Book Review: “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson, MD.

Taking a break from the usual true crime and murder, I read “Who Moved My Cheese” in one sitting and I don’t regret it for a minute. It was recommended to me by a customer, and I am forever grateful to this person for doing so.

Adapting to change isn’t easy, especially when it is unexpected, feels constant, and out of our control. We like to believe we have some control over our lives and what happens to us, how it happens to us and even when. We like to believe we can flip on the switch at a moment’s notice if we are bored, or turn the world off when it is too overwhelming. We believe we are going to find happiness in the same situation, forever. This is an illusion. And can be a rather self-destructive one. But it is a psychological element I personally like to explore in my own writing concerning mystery and thriller stories.

Who Moved My Cheese? is a motivational story that uses metaphors symbolism to break down four different responses/attitudes to change and how we pursue ‘happiness’. The Sniffer, being the one who can sense a change from a mile away and already have a plan of attack in motion; the scurrier, the one who rushes towards the situation and adjusts the plan as they go; the haw, who is adapting to new situations by finding humor in their mistakes and moving on; and the hem, the one who is sewn and set into their ways. I am not going to spoil too much of the story.

As I was reading it, it was a light bulb that had been flickering for too long that had finally clicked on. I had been burnt out on change and adapting to it constantly. Moving from an apartment to apartment, changing jobs, and indecision in plans for the future were taking their toll. Transition periods were particularly long just because it took me so long to adjust the fears I wanted to keep so badly. I expected myself to want the same things I wanted two or even four years ago. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, I had changed and so did what I want. And that scared me. So much that I stopped planning. Being stressed about being stressed had me stressed out. I shut down and settled for a comfortable and reclusive lifestyle. Set in my ways, even though I knew that wasn’t going to get me anywhere. But after closing the book tonight, I felt an enormous weight off my shoulders. It was all of the anger and hurt I’d felt pre-pandemic- the hurt I had brought upon myself because I couldn’t adapt quickly enough to change- and it was finally being released. The fears that I once had about the unknown quickly dissipated as I accept what I had already been aware of but had yet to have taken action to bring to reality. But here’s the thing, I can either choose to let this keep me in my comfort zone and limit my options or to keep moving forward. And I, of course, choose moving forward.

What I enjoyed most about this story is how its message can be applied to any area of one’s life, whether it be your career, relationships, or just general life goals. At the end of the story, a discussion amongst friends is included and gave insight as to how they were planning to take what they’ve learned from the story and apply it to their own lives. Their input shaped a lot of my own personal reflection. For once my journal was filled with positivity instead of heartache and blame. I will no longer beat myself up for not knowing what I feel like I should. But learn from mistakes and plan for the future. I would usually get stuck reviewing my mistakes and beating myself up for them and fearing that I am going to do it again. That’s another thing I am finally letting go of.

Thanks to this book, I finally understand how fear is a choice and you can either let it push you to do better or completely destroy you.

One criticism of Who Moved My Cheese? was how some of the response portrayals insinuate that those kinds of people who struggle to adapt to change are unintelligent. I do not agree with this criticism, nor do I believe that to be the case at all. Considering my own personal education and background in early childhood psychology I can say with confidence that our individual approach and adaptability to change is directly correlated to learned responses to stress that are developed in the early stages of life. We learn how to respond to stress, trauma, and change from our parents, as well as our environment.

According to Swiss psychologist Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, adaption is one of the most important processes developed in the formative stages. The theory is categorized by four stages of learning: sensorimotor, Adaption is learned through accommodation, and assimilation. Assimilation is the act of taking in new information about the world around us and fitting it into a category of how it relates to/affects our own personal life. Like a mental database. Accommodation involves the creation of a new belief or schema when new information that challenges prior beliefs is acquired.

Everyone is on their own path to find their cheese. We cannot control how, when, and if they find their cheese.

If you are struggling to adapt to change like me or even just find yourself in a rut, I highly recommend this book.

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