Don’t go to the cheese factory

by Pace on September 16, 2009

“Don’t go to the cheese factory” is a metaphor we coined during a recent coaching session with a couple who were having troubles in their relationship.

Photo by aimlessbird

Bob has a problem. He’s addicted to cheese. Soft cheese, hard cheese, sharp cheese, mild cheese, round cheese, square cheese, cheddar, brie, gouda, jack, bleu, feta, wensleydale. He can’t get enough cheese.

One fateful New Year’s Day, Bob resolves to give up cheese. It’s not good for his health, and he doesn’t want to support the dairy industry for ethical reasons. These reasons are more important to Bob than his cravings.

But then one day, Bob goes to the cheese factory. “I can handle it,” he tells himself. “I’ll be fine.” At the first offer of free samples, he’s gobbling up the cheese again, stuffing his face with abandon.

Bob continues to visit the cheese factory from time to time. He tries as hard as he can; sometimes he resists, and sometimes he succumbs. “I tried my best,” he says. “It’s just so hard to resist when the cheese is right there in front of me.”

This is my advice to Bob:

If you don’t want to eat the cheese, don’t go to the cheese factory.

Photo by jtuason

If you don’t want to wake up in bed next to a stranger, don’t drink so much at the party.

If you don’t want to eat junk food, don’t buy junk food.

If you don’t want to come home with a cute little puppy, don’t go to the animal shelter.

If you don’t want to spend money on books, don’t go to the bookstore.

If you want to eat smaller portions, serve yourself smaller portions instead of relying on your willpower to stop eating when your plate is still half full.

If you don’t want to waste 20% of your life watching television, get rid of your TV set, or your cable.

If you don’t want to waste 20% of your life playing World of Warcraft, unsubcribe.

If you don’t want to spend all your money on gorgeous stripy socks, don’t follow @SockDreams on Twitter.

If you don’t want to get back together with your ex, don’t talk to your ex.

Don’t rely on your willpower in the moment, when the temptation is right in front of you. Rely on your willpower once, ahead of time, when you’re feeling clear about what you most want.

Don’t try not to eat the cheese once you’re already at the cheese factory. Make one decision in advance: choose not to go to the cheese factory in the first place.

What examples of “don’t go to the cheese factory” can you think of in your life, or of people you know?


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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Pace September 16, 2009 at 9:37 am

Neat, my friend Dave Wheitner posted about a very similar topic today too.

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Pace September 16, 2009 at 10:44 am

…and Havi posted about cheese. What an odd blog day it is…

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Ms Constantine September 16, 2009 at 10:52 am

This is exactly why I couldn’t forgive someone who cheated on me just because they were drunk. If you have no willpower don’t put yourself in the path of temptation (and purposefully relax your inhibitions)!
.-= Ms Constantine´s last blog ..Daily Outfit – 12 September 2009 =-.

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Dave September 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

First, I love the post because it took a bit of effort for me to give up cheese myself a few years ago. (Got much easier after we chose to fill our kitchen with vegan cookbooks.) Secondly, you provide a very powerful and down-to-earth illustration of a common issue: We often hold desires to alter our behaviors for extended periods, but we often blame it upon our environments/surroundings, which we frequently have the power to change.
Sometimes we have little or no control over our environments, but often, a pretty good chunk of what surrounds us is the product of our choices and behaviors.
.-= Dave´s last blog ..Lessons from Addictions Treatment: Environmental Influences & Behavioral Change =-.

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Laurie Stewart September 16, 2009 at 11:40 am

Don’t ask the question, if you don’t want the answer~
.-= Laurie Stewart´s last blog ..being real =-.

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Moon'slark September 16, 2009 at 11:50 am

Argh! My issue is that its very hard to avoid some things… I mean I am tempted when I go to the store to get one thing, and I end up with a few others. I’m getting better, I’m learning where I can go (alternatives) that will force me to only get what I need (ie, groceries) and not what I “think” I want (ie, blank books, pens, craft supplies) that make me feel good about the state of my life (but NOT good about the state of my finances)…

If you make the cake of COURSE you’re gonna wanna eat it too :) so don’t make the cake (laugh)
.-= Moon’slark´s last blog ..Autumn Rush… =-.

