A good friend shared a metaphor this week that really spoke to me.
It concerns mice, cheese and broccoli 😉
But before I share it with you, I’m reminded of the very old, well-accepted truth that we never really want the thing we want, we want what we think having it will get us.
Nobody really wants bits of green, wrinkly paper with pictures of notaries on. Nobody really wants a red Ferrari, or a promotion, or a little cottage with roses growing around the front porch – for the thing itself.
When I used to major on teaching state management, I’d say that it’s ALWAYS a feeling we’re really after. I would often have people do an exercise where they would go through their list of goals, one by one, and ‘chunk up’ to the feeling or state of mind they were really after. People usually listed feelings like security, peace, success, love, freedom, adventure, significance or worth.
It does help to know what you’re really after – because then we can usually find several ways of getting it. We can operate more from a place of choice and options.
Often, in my experience, people don’t know what they’re really looking for – so they settle for what society tells them they should want. Or, for some people, they just know they don’t like what they’re experiencing NOW, so almost anything else would be preferable – which is why people sometimes ‘numb’, using a whole host of different strategies. As Jeff Foster, the spiritual teacher and Cambridge Astrophysicist says so profoundly:
Heaven is the present moment
Hell is the burning desire for the present moment to be different
So, onwards to the mice, the cheese and the broccoli.
Mice are already programmed with strong, life-preserving directives – like GET CHEESE and AVOID CATS. Actually the ‘avoid cats’ thing is often more powerful, because if you get caught by a cat, having more cheese is no good to you anyway.
So, you don’t have to educate mice to be looking for cheese – or avoiding cats – they already are.
What’s the cheese that you’re already looking for? What’s the cheese that your clients or customers are already looking for? What’s the cheese that your loved ones are already looking for?
In my own journey of spiritual understanding, I’ve noticed a few levels to this – and we see links right back to Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.
At the most basic level, human beings – like all living things – are programmed to survive of course. Then, it’s shelter and so on. I want to pick up after all these needs have been met, which is where most people in western society already are.
At the next level, people seem to want STUFF, which can be achieved through the acquisition of money.
Then, when they get the ‘stuff’, they realise that the stuff doesn’t ‘do it for them’ – at least not for very long.
So, now, the cheese we want shifts in form, and becomes the ‘how-to’s. Things like:
- How to become a better (insert what you want to become better at)
- How to get more confidence (a biggie)
- How to communicate with Presence, Charisma, Influence
- How to create a better work/life balance
- How to achieve higher performance at work
- How to have better, easier relationships
- How to have more energy
- How to create better health
- How to be more creative
- How to manage change
- How to find the perfect romantic partner
- How to lose weight
- how to have the perfect body
- How to reduce stress, anxiety, overwhelm
- How to reduce conflict
Again, these are all ‘means-goals’ as distinct from ‘ends-goals’. The belief is that, were we able to master these how-to’s, we’d finally feel whole, loved, worthy.
Spiritual seekers throughout the ages have realized that it’s never really the cheese they want anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I like cheese as much as the next person… but, deep down, I know that broccoli is better for me in the long-term. And, of course, it’s not either/or anyway – we can have BOTH.
In this metaphor, broccoli represents things like:
- Innate well-being
- A sense of being fully ALIVE
- Peace of mind
- A sense of connection with all that is
- Knowing anything is possible
- That it’s ALL a ride! If you haven’t seen it, here’s a recommended little video from the late, great comedian, Bill Hicks:
- That we are spiritual beings having a human experience
For the past 25 years, I’ve created a successful business selling people various forms of cheese. These days, I’m probably more in the broccoli business. But I’ve found that it doesn’t work to just keep telling people to eat broccoli. When people are still searching for cheese, they don’t want broccoli. They may not even know that broccoli exists, and they’re a bit suspicious about it 😉
Right now, I’m experimenting with serving people broccoli with a tasty cheese sauce – which is working quite well.
I’d love to know what you think about all this. What’s the cheese you’re looking for right now – and have you tasted broccoli? It really is quite delicious!