Human beings are creatures of habit. We find something that works for us and we tend to do it, over and over, whether it continues yielding good results for us or not. A relationship that was once good but has gone sour? We stay in that relationship, forever waiting for it to “get good” again. The job that we once loved becomes a dreadful life-sucking chore, yet we stay. Day-in and day-out we slog through the grind, telling ourselves that since we once really loved our job, we will one day love it again.
Spencer Johnson, M.D. spent a lot of time explaining this very phenomenon. His book is written in the context of mice who knew of a certain location at which cheese magically appeared every day. Then, one day, the cheese stopped appearing. Yet the mice kept going back, day after day, looking for their cheese to reappear. They were hungry and cranky and confused because their cheese had stopped showing up, but instead of setting out for the great unknown to look for a different source of cheese, they just habitually showed up at their usual location, choosing to hungrily complain about their lack of cheese instead of going out and looking for more.
I read this book for the first time seventeen years ago. I was working an impossible job at an agency that offered no real future. I had been there for about a year and was actively searching for an escape. For me, it was a no-brainer. I knew I was leaving. I fully anticipated finding a great new job that would inspire me and fill me up and re-energize the love I had for what I do. It was, of all people, my mentor who gave me a copy of Who Moved My Cheese.
She had been working at the agency for years at that point. Ten years, fifteen? I can’t be certain anymore. But it was a long, long time. Her cheese had stopped showing up ages ago.
She was so supportive of my leaving, so happy that I was applying for other jobs. Yet she wasn’t doing it herself. While she was encouraging me to go, she wasn’t doing the same.
She never told me why she wouldn’t go. Perhaps she couldn’t articulate it herself. All I can figure is, it takes courage to change.
In order to continuously grow into the people we are meant to become, we must be willing to live outside of our comfort zones. We must be willing to try new things, even if they’re risky. We must be willing to step out in faith, believing that if we leap, our net will appear.
One of the most difficult situations we find ourselves in is when we’ve aligned ourselves with others who are not willing to change. They stunt their own growth and ours as well.
Change is uncomfortable. Change can be scary. At a minimum, change is a pain in the ass because it disrupts our routine. It’s inconvenient. It makes life messy. And, as we established at the start, human beings are creatures of habit. We generally don’t like inconvenient or messy.
Yet, the evolution of our soul is our reason for being.
Which leaves us with no other choice than to be brave.
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