Change requires doing things differently. And doing things differently requires dealing with the uncomfortable, the awkward, and the difficult.

I love finding simple concepts that help explain complexity, especially when it’s the complexity I’m particularly passionate about: change – individual and organizational. (They are really the same since organizations are made up of individuals.)

Most of us can agree change is necessary. But, whether in a relationship or a job, we tend to think change is most needed for the other guy. Even when we reluctantly acknowledge our part and vow to do something about it, our resolve can falter when the first steps we take prove to be harder than we thought.

This is where Peter Bregman’s simple concept comes in. He has two questions that must be answered “yes” if we want to change ourselves:

  1. “Do you want to do better?”
  2. “Are you willing to feel the discomfort of putting in more effort and trying new things that will feel weird and different and won’t work right away?”

These questions clearly explain what change consultants have been preaching for years: change cannot occur when we stay in the status quo, secure in our comfort zones.

“Learning anything new is by its nature, uncomfortable. You will need to act in ways that are unfamiliar. Take risks that are new. Try things that, in many cases, will be initially frustrating because they won’t work the first time.” Peter Bergman goes on to say, “You are guaranteed to feel awkward. You will make mistakes. You may be embarrassed or even feel shame, especially if you are used to succeeding a lot — and all my clients are used to succeeding a lot.”

It’s pretty simple. If we want change, we have to overcome our discomfort. If we want to lead change, we have to be the one who changes first. To do this, we must frequently reask Bregman’s two questions and answer them with a resounding “yes.” And then we can do the hard work of change.