During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy for us to have a negative mindset. This attitude can change for the better if you read the short self-help book, Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson. Despite having a simple story, the book encourages the readers to change their perspective and feel that they have greater agency. Instead of thinking about how bad the current situation is, the book provides a blueprint on how to accept change.
In the story, there are 4 characters that all share the problem: their beloved cheese is gone. The first two characters are mice called Sniff and Scurry. Unlike the Littlepeople Hem and Haw, they detect change right away and keep moving around the maze to find yummy cheese to eat. On the other hand, Littlepeople’s cheese is more than for sustenance. It also symbolizes something important in their lives, like their goals or dreams. When Hem is faced with no cheese, he keeps complaining and doesn’t accept change. Haw does this at first, but then he decides to take a different approach by exploring the maze. As he walks around, he encounters messages on the wall that ultimately persuade him to adapt.
Johnson compels the readers to ask themselves which character they want to be. He does this by featuring characters who view the same problem differently. Having characters with contrasting personality traits can cause the reader to notice that they might be a Hem. This was the case for me. Before reading the book, I failed to notice that my inability to accept change was a big issue. This was during a time when I refused to accept the fact that I was moving to California. It wasn’t until I read Hem’s thoughts and actions that made me realize I was a Hem. Complaining about leaving the school I liked wouldn’t change the situation. Because the story has a simple plot, this makes it easy for readers to understand the moral of the story and apply it in their own lives. From not making the basketball team to not getting the internship, these are undesirable situations. Based on the book’s messages, however, they make it quite obvious that those who fail to change will be miserable and perhaps dead from no cheese. In my case, I realized that my Hem mindset would prevent me to see the good things of California and it would take a longer time for me to adapt to the new place.
Although people can apply the book’s moral in various settings, this classic self-help novel is even more relevant during COVID-19. A common feeling people embody during this time is hopelessness and cynicism. I know it is not ideal to have online school, but repeating negative thoughts about the dullness of life won’t make me happier. For the first time during the quarantine, I stopped asking, “What could I not do because of COVID-19?” Instead, I asked myself, “What can I do even during COVID-19?” This is an empowering thought. I realized that I have books in my house to read, a piano to play nice pieces, and fresh air outside (for the time being).
In the end, it is up to us to decide whether we want to keep holding on to what doesn’t exist or make the best use of the current situation. For instance, onsite activities are gone. However, we can use our creativity to take advantage of our resources such as the internet and online platforms to pursue our interests. This pandemic will be the real test of who will remain as a Hem or become a Haw.