Education News

Comfort zones and why you should forsake them

With thanks: Solidarity World – By Dr Eugene Brink

Published: 16 July 2019


Brian Tracy once said of comfort zones: “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”

But first, for the sake of completeness, a simple definition of this concept should be given. “Simply, your comfort zone is a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk,” says Alan Henry, a contributor at

Henry further states that comfort zones provide a state of mental security and low anxiety. Reduced stress and regular happiness are obvious benefits. Comfort zones are therefore not all bad, but they are also boring and hamper your growth and development in various ways.

Henry traces the concept back to a classic experiment in psychology conducted more than a century ago. Psychologists Robert M Yerkes and John D Dodson argued that a state of relative comfort led to a steady level of performance. “In order to maximize performance, however, we need a state of relative anxiety – a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This space is called optimal anxiety, and it’s just outside our comfort zone. Too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply,” says Henry.

It is therefore important to even the most risk-averse and cautious person to leave their comfort-zones regularly as that is where the magic happens. “Get out of that comfortable rut,” motivational speaker and author Dennis Waitly wrote in The Psychology of Winning. Here is what you’ll gain in the process:

1. It tests and builds your character

There are very few things in this life as important as character. Character encapsulates all the virtues that will make you thrive in your life and career, such as integrity, resilience, determination and emotional intelligence.

But character develops best under pressure and when challenged and this is why it is imperative to step out of your comfort zone. “Dealing with uncertainty and change can be debilitating in terms of your imposed stress, yet seemingly to live a compelling future requires stepping out of the familiar to reach new horizons,” says Tony Fhakry, self-empowerment author, expert speaker and coach.

“Remember, it is your response to life which is paramount to the level of personal growth you undertake. Most people thrive in ideal situations, although this does not test one’s character. Your response to life’s uncertainties determines your level of inner growth, especially when the tides are against you.”

Hence, for your character to be tested and developed, it is necessary for you to leave your comfort zone and face the fire. It is only in this crucible that you’ll be able to grow.

2. Your productivity will increase

Comfort zones tend to be, well, comfortable. And even though comfort is convenient and free of strain, it lulls you into laziness and easy outcomes.

“Comfort kills productivity because without the sense of unease that comes from having deadlines and expectations, we tend to phone it in and do the minimum required to get by. We lose the drive and ambition to do more and learn new things,” Henry says.

3. It will open up new opportunities and thwart your fear of failure

Ann Lathan, career writer at Forbes, says you may discover something you love while treading outside your comfort zone. “You learn the most when things don’t go perfectly. If you are determined to try new things and grow, you will focus on what you are learning and forget about failure.”

She says staying in your comfort zone is like wearing blinders. “You will tell yourself that all you care about are the things that are already a part of your life. You will continually convince yourself that you dislike the things you’ve never tried. They just aren’t for you. And with every such thought, you erect thicker walls between yourself and everything that makes you uncomfortable. Take some risks and the walls start coming down.”

She adds that new experiences can alter everything about what you believe, what you like to do, how you behave, and how you live. “The possibilities are truly endless.”

4. It will boost your confidence and brainpower

According to Latham, research shows that brains benefit from new exercises. “New challenges are a great way to keep your brain young and healthy.

“We all stand a little taller with the pride of a new accomplishment. You can make that happen far more frequently than you are today. Success breeds more success thanks to the confidence, experience, learning, and determination it inspires.”