Lessons about change from the book "Who moved my cheese?"

We all know that during our lifetime, things change.  Some changes are of our own doing, some are not, but the ones we often feel anxious about are those that we didn’t ask for. The changes that we have little control over.

As a Financial Planner, I see change all the time. Change in client circumstances, change in regulations, taxes, and of course the investment world. 

I’ve also seen history repeat itself, and I know that the outcome of change and uncertainty is invariably not as bad as initially feared. It’s important to embrace change and prepare for it but I;m well aware that sometimes it can be struggle.

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

Seneca, Roman philosopher

If you don’t really like the thought of change I would like to introduce you to Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw and encourage you to read a wonderful little story titled “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson. 

The story revolves around four characters: two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two little people, Hem and Haw.

They all live in a maze and rely on cheese as their source of happiness and success.

Early in the story, they discover a vast cheese station called “Cheese Station C” where they find an abundant supply of cheese. The cheese represents their ideal situation, whether that is an excellent job, relationship, finances or any other aspect of life.

Sniff and Scurry don’t take things for granted though. They check the cheese supply and expect that it could run out. They venture into the maze daily, ready to find new cheese if the old one disappears.

On the other hand, Hem and Haw, the little people, resist the thought of change, and become complacent, assuming the cheese will always be there. 

One day, to their horror, they find that the cheese has vanished. 

While Hem and Haw struggle with the new reality, Sniff and Scurry are off. They leave to find new cheese in the maze. Hem and Haw, trapped by their fear and denial, refuse to move on, desperately hoping the cheese will return.

Eventually, Haw realises that this change is inevitable, and staying will lead to unhappiness. He wants Hem to join him, but he refuses. Reluctantly he decides to venture into the maze and search for new cheese, taking risks and adapting to the unknown.

As Haw explores the maze, he learns important lessons about letting go of the past. He writes motivational messages on the walls, encouraging himself to keep going but also hoping his friend Hem will venture out and read them too. 

“If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct”

“What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid”

“Smell the Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old”

“Move with the Cheese and Enjoy It!”

“The Quicker You Let Go of Old Cheese, the Sooner You Find New Cheese”

“It Is Safer to Search in the Maze Than Remain in a Cheeseless Situation”

Haw eventually finds Sniff and Scurry, and discovers a new cheese station, “Cheese Station N,” where he finds even better cheese! 

He reflects on his journey and realizes that change can lead to new opportunities and personal growth.

“Who Moved My Cheese?” emphasizes the importance of not just adapting to change, but acknowledging that change will happen, and it’s best to plan and be prepared. 

Financial Planning is all about “cheese”. Growing and protecting your cheese but accepting that the cheese may not be there forever, and not to get too complacent. We must embrace uncertainty, and proactively seek new opportunities for growth and success in life and work. 

If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend that you spend an hour or so reading this short story and reflecting on its message. I’ve certainly been doing that myself since reading it.

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