Goal: The goal of this exercise is to show students that the often uncomfortable and awkward feelings associated with thinking differently are actually just temporary, and are a sign of growth and development.


Step 1: Ask the group to stand up and do the following: "Fold your arms the way you would if you were bored, with one arm naturally falling on top of the other. Look at your arms and notice which one is on top. Notice how this feels. Is it comfortable? Does it feel normal?"

Step 2: Now ask the group to uncross their arms and fold them again, the other way, with the other arm on top. "How does that feel? What do you notice?"

Here people may comment that the second way of folding arms feels "uncomfortable" or “awkward."


Talk about the physical feeling of discomfort when we cross our arms in the second way as an analogy for the emotional and cognitive experiences we have when we are learning something new. 

In relationship to Creative Power, the exercise is meant to show that sometimes our need/desire for feeling comfortable and our tendency to avoid feeling awkward sometimes gets in our way of learning. Sometimes when we even hear something, it can make us feel uncomfortable. But that feeling will pass quickly and many times the times when we come up with our best ideas are when we get outside our comfort zone.

Exercise adapted from the Systems Thinking Playbook
by Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows (2001). The book is available through Chelsea Green Publishers. For an educator’s discount, contact: