One's comfort zone refers to the set of environments and behaviors with which one is comfortable, without creating a sense of risk. A person's personality can be described by his or her comfort zones. Highly successful persons may routinely step outside their comfort zones, to accomplish what they wish. A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries that are not real. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security. Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside a person's comfort zone, they must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that then occur within his environment.
The boundaries of a comfort zone may result in an internally rigid state of mind. A comfort zone often results from unfounded beliefs which, once dispelled, expand the scope of a person's behaviors within the same environment. A comfort zone may alternatively be described with such terms as rigidity, limits or boundaries, or habit, or even as stigmatized behavior.
An example could be a recognized need to leave an unsatisfactory job but the fear of doing so as it would result in losing the sense of security the individual derives from the job. The sense of security the individual perceives could be attributed to the mental conditioning formed initially.
A comfort zone may result when the mental concept that (a) person(s) has/have about something and actual reality of it, are not congruent with one another. A classic example to take would be of self image.
Self-image may consist of three types:
- Self image resulting from how the individual sees himself or herself
- Self image resulting from how others see the individual
- Self image resulting from how the individual perceives others see him or her
These three types may or may not be an accurate representation of the person. All, some or none of them may be true.
Nonetheless, they may result in a mental conditioning due to the creation of mental concepts used to represent the actual person, distorting the perceptions of both the individual as well as others. It could also lead to cognitive dissonance - the state of unease or discomfort an individual experiences when actual reality doesn't correspond to the constructed mental image.
Another example is in sports such as football (US soccer), if a team winning a match or on top of the league believes that there is little chance of the opposition catching up, may find themselves in a 'comfort zone', which often leads to complacency, and the other team given a chance to come back due to a lull in the performance of the leading team. In another sense, if a team, for example, reaches a point where their points total in a league makes it mathematically impossible or improbable for the runners up to catch up, they may enter a more positive comfort zone - where they know they are safe from the threat of the second team.