What is a comfort zone and how to get out of it?

More and more often today you can hear advice to get out of your comfort zone. But the wide circulation of this psychological term does not make it understandable even for half of those who use it from time to time. About how pleasant and dangerous this zone can be, whether it is necessary to leave it, this article will tell.

What it is?

In psychology, the «comfort zone» a special definition that implies that personal part of the living space in which the most safe and comfortable conditions are created for a person. In simple words, the comfort zone is a state of psychological comfort, calmness, confidence in the present day and tomorrow. It has a special personal scheme, patterns that make a person understand that he is completely safe. The actions of the individual are predictable, understandable to him, natural, when communicating or certain habitual manipulations, he knows exactly what result he can count on. This instills in him calmness and relaxation, reduces stress.

From this point of view, the comfort zone is universal value, since its presence tells a person about some stability in his life. But there are also disadvantages. If you stay in this zone for a long time, a clear understanding comes that the development of the personality has stopped, slowed down, everything is so stable and predictable that a person no longer needs to set goals, achieve them, work on himself, improve himself. It is in happy stagnation, like in a swamp.

Once you understand this, you come to the understanding that it is time to change something, not to succumb to the deceitfulness of the comfort zone, because it not only slows down many processes, but also poses a certain danger. So, for years a person can not change anything, enduring the humiliating attitude of his superiors, low wages, and all because this is his comfort zone, and it cleverly deceives with a sense of false stability and fear of losing “and a titmouse in your hands.”

Fear of leaving the zone that is comfortable for him makes a person maintain relationships with friends who have long ceased to be interesting to him and even drag him along to the bottom. The fear of losing the apparent comfort of the existing zone prevents a person from breaking off unproductive and unhappy personal relationships, getting a divorce, refusing to meet with a lover or mistress, and trying to find true happiness.

That’s why psychological quagmire, called the comfort zone, is considered a negative state that needs correction. In any case, this is exactly what Russian psychologists and psychotherapists say. Their foreign colleagues do not always agree with them.

European experts do not see anything harmful in the zone, believing that the only thing to do is to expand its borders, and not leave it. Both points of view have every right to exist, and both have their supporters and opponents.

How does it work?

Everyone has their own individual comfort zone. There are no two alike. For one, this is a familiar old armchair and a blanket, for another, it is a cozy parental home. Whatever your comfort zone is, it will work according to certain laws. First of all, it cancels any willingness to act, adapt, adjusts to the usual patterns of behavior and actions “on the machine”. Thus, a zone can be considered a special state of mind that we begin to experience when we find ourselves in certain circumstances.

A mentally and emotionally healthy adult cannot “get stuck” in stagnation for a long time, without much effort, he smoothly leaves the comfort zone, enters it, expands the boundaries, brings something new into the usual course of things in his life. But there are not so many such healthy people, alas. Most are prone to stress, and therefore escaping to a comfort zone becomes habitual for them, and one day they get stuck there, starting to stubbornly and steadily degrade. The zone act on the ancient human mechanism of adaptation. We get used to everything and stability too. And even if at first something in it seems uncomfortable, unacceptable, uncomfortable, staying inside, we get used to it and begin to perceive this reality as the only normal one.

On a conscious level, a person is aware that he is mired. So why isn’t he doing anything? This is where the underlying mechanisms come into play. When thinking about goals that lie outside the outlined zone, a person begins to understand that this will require fundamental changes in reality.. Ancient instincts at a deep level say that “there” is potentially dangerous, since the results from going “there” are unpredictable and are not calculated by the usual scheme. A person immediately begins to experience stress with all its hormonal emissions and “turns on” the unconscious defense, sinking even deeper into his “swamp” and erecting a three-meter fence around it. Stress immediately recedes, a feeling of comfort returns. Motivation goes out, a person feels that he made an attempt to go outside, and the fact that it is unsuccessful does not bother him much, and he calmly remains in the zone until the next “motivational attack”.

Over time, the frequency of such “insights” becomes less and less frequent.

Do you need to go out?

This question does not have a universal answer. The fact is that experts in the field of psychology often advise everyone in a row to go beyond the usual, arguing that this is incredibly useful. But more cautious and even wary psychotherapists who deal with borderline states of the psyche and disorders assure that all progress occurs individually, and if a person currently has serious objective problems, then it is better to leave everything as it is. At least until the problem is solved. Otherwise, you can «run into» not only a temporary disorder, but also a permanent mental deviation.

