The Big Idea: 

  1. Changing our habits can be uncomfortable or awkward but that's usually a sign of growth and learning. 
  2. The initial little bit of discomfort you feel when you experience something new goes away quickly. This exercise shows you that it’s easier than you think to become open to new ideas.


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 being like the emotional and cognitive experiences (the feeling) we have when we are learning something new. Have the students share examples of when they got over feeling uncomfortable when they tried something new. 

In relationship to Creative Power, the exercise is meant to show that:

  1. Sometimes our need/desire for feeling comfortable and our tendency to avoid feeling awkward sometimes gets in our way of learning. 
  2. But that feeling will pass quickly and often those moments when we get outside our comfort zone are when we come up with our best ideas.

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: