An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Dealing with Change’

The Lesson I Didn’t Teach

The other day, George picked up my copy of Spencer Johnson’s 1998 best seller, Who Moved My Cheese?. “Looks like a good book,” he said as he turned the pages.

“Yes, and I still regret not sharing it with the Relief Society in our Sandy ward.”

I read the book several years ago as part of a faculty discussion group. It’s a fun story of fictitious mice looking for cheese in a maze. The mice represent people seeking fulfillment in life. One mouse constantly sniffs out change, another scurries into action when change occurs, a third resists change—fearing the worst. When this mouse no longer finds cheese at the usual place, it returns to the same spot over and over until it starves. The fourth mouse follows others—changing its behavior when evidence shows the change works.

The point of the story is that somebody is always moving the cheese—situations in our lives change, leaving us empty. We can, like the third mouse, keep going back to the routine that used to work for us. We can be angry or hurt at the change. We can yell, blame or wait for someone to fix it. Or we can search for fulfillment in new places.

I loved this book. I’ve always been a sniffer and a scurrier after change—optimistically believing change always leads to improvement. Fortunately, George and my work colleagues provided balance for me. Looking before leaping is wise.

Shortly after reading this book, I was asked to substitute in a Relief Society lesson on the Second Coming. I thought of basing the lesson on Who Moved My Cheese. I could loosely tie it into the topic. Obviously, Jesus’s return would be the biggest change of all time.

Most of the women in our ward were dealing with changing situations as their children grew older and needed education and missions. Husbands lost jobs. Children moved from home. Many of these women kept trying to change things back—praying for husbands to find jobs or to get better jobs. Begging children who left the state for better job opportunities to come home.

Probably none of the women in my ward had read this book. The coping strategies it contained could help them deal with present and future changes in their lives.

But, I knew the rules: Teachers should not use unauthorized material in Church lessons. There was nothing objectionable in Who Moved My Cheese. Still, it was neither scripture, nor an article from the Ensign, nor a personal experience—the only approved resources outside the lesson manual.

Well schooled in Church obedience, I taught the lesson as outlined. The sisters in the room dozed or yawned through it. They had heard the same lesson, the same scriptures, the same quotes from General Authorities dozens of times. The 40 minutes of lesson time was a total waste for us all.

I will always regret not teaching these women something new—something that might have helped them deal with situations in their lives. Rules exist for reasons, but rules too rigidly followed ignore individual needs.

 

 

The other day, George picked up my copy of Spencer Johnson’s 1998 best seller, Who Moved My Cheese?. “Looks like a good book,” he said as he turned the pages.

“Yes, and I still regret not sharing it with the Relief Society in our Sandy ward.”

I read the book several years ago as part of a faculty discussion group. It’s a fun story of fictitious mice looking for cheese in a maze. The mice represent people seeking fulfillment in life. One mouse constantly sniffs out change, another scurries into action when change occurs, a third resists change—fearing the worst. When this mouse no longer finds cheese at the usual place, it returns to the same spot over and over until it starves. The fourth mouse follows others—changing its behavior when evidence shows the change works.

The point of the story is that somebody is always moving the cheese—situations in our lives change, leaving us empty. We can, like the third mouse, keep going back to the routine that used to work for us. We can be angry or hurt at the change. We can yell, blame or wait for someone to fix it. Or we can search for fulfillment in new places.

I loved this book. I’ve always been a sniffer and a scurrier after change—optimistically believing change always leads to improvement. Fortunately, George and my work colleagues provided balance for me. Looking before leaping is wise.

Shortly after reading this book, I was asked to substitute in a Relief Society lesson on the Second Coming. I thought of basing the lesson on Who Moved My Cheese. I could loosely tie it into the topic. Obviously, Jesus’s return would be the biggest change of all time.

Most of the women in our ward were dealing with changing situations as their children grew older and needed education and missions. Husbands lost jobs. Children moved from home. Many of these women kept trying to change things back—praying for husbands to find jobs or to get better jobs. Begging children who left the state for better job opportunities to come home.

Probably none of the women in my ward had read this book. The coping strategies it contained could help them deal with present and future changes in their lives.

But, I knew the rules: Teachers should not use unauthorized material in Church lessons. There was nothing objectionable in Who Moved My Cheese. Still, it was neither scripture, nor an article from the Ensign, nor a personal experience—the only approved resources outside the lesson manual.

Well schooled in Church obedience, I taught the lesson as outlined. The sisters in the room dozed or yawned through it. They had heard the same lesson, the same scriptures, the same quotes from General Authorities dozens of times. The 40 minutes of lesson time was a total waste for us all.

I will always regret not teaching these women something new—something that might have helped them deal with situations in their lives. Rules exist for reasons, but rules too rigidly followed ignore individual needs.

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