It should be noted that for most people who do not have significant external problems and prerequisites for mental complications, leaving the comfort zone will not hurt and even help in self-improvement, in relationships, career, self-realization. Often life itself throws us out of a comfortable «swamp», some events occur that radically violate the usual mechanical reactions and actions: divorce, partner’s departure, sudden dismissal, death of a loved one and other serious shocks. Usually, if you watch closely, this happens just when the person is already on the brink or in the process of personality stagnation. This is how life forces us to move forward, further, to reach new heights. But is it worth waiting for troubles and «kicks» from the outside, if you can start positive changes on your own?

There are a number of reasons to take action to exit. Growing human needs. And even if it seems that nothing in life is changing, the needs are still increasing, and it is important for a person to keep up with them. Here are some illustrative examples. As children, we were happy when they turned on a cartoon and gave us candy. When we grew up, we stopped experiencing the same delight from watching an animated film and candy, our needs became different. These metamorphoses occur continuously in the course of life. Previously, travel and overseas cruises were a luxury, something unprecedented and unattainable, and today, according to statistics, every third inhabitant of the planet invests in travel from time to time. Is it only about globalization? Or is it, again, in a change in the forms of needs?

Stepping out of our comfort zone motivates us to take action, to explore, to acquire new experiences, always aimed at meeting growing needs. A person does not feel that life is flowing past him, he is in the flow, in its very center.

How can you get out?

There are many ways the main thing is to clearly understand the need and start acting. The current reality is far from the only way of development, there are still a lot of options for events, and you should not be afraid to leave your so familiar and predictable «swamp» in order to receive amazing, wide opportunities as a reward.

Most often, experts recommend act when leaving the comfort zone according to a clearly defined plan of action. We remember those «traps» that our unconscious «I» will place, and these will be fears and uncertainty, stress. A plan is needed to force yourself to step over your stress responses. If it does not work out, at this stage, another unsuccessful attempt to exit or expand personal comfortable space usually ends.


If you do not have a goal, then there will be no “beacon”, an important landmark that will help expand the boundaries of a comfortable space. Write down all the goals that you would like to achieve, no matter how strange or unbelievable they may seem. Remember that you need to formulate goals correctly. There is no goal to buy a car, but there is a goal to gain freedom of movement, to be able to travel by car. Can’t be the goal of millions of dollars. The goal is to live in abundance, afford expensive purchases, and a million is one of the tasks. If you want, then the task is for you. Just calculate the required amount of funds and start looking for their source — a new job, part-time job, play the lottery.

It’s not that hard to learn how to set goals. Ask yourself why you generally need this or that desired thing — money, connections, relationships, opportunities? The answer will be the formulation of the goal. The more goals you set, the better. Divide your goals into deadlines, if necessary, set yourself certain deadlines, this will help you cope with exit fears, and will also be a great goal-setting exercise.

Be sure to write down the goals on paper, you should see them, keep them at hand.


Imagine more often what you will get, what you will become when the goal is achieved, fix your feelings, remember them. This will be the basis of motivation. As soon as there is a desire to drop everything and return away from stress back to the usual psychological “quagmire”, reproduce these feelings in your memory, they will become “anchors” that will help you return to the right course.

Motivation without goal setting is impossible, which is why this is the second stage of work to expand and get out of the comfort zone. If there are problems with the will, it is worth getting reliable partners and associates. Share goals and ideas with loved ones, a friend, girlfriend, loved one, but immediately stipulate with him that you can change your mind halfway, ask them to persistently guide you towards the goal, despite violent protests. Motivation is especially helpful if a comrade-in-arms decides to move towards a goal with you, attends training sessions, classes, Mongolian language courses, a dance group, a dental clinic, driving courses or an extreme survival school with you. He will cheer you up when it’s bad, calm you down when fears start to take over, shame you, in the end.

Graduality is important

As in any important business, you should not gallop over your personal psychological «bog bumps». Getting out of the comfort zone requires consistency, moving from stage to stage, looking for mistakes, analyzing changes, adjusting plans. This work is not done in haste. The faster the start, the higher the probability of critical errors. We act gradually, moving from goals to the formation of motivation, from easy goals to more complex ones. Stick to your plan, stick to deadlines. Remember that the rapid exit from a comfortable space increases the likelihood of a mental breakdown, a nervous breakdown.

But do not try to justify your inaction by gradualness.. If you feel that you can do more, but slow down, justifying this by saying that a gradual expansion is recommended, then, in fact, you have a problem — either with goals, or with motivation, or with both.

