“Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson

Subject: Literature
Pages: 4
Words: 1101
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College


Change is an integral part of progress and development. Nevertheless, change may not come naturally to everyone, as it requires powerful internal resources and readiness for uncertainty. Although Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson is related to motivational business literature, it provides highlights of valuable lessons for life.

Main Points of the Story

Spencer Johnson created a fable that describes four characters, namely two mice, Scurry and Sniff, and two little people, Haw and Hem, and how they deal with change. They are inhabitants of a maze with Cheese Stations where cheese is always enough. However, one day, cheese disappeared, and the characters had to make their choices. While Scurry and Sniff took action immediately and went to find new cheese, Hem and Haw felt desperate and complained. They did nothing and only waited for that cheese would reappear. Later, Haw understood that hopes are futile and that there is no alternative way but to search for new cheese. Although he wanted to encourage his friend Hem to follow his example, the attempts were useless. Finally, Haw finds cheese and sees Scurry and Sniff are there already. Thus, the story raises several important themes.

Cheese as a Symbol of Achievements

Since the story is a fable, it is rich in metaphors. Thus, cheese may embody desires and dreams, and having one makes an individual happy (Johnson, 1999). In addition, cheese could also mean having either good health, a loving family, or feeling safe (Johnson, 1999). Happiness can occur when a person sees a kind of sense in their life.

However, the cheese symbol may also indicate something material that demonstrates the status and significance of an individual, which one could notice in the behavior of Hem and Haw in the beginning. They were proud of their cheese and always praised it despite the fact they did not produce it (Johnson, 1999). One can see such situations in real life when people buy expensive clothes, watches, and accessories, hoping that these will make them better. Moreover, Haw and Hem were convinced they deserved this cheese and that it would never end, which made them arrogant and exceedingly accustomed to comfort (Johnson, 1999). Indeed, people also get used to some benefits, and it often feels unfair to them when these advantages disappear.


Change is a central theme of the fable and serves as a prism for analyzing characters’ behaviors. Nevertheless, there are some aspects regarding this important theme. For instance, it is the fact that change is inevitable and it can occur regardless of one’s wish. Moreover, one may become doomed to extinction if they do not realize the necessity to change. Thus, changes help people to move forward, as the case of Sniff and Scurry shows (Johnson, 1999). With this assumption in mind, a person can anticipate change and thus become ready to plan and take necessary actions. Moreover, it allows adapting to changes and finding new ways to gain something wanted.

Noteworthy, the fable shows that external change often predetermines internal change. Thus, one needs to review their attitude to circumstances and be flexible while making decisions instead of accusing everything and every one of their failures. Nevertheless, the story suggests that sometimes people may not change, as happened to Hem despite all the efforts of his friend Haw. Therefore, if one looks at the described situation from the point of business, then change looks justified and necessary because business needs constant development and modification. However, people can be different in real life, and someone among them cannot manage to force themselves. They remain in their comfort zone, but such people may be content with their life, and complaining is the only action they do well.


The depiction of fear also plays an essential role in the story. When cheese disappeared, Hem did nothing because he was afraid that he would not find new cheese (Johnson, 1999). On the other hand, fear may be caused by uncertainty, unwillingness to change internally, or non-readiness to lose everything and begin from scratch. The fable tells readers that fear is only useful when real danger threatens. In the other case, being afraid of something is unproductive and burdensome.

One can agree with this thought, but people also fear their mistakes, which often seem fatal to them in such events. In addition, Hem feared going outside because he thought it was dangerous there, which suggests that perception of danger varies from person to person (Johnson, 1999). Despite this, the story does not teach readers to accept the decisions of others. Haw’s wish to help Hem can be perceived as right, but life is built in a way that makes an individual leave their friends or close if they are afraid to change. Therefore, from the philosophical aspect, the fable seems to offer a one-sided view of the situation.


Nevertheless, the story shows how autosuggestion may influence the choice of an individual. For instance, Hem was not ready to take radical actions in his life and always found excuses that he was too old and did not want to be a fool in case of failure (Johnson, 1999). On the contrary, Haw persuaded himself of the need to change internally, which helped him to make his wish come true. The power of self-persuasion is essential because it helps to direct efforts, though not all people can realize it.

Moreover, autosuggestion stems from past experiences in addition to the temper and attitudes of a person. It is the reason why self-persuasion may lead to unproductive decisions or negative consequences. In addition, the story underlines that fear significantly influences the way of self-convincing. Thus, an individual can realize the necessity to adapt to changing circumstances only when they have an internal resource to take action. This can be explained by the episode when Haw did not manage to convince Hem to change (Johnson, 1999). It is Hem who is responsible for his future life and the availability of cheese. Thus, if he cannot recognize the need for adaptation, then no one can put this idea in his head. That is why only positive autosuggestion can help to achieve success and happiness by overcoming change.


To conclude, the story written by Spencer Johnson does not relate only to business success but can be applied to real life. It emphasizes the importance of change and adapting own attitudes to circumstances. In most cases, fear of changes and mistakes is unproductive and impedes moving forward. However, situations in life can be different, and sometimes people cannot find the internal power to meet hardships of uncertainty.


Johnson, S. (1999). Who moved my cheese? Penguin Books.