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Comfort Zone, Learning Edge, Danger Zone

Justice, Equity & Inclusion


In this activity participants will explore how comfortable or challenged they feel in different scenarios. It opens up a conversation about pushing oneself when in a challenging situation and respecting others boundaries. It’s a useful activity for developing self-awareness, team building and building empathy.

An activity to explore comfort zones, learning edges, and more.

  • To introduce to participants the concepts of comfort zones, learning edges, and danger zones.
  • Participants will be able to define what their learning edges, comfort zones, and danger zones are.
  • Participants will have a basic understanding of how to define what triggers them and what they feel like when triggered.
  • To show that everyone has different levels of comfort with different topics, activities, etc. and that you are the only one who knows when you are in the different zones.


  • You have to be the one who pushes yourself and knows when you are learning.
  • We should try not to judge other people or make assumptions about what might be comfortable/easy for some people based on what is comfortable/easy for ourselves
  • To emphasize that learning happens outside of our comfort zones, and that it requires that we sit in our discomfort sometimes, challenge ourselves, and take risks

Materials & Set-up:

Three circles of rope or webbing—ideally one red, one yellow, and one green.

Using different colors of rope or webbing make three concentric circles on the floor.

  1. Framing

Explain the concepts of safety, comfort, learning edges, and danger zones: “We are going to talk about the concepts of comfort zones, learning edges, and danger zones. These circles on the ground represent the three different zones.” 

    1. The middle one is the Comfort Zone. (Ask people to move to the innermost circle.)
      We all have zones of comfort about different topics and experiences. Having difficult conversations and doing social justice work often asks us to move beyond our traditional areas of comfort so that we can open ourselves to new challenges, knowledge, and awareness. Inside our comfort zone we are rarely being challenged; therefore, rarely learning.

    2. (Ask people to move to the second circle) We call the edge of our comfort zone the learning edge. When we are on the learning edge, we are most open to expanding our knowledge and understanding – as well as expanding our comfort zone itself. Being on this edge can be uncomfortable or we may feel out of balance. We may experience this as feeling annoyed, angry, anxious, surprised, confused, defensive, or in some other way uncomfortable. These reactions are a natural part of the process of expanding our comfort zones, and are a part of the learning process. The challenge is to recognize when we are on a learning edge and then to stay there, and sit with the discomfort we are experiencing, to see what we can learn.

    3. (Ask everyone to move to the outermost circles) Too far outside our comfort zone and we begin to resist new information and withdraw. This is the danger zone. We can shut down or have other strong reactions that make it hard or impossible to comprehend new information.

Express that the intention of the activity is not to see where other people are and judge them based on where they are, but to reflect on your own position and what is impacting you being where you are on each statement.

  1. Have everyone spread out and position themselves on the outside of the three circles you have created on the floor. Remind participants that the center circle is your comfort zone, the middle circle is your learning edge, and the outer circle is the danger zone.

  2. Explain that you will read a series of statements and that for each one, they should move to the circle that fits with their level of comfort.

  3. After each statement, give folks a chance to think for a few seconds about why they are standing where they are and then have the group return to the outside before reading the next one.

  4. This is a silent activity, so participants should not be talking until the end of the activity.

Examples of Prompts

“How comfortable would you be…”

  • Eating a new food you’ve never tried before?
  • Correcting a coworker who is using the wrong gender pronouns for another coworker?
  • Asking your parents/close family member to cover your phone bill for the month?
  • Giving a speech in an auditorium in front of 400 people?
  • Asking for help when you have too much on your plate?
  • Having a conversation with your family members about racism?
  • Leading a team building activity for a group of 50 peers?
  • Telling a friend you’re not buying season tickets because you can’t afford them?
  • Interacting with a police officer?

Try to have the group to understand:

  1. Where their own learning edges are;
  2. That everyone has different levels of comfort with concepts, topics, activities, etc.;
  3. That optimal learning happens when they are being challenged or challenging themselves, and;
  4. That their own social identities (race, socio-economic class, gender, etc.) impact their comfort with certain things.

Dialogue Questions

  • Do you have any initial reactions to the activity?
  • What did you notice about yourself in this activity?
  • What did you notice about the group?
  • What were some ways you noticed your social identities effected your placement that you’d like to share?
  • Anything else you’d like to add to our discussion of this activity? 


Now we are going to move into the next activity. We would like you to keep this activity in mind as we move through the rest of the day/retreat/workshop. Remember that we want you to be challenged while you are here and we also want to make sure that you feel safe and do not enter the danger zone.

If you have participants who have limited mobility, offer to them that they can stay where they are and encourage them to reflect on which area they would be in for each statement or offer another way for them to indicate their movement by holding up different color signs, flags, or bandannas.