Why is it so difficult to deal with change and uncertainty? What’s up with the world and wanting to move our cheese? Wait, why is there an emphasis on cheese here?
Today’s post is another book summary! A lot of you may already be familiar with it: ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It’s a tale about 4 mice in a maze who have different approaches to the inevitable changes that they experience. I won’t dive too much into the story itself, but rather the nuggets of wisdom that I gained from it.
We experience change on a continuous basis. Most recently, the era of Covid-19 has disrupted the way we do everything. From social distancing, to wearing masks, constantly spraying our hands with vinegar smelling sanitizers, having curfews and working from home.
It certainly has been a struggle for almost everyone. But it is less of a struggle for people who manage to adapt rapidly and expect change. Let’s talk about the nature of change, its consistency in life, how we can learn to expect change and embracing a growth mindset (yet again).
The nature of change
What exactly is the nature of change? This is such an interesting way of thinking about things. It’s essentially what evolution is all about; the ability to adapt to unexpected circumstances. As human beings, we love predictability (I suppose all living things do). When we experience situations that disrupt those predictions, we feel uneasy. Yet the essence of life is continuous change.
In the story, the 4 mice experience a radical shift in their living situation. They no longer find cheese in the same little station within the maze. Two of the mice decide to move on and search in new places to potentially find cheese. The other two get stuck in their old ways and start complaining. They become furious and agitated because their cheese is no longer there. They feel like they deserved and earned it. It’s unfair that this is happening to them.
The cheese can mean different things to each of us, but it essentially represents something in our lives that we hold onto. Something that we deserve. Something that we’ve earned. Something that should permanently stay ours. Something that makes us happy. This could be a job, a relationship, freedom, recognition or even an activity.
The problem with that mindset is that it makes us clingy. We stop seeing the world for what it truly is. We become egotistical in a sense. It causes us stress, it drains our energy, and it makes us unpleasant to be around. So what can we do instead?
We should be more like the mice who decided to move on and look for new cheese, immediately after the calamity struck. What’s interesting thing about expecting change is that we basically have to ‘expect the unexpected’. You never know when something could show up and re-direct the course of our life. It just happens. We don’t necessarily get a choice in that specific event, but we always get to choose how we respond to it.
When it comes to anticipating change, the key is to stop holding onto things. We need to learn acceptance. I’ve spoken about that several times before, but it’s always so relevant. Acceptance is what enables us to become more adaptive.
Another way to expect change is by actually imagining the worst-case scenario. This kind of exercise isn’t always easy, but it allows to consciously think of how we would overcome terrible scenarios. It’s actually quite a common practice in stoicism. Again, the point here is to embrace the unknown. Start leaving your comfort zone more often. You’ll be surprised at how resilient you are.
The last point I want to make about change is that being adaptive is fueled by having a growth mindset. Everything that I mentioned before is primarily driven by our mindset and approach towards things. If we believe that our experiences will help us develop new skills, make us stronger and allow us to grow, change becomes a necessity.
Constantly think of the impact your struggles have on the neural connections in your mind. Being adaptive can actually become physically ingrained into who you are. The next time you face an unexpected change, embrace it. Accept it. Think about it this way:
“What have you come to teach me?”
You’ll realize soon enough that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be, to become who you’re destined to be. It’s okay that you find it tough. It’s okay that you enjoy planning for things. It’s okay if you’re comfortable in your routines. Just anticipate that it won’t always be that way. You’re better off when you stretch yourself past the discomfort. You got this.