Who Moved My Cheese? features four characters: two mice, “Sniff” and “Scurry,” and two littlepeople, miniature humans in essence, “Hem” and “Haw.” They live in a maze, a representation of one’s enviornment, and look for cheese, representative of happiness and success. Initially without cheese, each group, the mice and humans, paired off and traveled the lengthy corridors searching for cheese. One day both groups happen upon a cheese-filled corridor at “Cheese Station C”. Content with their find, the humans establish routines around their daily intake of cheese, slowly becoming arrogant in the process.
One day Sniff and Scurry arrive at Cheese Station C to find no cheese left, but they are not surprised. Noticing the cheese supply dwindling, they have mentally prepared beforehand for the arduous but inevitable task of finding more cheese. Leaving Cheese Station C behind, they begin their hunt for new cheese together. Later that day, Hem and Haw arrive at Cheese Station C only to find the same thing, no cheese. Angered and annoyed, Hem demands, “Who moved my cheese?” The humans have counted on the cheese supply to be constant, and so are unprepared for this eventuality. After deciding that the cheese is indeed gone they get angry at the unfairness of the situation and both go home starved. Returning the next day, Hem and Haw find the same cheeseless place. Starting to realize the situation at hand, Haw thinks of a search for new cheese. But Hem is dead set in his victimized mindset and nixes the proposal.
Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry have found “Cheese Station N”, new cheese. Back at Cheese Station C, Hem and Haw are affected by their lack of cheese and blame each other for their problem. Hoping to change, Haw again proposes a search for new cheese. However, Hem is comforted by his old routine and is frightened about the unknown. He knocks the idea again. After a while of being in denial, the humans remain without cheese. One day, having discovered his debilitating fears, Haw begins to chuckle at the situation and stops taking himself so seriously. Realizing he should simply move on, Haw enters the maze, but not before chiseling “If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct” on the wall of Cheese Station C for his friend to ponder.
Still fearful of his trek, Haw jots “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” on the wall and, after thinking about that, he begins his venture. Still plagued with worry (perhaps he has waited too long to begin his search…), Haw finds some bits of cheese that nourishes him and he is able to continue his search. Haw realizes that the cheese has not suddenly vanished, but has dwindled from continual eating. After a stop at an empty cheese station, Haw begins worrying about the unknown again. Brushing aside his fears, Haw’s new mindset allows him to again enjoy life. He has even begun to smile again! He is realizing that “When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.” After another empty cheese station, Haw decides to go back for Hem with the few bits of new cheese he has managed to find.
Uncompromising, Hem refuses the new cheese, to his friend’s disappointment. With knowledge learned along the way, Haw heads back into the maze. Getting deeper into the maze, inspired by bits of new cheese here and there, Haw leaves a trail of writings on the wall (“The handwriting Is on the wall”). These clarify his own thinking and give him hope that his friend will find aid in them during his search for new cheese. Still traveling, Haw one day comes across Cheese Station N, abundant with cheese, including some varieties that are strange to him, and he realizes he has found what he is looking for. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience. He ponders a return to see his old friend. But Haw decides to let Hem find his own way. Finding the largest wall in Cheese Station N, he writes:
Change HappensThey Keep Moving The Cheese
Anticipate ChangeGet Ready For The Cheese To Move
Monitor ChangeSmell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
Adapt To Change QuicklyThe Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
ChangeMove With The Cheese
Enjoy Change!Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It AgainThey Keep Moving The Cheese.