Alternatively, it may be another game of the unconscious part of the mind, which, in this way, by deliberate slowness, is trying to protect your personality from the stress and fear of the unknown, located on the other side of your personal swamp.

Don’t go to extremes

If you spent half your life with a book on the couch, obviously you should not immediately run to the nearest airfield to jump with a parachute. If you have never played sports, it is not worth the first goal to set a barbell lift, the weight of which exceeds your one and a half times. Extremes are another danger to be aware of in advance. The first positive shifts are usually pushed to extremes.

Once we have felt that the exit was not a death trick and even brought new pleasures, allowed us to feel the taste of life that you have already forgotten, control over the growth of needs can be minimized. The body will begin to demand adrenaline, and this threatens with unpleasant consequences, injuries, mental breakdowns. You should not rush headlong into the new, giving all your strength, experiments with new relationships will not lead to success if there are a lot of them, and you won’t earn all the money.

Control yourself, write down every day the changes that have happened to you in your personal diary. As long as you formulate the feeling into a word,. objectivity, adequacy of perception of reality increases, which is what we need.

Age is not a hindrance

There are no age restrictions for expanding the comfort zone. An example of this can be pensioners who, only after going on a well-deserved rest, discovered the world, new hobbies, got married, achieved significant success in any field. Such examples are numerous. If age is embarrassing, make for yourself a selection of information about people who, at your age, managed to change their usual life. Think about them more often, watch biopics, read books. This will become an additional motivation.

Usually older people have more difficulty in overcoming the boundaries of the comfort zone. It is difficult for them to change their habitual actions, attitudes, their own attitude, they are more prone to fears and even phobias. It is more difficult for them to set goals, because it often seems that it is either too late or there is no point in achieving something.

If so, you should seek help from a good psychologist or psychotherapist. These specialists will help you set goals, outline plans and become reliable allies in the coming positive changes.

In short, this is the basis of the technique for getting out of the comfort zone. As for practical advice, here they are.

  • Expand your social circle. Even if you are an experienced introvert, it is worth allowing new communication into your life. For starters, let it be communication on the Internet, gradually bring it to neighbors, strangers in a store, at a bus stop, on the street. Remember that expanding the circle of communications opens up additional opportunities to achieve your goals, because among new acquaintances there may be very useful people who will help.
  • Travel. It is not necessary to immediately get into debt and buy a ticket to distant hot countries. Traveling does not require large capital. Start with a weekend trip to a neighboring city, see its sights, museums, go to the theater, cafes. Take a trip into the forest. Only one condition is important — the place must be unfamiliar, you should never have been in it before. It is this factor that will provide a novelty of sensations and a new experience.
  • Add little new things to your life every day. We are talking about something that does not significantly violate the boundaries of the «swamp», but nevertheless creates a feeling of novelty. Try to cook a new dish from the usual set of products. The action is simple, but the effect is colossal. Instead of a romance novel, choose a detective or thriller to read in the evening. Buy new shoes, even if the old ones are still «anywhere.»
  • Expand potential. If a job change is not planned, then ask your manager to supplement your usual duties with something new, something that you have not had to do before. Participation in a new project, a new position, and even a change in work schedule will certainly help you feel the flow of life differently, more fully.
  • Change your daily routine. Don’t do it drastically, but small adjustments won’t hurt. Add an hour-long walk in the park to your day, don’t be afraid to destroy false stability and dangerous comfort by forcing yourself to take a walk before bed in the evening. If this is incredibly difficult to do, which is very, very likely, get a pet, such as a puppy. In any case, you will have to play with him.
  • learn. New knowledge and skills never hurt. It doesn’t have to be quantum physics or the basics of microbiology. Sign up for a foreign language course, its knowledge will come in handy both when traveling and in finding a new, more promising job. Learn to knit, embroider, fold pictures of amazing beauty from rhinestones, sculpt from clay, allocate at least an hour a day for training, use any opportunity for this — books, manuals, webinars, training videos, articles by professionals. An important condition is that your training course should be intensive enough to achieve the effect of leaving the comfort zone.
  • Take yourself to the next level. At this point, you already have a layer of knowledge, skills and abilities. Raise them to a new level, improve, use the advice of experts, communicate in interest groups, read specialized literature.
  • Solve old problems. The period of leaving the comfort zone is a good time to tackle problems that have been put off for a long time “for later”. «Later» came.

Each solved problem will bring moral and psychological satisfaction, more than compensating for the hormonal stress attack.

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