When you are directly affected by change, do you fight it or do you accept it?
Many years ago, I read Spencer Johnson, M.D.'s bestselling book, "Who Moved My Cheese?" to my children (there's even an illustrated children's version). I was hoping some wisdom about change management might get adopted by my kids when they need to switch from playtime to bedtime.
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash
This book tells a story of several characters who lived in a maze, and are very happy where they are because there were plenty of cheese to eat. One set of characters was constantly looking for other places where new cheese might be, while the other set of characters was content to stay at the station where cheese gets replenished day after day. One day, the cheese station was empty and it never got refilled again. When this happened, the first set of characters were already moving on to find new cheese, while the second set of characters were surprised, in disbelief, and upset that the cheese disappeared. The story ends by asking the reader whether this set of characters will eventually move on to look for new cheese like the others did, or will they continue to stamp their feet and demand for cheese to return the way it was before.
After reading the story to my kids, my daughter asked, "Instead of looking for new cheese, why don't they make the cheese themselves?" Brilliant! (Of course I'm biased.) She may not have been the first to come up with that suggestion since the book was published in the late 1990s, but this unexpected and inventive perspective is exactly what we need to adopt in these days of change. My favourite aspect of this approach is that it flips the situation from what's outside our control to what's within our control.
Before I jump into sharing my recommendations for making our own cheese, I want to acknowledge a few things when it comes to controlling our own destiny (aka 'making our own cheese'). Even though we're talking about taking (back) control, I recognize and accept there are things in our environment that will remain outside our control, like external political and economic events, technology, and timing. There are also equally important factors closer to us such as old systems and existing cultures that can arguably make it as difficult for us to initiate change - take bias and marginalization of certain people as examples. I am advocating we take a more proactive and creative perspective to the inevitability of change. One of the great benefits of doing this is a switch from reacting to change, to creating the change.
How to make your own cheese:
Know what you want What fulfills you and makes you happy? That's your cheese. You might already be making your cheese. Conversely, what doesn't fulfill you but just keeps you in a static state may actually be stale cheese. Until you know what you want for yourself at the present and for the future, you may not know how good or how bad you have it.
Recognize and overcome self-limiting beliefs Our limits are usually set by our own thoughts and beliefs. In a previous post, I shared some examples of these self-limiting beliefs as well as recommendations on how to manage our thoughts. Until we can prepare ourselves to break these mental chains, the opportunity to create our own cheese will elude us. The power of self-awareness affords us the opportunity to check ourselves and start devising our action plan to start thinking the way my daughter did. What's holding you back? How can you challenge the status quo?
Develop a continuous learning and curiosity mindset People with a growth mindset don't set limits on their potential to learn new things. They find a coach to learn from themselves and their own experiences, and they find mentors to accelerate their own learning, especially from mentors who have created their own cheese. The biggest asset I've seen in those who can make their own cheese is their ability to let go of old-beliefs and have taken steps to unlearn things.
My intent with this blog post is not to convince you to adapt to change - we all know this is necessary, yet each person needs to take their own time and path to adjust to change. Changing ourselves for the sake of change is also not advisable. You may be very content with your current situation. Perhaps you've found your dream job or your "life's calling," and therefore should take the time to enjoy your cheese. If you find yourself assured, comfortable and secure about your future, it's probably because you proactively prepared yourself and made the right decisions, rather than relied on chance or luck.
So I ask you again, when you are directly affected by change, do you fight it or accept it? Or do you have a plan to create the change yourself? (Let me know in the Comments section below.) Making cheese is an internal decision, but not a solo journey - please get help.