Being uncomfortable by choice as a means of personal growth has been touted for hundreds of years among scholars, philosophers, religious leaders, modern pop culture icons, and more. Yet, research pertaining to the benefits of being uncomfortable by choice is sparse. This qualitative, grounded theory study addressed the first step of transformational learning: the disorienting dilemma. Seventy participants located in America participated in extensive interviews to answer this study’s research question, “what if any, are the benefits of voluntary disorienting dilemmas?” Additional research questions, “what is the meaning(s) of voluntary disorienting dilemmas?” and “would subjects repeat their voluntary disorienting dilemmas again? Why or why not?” further contributed to the theoretical model presented in this study on the benefits, meanings, and motivations of voluntary disorienting dilemmas. This body of work adds to transformational learning theory and has implications for sociology, change management, global leadership, and more.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dilemma; Change; Transformative learning

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Paul Sparks