Spencer Johnson is the best-selling author of Who moved my cheese? and I enjoy two things from his books: he uses parables to get his points across AND the books are often quick reads – ones you could read, reflect, and implement in a lunchtime.

Out of the Maze is Spencer’s follow-up to Who moved my cheese? and talks about the beliefs behind changing and growing. I’ll be sharing some of my favourite takeaways from the book, as well as how I think and apply them to my life.

A belief is a thought that you trust is true

There’s power in this statement itself. The first thing I thought of was what beliefs do I have and which of my beliefs are relatively ‘new’ – in other words, which ones have I changed my mind about recently.

When I was a management consultant, I had a lot of work to do each week. I went into management consulting with the belief that all consultants put in 50 – 70 hour weeks.

Sometimes “facts” are just how you see things

When I looked at other consultants, I saw most of them stay late into the night to work, or log in time on the weekends. So I thought to myself “hey, if I have a lot to do, I just need to work harder”.

Let go of what isn’t working

But as I worked harder, the work piled on. Even though I worked my evenings and weekends, I found myself in a never-ending rat race. I got more work done, but I also had more work piled on. Some part of me thought that if only I worked harder, I would get through to the other side. The problem was that the other side was always just another evening or weekend away.

My belief that ‘if I have more work, I just need to work harder’ wasn’t working for me.

Look outside the maze

Rather than look at the typical consultants who were working 50-70 hour weeks, I looked at consultants and other professionals around me who worked 50 hours or fewer each week but still seemed to get a lot done. What were they doing differently? What could I steal or adopt myself?

Choose a new belief

The first was to choose a new belief. Since my first belief wasn’t working for me, I considered how I might change what I thought I knew about consultants. Since I could see that there were a select few consultants who got a lot done but weren’t putting in the overtime (or maybe they were very good at hiding it?), I thought “if I have more work, I need to work smarter”.

I considered activities such as recording meetings so I wouldn’t have to transcribe meeting minutes after. Delegation was key as well, so I could focus on higher-value tasks. When your belief changes from “I have to work harder” to “I have to work smarter”, the way you approach problem solving and solutions changes.

There are no limits to what you can believe you can do

When I changed my belief to working smarter, and found that it worked better for me, I considered what other beliefs were not serving me or holding me back. I think about how Google does performance reviews as a way to push my beliefs. I read Google did quarterly reviews with its employees. During the quarterly reviews, employees are asked to set extremely ambitious goals (often 10x what they believe they can achieve). When those employees achieve those 10x goals, they are rewarded handsomely. But even if they aren’t, and they only achieve 2 or 3x their goals, that is closer to 10x than if they had conservatively estimated what they could achieve.

Why not believe that you can achieve more than you can? Why not believe that all things will work out successfully for you? It will change how you act. It will change your daily habits. Your mindset will shift. Who knows, maybe you can and will achieve what you believe in. It’s certainly better than believing you won’t amount to anything and realizing your belief will come true.