change cheese

On Cheese and Change

10:42:00 AMVeronica Buehnerkemper

More often than I really care to admit, I’ll be sitting on my bed working and then realize I need something across the room.  Forgetting to grab it in the first place isn’t what’s embarrassing. Rather, it’s the fact that I refuse to get out of bed to get what I need. Instead of swinging my feet off the bed and walking across the room, I’ll lie down on my stomach and reach as far as I can, teetering on the edge of the mattress. It’s even better when my roommate does it from a lofted bed. It would have taken half the effort and much less risk to just get out of bed in the first place.

Why is it that we are so set on staying in one place that we pay no attention to our other options? Sure, most often it’s easier to just reach for a book on your bedside table. But why are we willing to risk falling off the bed to stay where we are and not put in the effort to just get up and take what we need?

The answer is simple: We don’t like change.

One of the most significant contributions to our species-wide aversion to change is plain old laziness. It's easier to stay in bed than make our feet hit the floor. But the root of it goes even deeper than that. Our dislike of change goes back to a very human characteristic we all share. Our fear of the unknown. 

Dr. Spencer Johnson wrote a book that addresses just this. Who Moved My Cheese? follows the tale of two mice and two small, people-like creatures who all live in a maze together, looking for Cheese which they believe will bring them happiness. 

One day, they find a large store of Cheese and settle down, becoming comfortable where they are. And then suddenly the Cheese is gone. Sniff and Scurry, the mice, go in search of New Cheese right away. The mice are proactive, responding to the dwindling pantry by going out to look for a new food supply. Unlike the mice, Hem and Haw, the small people, resist the unanticipated change. Haw eventually realizes that change is needed and isn’t necessarily unjust, but Hem remains stuck in his old ways, becoming more and more intolerable as he refuses to accept and adapt to change.  

The story’s focus eventually turns to Haw, who is struggling with the frustration of no longer having any Cheese, and fear of the unknown in the rest of the maze. He realizes that the question he needs to be asked is “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” (1) He eventually finds the drive and courage to seek New Cheese, and learns many life lessons along the way.  Perhaps this simple story illustrates a deeper truth about our own human nature.

Sometimes it takes more work to stay where you are than to just get up and move.

There are areas of our life that we are afraid to change. Circumstances change, plans change, friendships change. People graduate, search for jobs, and move. Life is all about change.

Yet we still resist it. We keep to our old habits, hoping that our Old Cheese will return, persevering through the initial pangs of hunger, only moving on when we feel starvation setting in. We stay in our comfort zones as long as humanly possible, refusing to step out into the unknown until absolutely necessary.

We are faced with a significant dilemma. To satisfy the deep desire within ourselves to stay where we are, or to act on our knowledge that we must change to find true happiness. It has been said that “all morally aspiring men are conscious of the necessity of a purposeful self-education which should cause them to change and to develop. They… reveal a certain readiness to change. But for this, no spiritual and moral growth would exist at all.” (2) Change is necessary for us to move forward. Without acceptance of new scenarios and circumstances, we have a tendency to get stuck in the familiar, to continue to feed the habits which stunt our intellectual, spiritual, and moral growth.

I challenge you to ask yourself: What areas of my life are changing? Where am I resisting change? What is it that holds me back from moving forward with it? Is it the unknown? Frustration? Fear?

We are notorious for overanalyzing and complicating things in our resistance to change. We lose sight of what truly brings us happiness and peace. Sometimes we need to simplify. We need accept change and move forward, sometimes in blind faith. Sometimes we need to be more like Haw, who “[let] go and [trusted] what lay ahead for him, even though he did not know exactly what it was.” (3)

1. Dr. Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese?, 31.
2. Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ, 4.
3. Dr. Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese?, 19.
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  1. "The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." -GK Chesterton


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