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Pace September 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm

@Ms Constantine: Yeah! If you’re going to disclaim responsibility for your actions when in an altered state, you still have the responsibility for getting into that state. Although as a side note, your comment reminds me that I want to write a post about forgiveness, and why it’s actually all about you, not the other person. Forgiveness is a selfish act.

@Dave: Indeed!

@Laurie: Good one!

@Moon’slark: Yeah, it can be tough when the cheese factory is a place where you need to go for some other reason. The way society is, it’s difficult to opt out of things when everyone is pushing them in your face!

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Sheila September 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm

If you don’t want to get sucked into the stupid message board drama, don’t go to the message board. (And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell people why you’re leaving or you’ll be struck with the burning urge to see if anybody responded. If anybody wants to know where you went, they can find you somewhere else on the internets . . . )
.-= Sheila´s last blog ..Here We Go Again . . . =-.

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Lydia, Clueless Crafter September 16, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I love this post because it relies on the power of grammar to control our sometimes disastrous urges. Think this: “If not x, not Y”. Chalks up emotion to an unwavering formula.

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Bob Poole September 16, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Oh, you’ve been talking with Joann. Or, looking inside my fridge. Cheese is my one big weakness. And, you’re right. The only way to quit is to not buy it. Don’t go to the factory.

I’m laughing right now and one of my dogs is staring at me because I said cheese out loud and I’m afraid he also loves cheese. Perhaps if I just keep it around for the dogs. :-)

Sure, I can handle that.
.-= Bob Poole´s last blog ..Carry the Bag or Shut Up =-.

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Green September 16, 2009 at 7:31 pm

But if I do want cheese it’s ok to go to the factory, right? :D

If you don’t want to stay up all night doing something you have a history of getting absorbed in and losing track of time (ie: games, tv, homework, philosophical conversations…) don’t -start- to do these when it’s nearly bedtime already. Start earlier.

Or is that more of n example of “if you don’t want to eat cheese, then go to the cheese factory on “wine and crackers only day?”

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Green September 16, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Not that most cheese factories have wine and crackers only days.

Also, before I read this post I misread the title and was really worried it was going to be about terrible service or food poisoning you got at the cheesecake factory.

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Clare K. R. Miller September 16, 2009 at 7:58 pm

You’ve listed all of mine! Don’t go to the bookstore, don’t go to the animal shelter, and definitely don’t follow Sock Dreams! (Though I follow Sock Dreams and went to a bookstore today…)

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Pace September 16, 2009 at 10:33 pm

@Sheila: Ha! I’ve been there!

@Bob: LOL!

@Green: I’m imagining a day where they shut down the cheese factory and have a wine and crackers only day. That image gives me the giggles. (: And yes, “Start earlier” is a good corollary.

@Clare: all of yours? (;

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Clare K. R. Miller September 16, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Okay… maybe “don’t go to Clockwork Couture” and “don’t go to Etsy” belong on the list as well ;)

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Julia September 17, 2009 at 7:31 am

Moon’slark –
I’ve had the problem with impulse buying, myself. At one point, I tried to just not make any impulse purchases whatsoever, but I gave in one day in a moment of weakness and spent the next 3 days beating myself up. So, I gave myself permission to make one impulse purchase per day, no more; and if I find something really cool that I like a lot that’s incredibly inexpensive early on during a shopping day, I get that, and can then discipline myself for the rest of the day. (Yesterday’s was a bunch of little Kleenex purse packs with animals on them. And when I saw something in the grocery store later, well, I’d made the impulse buy for the day already, so that was that.)

This is what worked for me in the long run. It won’t work for everyone. That’s one of those things that each person has to figure out, possibly by trial and error.

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Julia September 17, 2009 at 10:55 am

If I don’t want to have massive piles of unread books, I shouldn’t buy more books — or buy them at a rate significantly lower than I’m reading the ones I already have. (I’ve been trying to do that this year, and so far it’s working out reasonably well. Combining that with a desire to support locally owned bookstores by buying books from them on a regular basis has made for some interesting buying decisions!)

If I don’t want to break out in a rash, I shouldn’t eat a number of different foods (some of which I’m rather fond of).

If I don’t want intestinal problems the next day, I shouldn’t drink very much alcohol. (My limit, found with experimentation, seems to be about 2.7 drinks, and if I have 1 margarita, that’s all the alcohol I have that day, period.)

If I don’t want to find out over the weekend that we’re out of peanut butter, I shouldn’t go to the store on Friday without confirming how much we have.

If I don’t want a last-minute scramble with papers for school in the morning, I should check the kids’ backpacks as soon as they get home and figure out what needs to be dealt with for the next day, and just get that done right then. (I failed to do that yesterday, so this morning had a bit of unpleasantness! I’m not likely to forget that again for at least a couple of weeks!)

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Pace September 17, 2009 at 10:58 am

@Julia: Nice! It seems like you got an even more general point than the point I was attempting to make in my post. You got “if you don’t want the consequence of an action, don’t take that action.” I was only talking about situations involving willpower, but your point is even bigger!

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Oliver Danni September 19, 2009 at 7:18 am

A friend of mine has a similar metaphor. Often we’ll say things like “I’m trying to get this done” or “I’m trying to stay away from cheese” or “I’m trying to get more exercise” or “I’m trying to be nicer to my neighbors”. Now we say, “Think about having a dog. What would happen if you TRY to feed your dog? Your dog would die! You can’t TRY to feed the dog…you have to actually feed the dog!” So, we no longer “try” to stay away from cheese, or “try” to feed the dog. ;-)

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Pace September 19, 2009 at 8:25 am

@Oliver: Yoda goes not to the factory of cheese. (:

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R September 21, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I have quit drinking tequila for a variety of (good) reasons and part of what has helped me to stick to this is that I am totally clear that this is what I want. So when someone says, “Oh, just a shot?” I can say no and not feel upset about it. I am also clear that in margaritas I drink rum now so I don’t have to totally avoid something I enjoy. It’s weird and involves some explaining at times but so far it’s worked for me.

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Pace September 21, 2009 at 3:06 pm

@R: Congrats on avoiding the tequila factory!

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tawa September 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm

thought provoking post.
i hear it as:
if i want___________then I can do_____________
if want to eat more vegetables then I will go to a vegetable garden.
if i want a different partner then i will begin to look for one

run towards what you want

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Leah/DefytheBox September 22, 2009 at 7:58 am

This is a fun post!
The manifestation expert in me likes the perspective that tawa takes…
~If i want ______then I can do________.
Run towards what you want.~

I had to learn to stay away from the “partying all night” factory so that my double brunch shift on Sunday didn’t suck.Then I had to remind myself that although it looked like everyone was having a great time rolling I really did not want that energy in my life anymore. …and I felt like ass for a few days after. Those choices were so hard because in the moment it seemed like indulging would greatly add to my fun and happiness…but I knew from lots of experience that the after effect would suck….
What is came down to was taking full responsibility for my experience in life. If I want to feel good , be clear headed and creating the stuff I want, then I need to take care of myself in that way all the time.
.-= Leah/DefytheBox´s last blog ..A Hedonist Adventure =-.

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Linda Eaves January 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

A though provoking post. I am glad to have scrolled down to read the last couple of comments from Tawa and Leah. I too am a move towards motivated person.
Yes. although it would be simpler to completely avoid the cookie, or to not walk down that street in the first place.
I am learning to hold the space for choice, options, and taking full responsibility for all of it.
When I deny myself a thing, whether it be an experience, a food, or whatever…I go to a place of rebellion and self sabatoge.
When I shift slightly and, take a breath – pause, be still to ask “What do I want right now really?” then instinctually I’m empowered with choice in abundance. If I choose the cookie, it’s a consious choice. This move towards stuff is still a little wobbly like a newborn walking. I have strong thoughts sometimes that I’m supposed to, or wish I was the “Don’t go to the cookie factory type.”
.-= Linda Eaves´s last blog ..Guess What I’m a published author in- “The Gratitude Book Project” =-.

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John La Puma MD October 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I think this is just right, and certainly as relevant as it was when published 2 years ago: most of getting ahead and making good decisions lies in changing what is around you, more than changing you.

Men need this sort of environmental coaching as much as women, interestingly: for career planning, for family activities, for fitness and weight management, for time management.

Having been to many dairies, and taken an artisan cheesemaking course, I know that going to the cheese factory is a special occasion event…thanks for the reminder.

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