Who Moved My Cheese Book Summary (Dr. Spencer Johnson)

“Who Moved My Cheese?” is a bestselling self-help book outlining five personal change principles. Learn what these principles are and how to apply them in your life.

The key message in this book is that life is full of unpredictable changes; we can’t control them, but we can easily adapt and effectively handle the changes with a positive attitude and mindset.

Using a positive mindset and strong willpower, you can still grow in any painful situation in life.

The book is structured in three parts.

  • The first part sets the scene and introduces the characters.
  • The second part is the main story, where the characters deal with the change and its consequences.
  • The third part discusses the lessons it teaches and how to use them in life.

Who Moved My Cheese Characters Intro

The book is a fable that tells the story of four characters who live in a maze and must navigate through it to find cheese.

These characters dwell in a maze—a metaphor for life’s journey—and learn valuable lessons about handling change.

The story follows four characters – two mice named Sniff and Scurry, and two “little people” named Hem and Haw – who live in a maze and rely on cheese for their sustenance and happiness.

  • Sniff and Scurry adapt quickly to the changing situation, representing those who act when faced with change.
  • Hem and Haw are more hesitant, representing those who may avoid change for fear of what lies ahead.
hem haw sniff scurry

“Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.

Who Moved My Cheese – Story

Finding Cheese

The story begins with cheese at station “C”. Sniff and Scurry wake up early, go to station C, tie their shoes to their necks, and enjoy cheese! Hem & Haw would get up early for a while, but then they’d start getting up later and make their way to Station C more slowly.

Sniff and Scurry know that they will finish the cheese one day, so they run around the cheese station and observe it. They are ready for the change situation. Meanwhile, Hem and Haw are not even aware of this situation.

No Cheese!

One day, when Sniff and Scurry reached Cheese Station C, it was empty; they didn’t waste their time and got ready to search for another cheese station.

Meanwhile, when Hem and Haw reached and looked at the empty cheese station, they were confused; Hem got aggressive and yelled, ‘Who moved my cheese?’

The Mice: Sniff & Scurry

While Sniff & Scurry were running in the maze searching for cheese. They went through long corridors and even dark corners, but they didn’t get afraid. They were searching for a new cheese with full potential. Sniff and Scurry find some cheese pieces on their way. But they are surprised when they find a bigger cheese station, station N. They were happy because this station was bigger than the previous one, and they enjoyed their life here without fear again.

The Little people: Hem & Haw

Two little people were thinking about where the cheese was gone; maybe someone kept the other cheese the next day. They decide to wait for the next day. They came to the station the next day, but unfortunately, no miracle happened; no cheese was there.

Hem was thinking about Sniff and Scurry; where were they both gone? Did they know something that we don’t? We are humans, and we are unique; we deserve more.

Haw asked him how we deserved more. Hem told him we were not responsible for this situation; someone else did this, and we got in trouble. We must get our cheese back. Haw advised him not to overthink the situation and to get ready to search for a new cheese, but he disagreed.

Valuable Lesson From Who Moved My Cheese

Meanwhile, Back In The Maze

Hem and Haw still used to go to Cheese Station C, hoping that someone would put their cheese back one day. But it didn’t happen. Now, they are both frustrated and fighting with each other.

Haw tried to convince him to get to the maze again, searching for new cheese, but he said he was comfortable with this place. Hem excused that he had got old and couldn’t face the problems outside this well-known place.

Both are getting weaker day by day, but they do not want to change their minds and leave their comfort zones. When Haw realized that they were acting wrong, the condition would worsen if they continued to waste their time by believing that things would be corrected without action.

Getting Beyond Fear

Haw finally decides to leave the place, but somewhere inside, he is getting some fear, but he must defeat it. The next day, he wore his jogging dress and running shoes. Hem saw him and asked where are you going? Are you going in the maze searching for new food? What if you don’t find anything?

Haw replied, I don’t know what will happen next, but I can’t wait anymore by sitting here. It is better to try something than just sitting and wasting time. And I must find something if I go with a positive mindset.

Haw felt energetic as he started his new journey after realizing his mistake. Haw wrote down a note on the wall, hoping Hem would be inspired by reading this. The saying was:

“If you don’t change, you can become extinct.”

Enjoying The Adventure

Initially, Haw found some cheese, but he wanted more. He wants to show some new cheese to motivate his friend, Hem.

On his way, Ham realized that the cheese at the Cheese station hadn’t disappeared overnight. He should have kept an eye on that. But he did not do that. He decided that from now on, he would expect change to happen and look for it.

“Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.”

Moving with the Cheese

After some time, Haw finds a huge cheese station, but from inside, it is empty. He was disappointed after seeing this. He was now scared and thinking that possibly he would not survive anymore. Not only that, but he wants to return to the cheese station C. Then he reminds himself

“Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.”

