By Jon Patton – January 28, 2009

After a hectic few weeks back at work, the New Year’s celebrations may seem like a distant memory.

For many people, their resolutions have already been shelved for future consideration. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, you are not alone. Research shows that the vast majority of resolutions are broken by the end of January.

For most of us, making changes in our lives is difficult no matter what time of year we set about the task. Many people who attend our team buildings and leadership development programs throughout the year feel motivated to change aspects of their behavior in pursuit of being more effective professionally and personally.

A major contributor to successfully negotiating change is our relationship to discomfort. After all, making changes to familiar patterns like communicating in a new way to colleagues, delegating and trusting employees to do things you are accustomed to doing yourself, or simply leaving the office earlier to maintain a work/life balance, causes us to step out of our comfort zone.

Most human beings move away from discomfort and gravitate to things that make us feel pleasant and comfortable. It could be that we associate discomfort with pain and our evolutionary past associates pain with danger or a threat to our very existence. Although today we mostly do not have to worry about protecting our survival, the fact is that all personal change and the resulting personal growth will initially be accompanied by a feeling of discomfort.

If you are naturally introverted, think about being the first to speak up in a meeting when your preference is to sit and observe, or if you are more extroverted, sit and listen instead of jumping in to the discussion. New behaviors will always create a feeling of discomfort before they start to feel more natural.

There is a familiar saying that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in its presence. In the same way, successfully implementing a personal change is not the absence of discomfort but the ability to embrace it as a vehicle for personal growth. With that in mind, consider thinking about discomfort as a sign of progress in your battle for greater effectiveness rather than a reason to reverse direction.

How will you step out of your comfort zone?