It’s a cold grey day and it’s time for your lunch break. You have the option of eating your lunch outside in the cold, or sitting in a warm cafeteria to eat—which would you choose?

Like me, you would probably choose the comfort of a warm cafeteria. Why? Because sitting outside in the cold would be uncomfortable and it is a natural human tendency to avoid discomfort.

Sitting in the cold may give you no rewards, but in learning, enduring a bit of discomfort as you try out new skills will - if you think of it in the right way.


Let’s say you are a leader who has been having difficulty getting team members to follow instructions and work cooperatively. You know you need to start doing things differently to get different results. In a workshop, you discover and rehearse a new way of giving instructions that you know could make a real difference. You leave the workshop determined to give it a go.

Back to the real world

Let's say you are now with the team you see a chance to try the new approach. But, as you start using the new way of giving instructions it feels awkward, the way you say things sounds clumsy. You don’t get the result you hoped for. You begin to doubt whether the new approach will really make a difference. You don’t bother to try the new approach again. Nothing changes and you are back where you started.

It’s not an unusual experience. Trying new things often feels awkward to start with. It is easy for us to respond with our natural tendency of avoiding discomfort.

The problem is that we miss out on the benefits that the new way of doing things might bring us. There is no guarantee that new approaches will always give us the results we want. However, we can be sure that they won’t, if we don’t use them.

High performance sports people often talk about needing to work through the pain—no pain, no gain.

Trying new approaches in the workplace doesn’t have to involve pain, but when you use a new approach be prepared for the discomfort, welcome it as part of the process.

Generally, the discomfort and effort you put into sticking with your new skills will give you the results you want.