously. Here’s a summary of the key lessons, including extra notes from me:
Change Happens. Often times, just when you are beginning to get comfortable where you are, a disturbance of sorts is introduced into the system of your life. Your job may be the best ‘in the world’, but one day, unexpectedly, you are forced to look for another. A relationship that hitherto was ‘the bomb’ soon loses its spark, and your eyes open up, and it’s time to move on. Relocating often means, you have to leave behind most of your friends in the locality, technological advances notwithstanding. In the face of all these, we all should Anticipate Change. Not that you become a cynic and pessimist, but you learn to appreciate every passing moment where you are now, because our lives as humans, is transient. Like Haw says, get ready for the cheese to move!
Though it appears change happens so fast, it we look closer, we soon discover that change happens gradually. We were just not paying attention. Therefore, we ought to Monitor Change. Smell the cheese so often so you know when it is getting old. Feel the pulse of your environment and regularly check for signs and indicators that it’s time to move to the next thing. When the change finally comes, learn to Adapt To Change Quickly! Haw writes, ‘the quicker you let go of the old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.’ Don’t let your overly clingy attitude make you rot in a limiting friendship and alliance. Never let a failed investment weigh you down so much you don’t begin to plan the next move. Tarrying for too long may lead to loss of a potentially big business deal, or you may end up with the shorter end of the stick. Just Change! Move with the cheese.
Lest I forget, Enjoy Change! Life can be sweeter when we relish the moments of change and the thrills of facing the uncertain. Life derives its excitement from the opposite pull of certainty and uncertainty. Savour the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese. Several times in the past, I have been too focused on the task, whilst not enjoying the process. These days, I have learnt to love myself, and treat ‘me’ with respect and rewards, especially after an instance of success – even the little achievements. Like Haw writes to sum up ‘the handwriting on the wall’, Be Ready to Change Quickly and Enjoy It Again & Again!
P.S.: Though many reviewers, including Amy Coffin, feel it’s a waste of time and that complex changes in real life are not as easily adaptable as portrayed by this book, I believe there’s still a lot to learn from it. I even plan to get my own copy and read it at least four times every year. Ciao!