Background: Who Moved My Cheese?
Who moved my cheese is a highly popular book about change management based around the concept of four characters in a maze. The maze is a metaphor for life and cheese is a goal. The book tries to emphasise that change happens (cheese moves) and when it does there are four main behaviours that are used to deal with it:
The book itself is very powerful for helping people evaluate themselves when they face change. But it leaves a very big question unanswered…
Who moved my cheese?
The underlying assumption of the whole book is that it doesn’t matter who moves your goals posts – change is inevitable and unavoidable so its best to be prepared. For those early on in the road to personal development this can be helpful. It motivates people to stop ruminating on their circumstances and take positive action, but it can also have a side effect of allowing people to become unquestioning or accepting of restraints that are placed upon them. Which is why Deepak Malhotra’s perspective acts as a much needed extra layer.
I Moved Your Cheese
I moved your cheese is also a pleasant and quick read based around mice in a maze. The book begins with the mouse population all being converted by ‘The Good Book’ (Spencer Johnson) and so they spend their lives busily running around finding new cheese. However, there is an underlying feeling of acceptance that cheese moves and it doesn’t matter. There are even a few characters who get very uncomfortable when younger mice start to ask questions. To question is not productive, this is just the way things are.
However, there are three characters throughout the book who have slightly different attitudes to change. Like ‘Who moved my cheese’ the behaviours of these characters show the reader further approaches to change management that seem to have been missed out in Johnson’s telling of the maze.
It is important here to note that all of these characters share common traits. Firstly, that they accept change is inevitable – it will happen at points in a lifetime. However, they do not blindly accept change. These characters understand that change happens for reasons, can in cases be controlled and sometimes is even irrelevant to happiness.
Max – Max is a young mouse who demonstrates relentless curiosity. He realises that having cheese is irrelevant to his happiness if his life is made up of a constant cycle of running and eating. Inner peace much be about so much more. Max refuses to accept that change happens without reason and so develops a sense of greater purpose: to find the sources of change and then take control of his own destiny, changing the things he doesn’t like about the maze. Max’s life becomes about the pursuit of knowledge and the ability to control his own destiny by escaping the ‘maze’ that was built for him.
Zed – Zed is an older mouse who experiences happiness without the need to run for cheese. He takes what he needs every so often but is generally content on his own. To Zed, change is inevitable but irrelevant because his intrinsic happiness does not come from the pursuit of cheese. He is happy just to ‘be’ and so doesn’t have to be ‘doing’ all the time. Zed possesses an extraordinary mindset which is a little hard to get to grips with on first reading. He explains that people think too hard about the maze, the constraints placed upon them. It is not about the mouse in the maze, but the maze in the mouse. Zed has overcome this issue and is able to walk through the walls of the maze because he has transcended the thinking of his captors and ignores the constraints they have placed upon his lifestyle.
Big – Big is a fit and sporty mouse who takes pleasure from running. Unlike mice who seek cheese to be happy, Big does sport to be happy and finds cheese along the way. Big has an understanding that happiness comes from spending time doing what you love rather than always chasing a moving goal. It is this purpose that allows him to experience freedom in the maze – making the maze irrelevant for the most part. When the maze becomes a hindrance to his goal (not enough room to run in) then Big takes action. Only when his purpose is affected by change does he decide to do things differently.
Looking at the two books together I think there are a number of important take away points:
My Take Home Point
When I reviewed ‘I Moved Your Cheese’ my take home point was about being ready find new passions and sources of happiness when your cheese is moved. Reading ‘I Moved Your Cheese’ adds an extra layer to that point. Be happy with the pursuit of happiness. To travel the maze is a journey and the journey itself must be fulfilling, not just the end goal.
Finally, do not be afraid to challenge change. Sometimes there is no reason. But at other times there is a reason and you do not have to let other people’s constraints affect the way that you live your life. Be questioning and always remember that your mindset is the maze inside you – you have control over your mindset if nothing else.
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