Now, he has started his journey again from a new direction. He was smiling from inside on the way. He gained some confidence, too. Haw starts imagining that he is sitting in the middle of the pile of new cheese and enjoying it. He walked with more strength in the maze to find the new cheese.

After a while, he finds some cheese near the entrance of the new cheese station. But when he went to the station, it was empty because someone was already there.

Haw realized that he would have gotten this cheese if he had left Cheese Station C earlier. He moved back to meet Hem and asked to join him. He wrote down on the wall:

“The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.”

Haw went to Cheese Station C to meet Hem. He offered him a new cheese, but he refused it by saying that he didn’t like the taste of the new cheese. He wants his old type of cheese back, as he was used to it.

After getting this type of reply, Haw left the place disappointed and continued his journey of finding a new cheese station. He was overcoming his fears and now believed he must find the new cheese station someday. He realized that it is natural for change to occur whether someone expects it or not. After having new beliefs, he was now encouraged with new behaviors. He again wrote on the wall:

“Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese.”

The Handwriting on the wall

Five Principles for Personal Change from “Who Moved My Cheese?”

  • Accept that change happens: Acknowledge that change is a natural part of life, and that it can be both exciting and challenging. It’s important to let go of the past and embrace new opportunities.
  • Anticipate change: stay alert and aware of changes that may be coming. It’s essential to be proactive and prepare for change by learning new skills, building relationships, and having a positive mindset.
  • Monitor your progress: monitor and adjust your approach as needed. This involves taking stock of your situation, setting goals, and tracking your progress over time.
  • Adapt quickly: be flexible and adaptable in the face of change. Be willing to try new things, learn from your mistakes, and quickly change when required.
  • Enjoy the journey: celebrate your successes along the way. You should be thankful for the help you have received.
five principles from “Who Moved My Cheese

Tasting New Cheese

“Change happens, and it’s inevitable. The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.”
Spencer Johnson

He used his imagination again and saw himself eating delicious new cheese. Imagination gives him more strength and confidence to search the maze’s unknown parts.

He continued through the maze with more speed and strength. He headed towards the corridor, which was new to him. He was amazed to see that it was a new cheese station N. After getting inside, he saw that it was the greatest supply of cheese he had ever seen.

He couldn’t believe it until he saw his friends, Sniff & Scurry. Both welcomed Haw by nodding and waving. Their fat bellies showed that they had been here for a long time. Haw greeted both and tasted the cheese.

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Enjoying Change!

Haw quickly pulled off his shoes and tied them around his neck in case he needed them again. Sniff and Scurry laughed and admired him.

Haw lifted a fresh cheese, and after eating it, he said, “Hooray for change.” He is enjoying the new cheese. Haw had learned from Sniff and Scurry that they kept life simple. When the situation changed, they acted quickly and solved the problem without wasting time.

Haw used his little brain to do better than mice. He had so much learning from his past, and he planned not to repeat the mistakes in the future. He learned that we must not overcomplicate or confuse the situation with fear beliefs. We all need to be prepared for the changes. And we must remember that the situation will get better as soon as we change. 

Valuable Lesson From Who Moved My Cheese

“When you change what you believe, you change what you do.”

One of the valuable lessons of “Who Moved My Cheese?” is the importance of taking personal responsibility for one’s happiness and success.

The mice quickly move on and find new cheese, while Hem and Haw struggle to let go of the old cheese and resist change.

  • Hem and Haw initially blame others and external circumstances for the loss of their cheese, rather than take ownership of their situation and act to adapt to the change.
  • Sniff and Scurry act immediately to find new cheese, even though it means leaving their comfort zone and going to new places.
  • Hem and Haw initially resist change and cling to their old ways of doing things, even though they are no longer effective.
  • By contrast, Sniff and Scurry are open to exploring new areas of the maze and trying new things, ultimately leading them to locate new sources of cheese.

Accept change as a normal and inevitable part of life, instead of being scared or resisting it.

“When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.”

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Takeaway

Who Moved My Cheese is a timeless book that teaches us that change is inevitable and the key to success lies in adapting to it.

It inspired millions of people to embrace change, take control of their lives, and achieve their goals, with its relatable story, practical advice, and timeless lessons.

Following these principles, we can all learn to navigate the maze of life with confidence, resilience, and a positive attitude.

So, are you ready to move with the cheese?

About Author Dr. Spencer Johnson

Dr. Spencer Johnson (1938-2017) was an American physician, author, and speaker who was best known for his inspirational books on personal and organizational effectiveness.

Johnson studied psychology at the University of Southern California, and received his medical degree from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

He is best known for his two highly successful books, “The One Minute Manager” and “Who Moved My Cheese?”

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