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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jul 22, 2022


Research demonstrates that becoming comfortable with discomfort is the key to progress.



Welcome to episode 147 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore research demonstrating that becoming comfortable with discomfort is the key to progress.

Learning new things requires us to step out of our comfort zone. If we’re feeling comfortable, we’re not learning.

But it’s also natural to want to avoid discomfort. That can steer us away from new learning experiences. 

New research shows that how we interpret discomfort impacts our ability to continue learning. The research by Woolley and Fishbach involved participants undertaking an improvisation class. Half of the group were given instructions for the activity and told the aim of the activity was to feel awkward and uncomfortable. The other half were also given instructions, but not instructed around feeling awkward and uncomfortable.

The researchers found that the group encouraged to feel awkward and uncomfortable spent more time actively improvising and took greater risks. They undertook more practice which gave them a greater opportunity to enhance their skills.

When we’re looking to grow and develop, we should anticipate and embrace feelings of awkwardness and discomfort. Instead of seeing these feelings as reasons to stop, we should instead see them as signs of progress and development. Changing our mindset around discomfort can help us to progress and develop.



Woolley K, Fishbach A. Motivating Personal Growth by Seeking Discomfort. Psychological Science. 2022;33(4):510-523. doi:10.1177/09567976211044685