The comfort zone is a state within which a person feels at ease, familiar, in control, and experiences low anxiety. A person in this state uses a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.
Judith M. Bardwick, author of Danger in the Comfort Zone, defines 'comfort zone' as "a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position". Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, describes the comfort zone as: "Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized — where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control.". That is the environment in which one thinks it easy to get more satisfaction and results with less efforts or even without even no effort.
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To step out of the comfort zone raises the anxiety level engendering a stress response, the result of which,if well managed, is an enhanced level of concentration and focus. White (2009) refers to this as the "optimal performance zone" - a zone in which the performance of a person can be enhanced and in which their skills can be optimized. However, White (2009) also observes that if the work of Robert Yerkes (1907) is considered in which he reported," Anxiety improves performance until a certain optimum level of arousal has been reached. Beyond that point, performance deteriorates as higher levels of anxiety are attained," if a person steps beyond the optimum performance zone they enter a "danger zone" in which performance tends to decline rapidly as higher levels of anxiety or discomfort occur; but we should note that it is not that frequent to enter in the "danger zone" and the fear of entering into the "danger zone" should not be a reason for young people to fail in trying their very best in achieving their goals.
In terms of performance management or development, the objective of the trainer or manager is to cause the person to enter the optimum performance zone for a sufficient period of time so that new skills and performance can be achieved and become embedded.And it is very necessary and useful for the learner also to try his or her best to move into the "optimum performance zone". The same reasoning is used with goal setting: change the anxiety level and the performance will change(more reasonable anxiety will give more results and achevements). (However, in performance terms, the term "incentive" is used to describe the process of changing the anxiety level - an incentive being anything that causes a change in behavior.)
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An example of stepping out of one's comfort zone would be leaving an old job for a new one. The comfort and security of the old job provided the comfort zone, but the decision to leave and start anew elsewhere indicates leaving the comfort zone.
A comfort zone may result when someone is content with operating within a certain behavior zone, for example, self-image. Self-image provides a behavioral comfort zone by developing a series of guidelines by which the person will act due to their self image. Forms of self-image include :
- self-image resulting from how the individual sees himself or herself,
- self-image resulting from how others see the individual; this self-image should not be critical to the individual more than the first.
- self-image resulting from how the individual perceives others see him or her. This self-image may be bad in sense that the individual's judgment on how people see him or her is most of the time not right nor true.
All these types of perception of self-image are not necessarily congruent with reality, nor are they the only ways self-image is created.
- Alasdair A. K. White "From Comfort Zone to Performance Management" 
- Tugend, Alina (11 February 2011). "Tiptoeing Out of One’s Comfort Zone (and of Course, Back In)". Retrieved 11 December 2014.
- Bardwick, Judith. Danger in the Comfort Zone: How to Break the Entitlement Habit that's Killing American Business. New York: American Management Association, 1995. ISBN 0-8144-7886-7.
- White, Alasdair A. K. "From Comfort Zone to Performance Management" White & MacLean Publishing 2009. ISBN 978-2-930583-01-3. 
- Yerkes, R & Dodson, J. - "The Dancing Mouse, A Study in Animal Behavior" 1907 "Journal of Comparative Neurology & Psychology", Number 18, pp 459–482