This weekend during a trip to the used book store, my best friend picked out a fascinating little book for me. She knew that I was a little lost in life and that I was considering trying some radically new things in the coming months. I was scared about this change. I didn’t need to go through it or step out of my comfort zone. I could keep living the way I had been so far, in my cozy little bubble, without any dire consequences. Or so I believed.
We had spoken about my plans over dinner the night before and my friend decided to share a list of books that had helped her grow and embrace change in her own life. “Who moved my cheese” was on top of that list.
My best friend was visiting out of town and had asked me to show her all of my favourite spots in Toronto. When we were browsing books at Reread, my favourite used bookstore in Toronto, my best friend asked them if they carried a copy of the book. Luckily they did and were selling it for 10 bucks cheaper than the sticker price. I obviously bought it right away.
I read the book for the first time yesterday and finished it within an hour or so. It is only 95 pages long. Then I read it again.This time out loud, to my mother. Not because we love having long philosophical conversations, but because I thought it was an immensely valuable message, a gem, that I should share with people I love. While I was reading it out loud, I also took notes, for you. I believe this book applies to everyone, everywhere. It is about change, the only constant in our lives. While everyone must face change at one point or the other, it is one’s attitude towards it that differentiates the game changers from the herd of sheep that I used to travel to work with every morning (a herd I was a part of, and as a herd we looked like zombies).
This book by Dr. Johnson is written in a short story format. The story follows 4 characters, 2 mice and 2 “little people” (mice sized humans). These characters run through a maze looking for cheese, find it and lose it. While both parties find that their beloved cheese has disappeared on them, they choose to react differently to this huge change in their lives. Each character’s attitude and reaction to change is what makes all the difference. This short story (95 pages includes an introduction and discussion, the story is much shorter) is jam packed with life lessons specially as they relate to change. I have picked out a few to share with you, however the list is not exhaustive. So if you have access to your Google Play or App store, go download the book. I will wait………
……..Now that you are back, lets begin with the lessons. I will keep this list short so as to avoid too many spoilers.
1. Let go of what is no longer working for you, even if it has been a constant in your life or you will never discover a better life.
The more dependent you are on a belief, the more you want to hold on to it. For example: This is the best job I can find in my life. I cannot do what I love if I want to earn money. These are limiting beliefs. However, even when the idea is no longer a source of happiness, we hold on to it with dear life and miss out on the wonderful new things that are out there, waiting for us to let go of the rotting body of our old beliefs.
2. Just because the change is not your fault, it does not mean that someone owes you amends.
This one kind of crept up on me. This lesson seemed to descend from the heavens, take me out to the play ground and beat the life out of me for thinking that I was the centre of the universe. It said to me “Just because your company decided to lay you off due to their financial troubles, they do not owe you a new job. Shit happens. Sometimes, it is far from your fault. It does not mean that you sit outside the office where you once used to work demanding amends. It is time to get off the pavement and look for “new cheese”. Because the amend’s (old cheese) are almost always never coming your way.”
3. Visualization is a great tool for motivation
When life takes a turn for the worst and you look like a deer in headlights it is very easy to get caught up in the downward spiral of “woe is me”. The pictures and narratives in your head dictate your actions. If you are stuck in a sinkhole and cant stop imagining the worst (suffocation?) then you will continue to panic and sink faster. If you can take a deep breath and visualize what it would feel like to be on solid ground, you are more likely to calm down and see the dangling vine/branch that you can use to pull yourself out of a sticky situation.
4. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
This was a big one for me. While fear hasn’t stopped me from jumping head first into new situations, I don’t usually seek them out. If i get stuck in a rut, I need something to push me to make a change. It is usually because I am afraid of what I will find in this dark and scary world, outside of my well lit, comfy corner. I always prefer the devil I know to the devil I will find. Maybe this is why I miss out on paradise? The character in the book that decides to head out on a journey to find new cheese despite of paralyzing fear soon realizes that the world isn’t as scary as his mind had created it to be. He also realized that even when he has no cheese, the journey to finding it and acting despite fear made him happy. All he had to do was let go and trust that everything would work out fine. While I have had similar experiences (sensations of euphoria) from taking fear head on, I often find my next piece of cheese and settle in for the long haul. I now realize that happiness lies in the journey and not the cheese stations (if any of these references are lost on you, you haven’t grabbed the book yet. Stop stalling)
I will be taking the next few days to consider my answer to the question “what would I do if I wasn’t afraid”. It will also do me well to remember that happiness lies in the unknown and the only thing stopping me from my happy adventures is my own self talk. It is a brave new world out there. It is time to put my running shoes on (another reference you would get if you would just grab the book already).