• Home
  • /
  • Business
  • /
  • Breakout strategies for those trapped in ‘comfort prison’

Breakout strategies for those trapped in ‘comfort prison’

Be aware of your personal ‘comfort prison’, plan your escape and do what it takes to get going on your new strategy.
Read time 3min 30sec

I have written and spoken about the ‘comfort prison’ before. We usually refer to it as a ‘comfort zone’, but in my experience it is a lot more sinister.

You may find that you are in a comfort prison, with no idea how you got there, or how to escape. There are a lot of voices wanting to keep you inside this prison. Most of the voices are inside your own head. But there are some other voices, such as culture, family expectations, stereotypes, etc, that are just as eager to keep you locked up where you are.

This comfort prison can serve others very well, because when you are inside, they are not. Whilst you are doing the work that you have always done, they don’t have to. Whilst you are not putting your name forward for the tough assignments, they are. Whilst you are not progressing and taking up leadership space… they are!

Whilst you don’t have to tattoo a map to your body for this ‘Prison Break’, there are some proven strategies to help you break free.


Realising that you are in a place of comfort is the first step. When colleagues come to you to ask how to do this, or where to find that, and everything around you works as it should, but yet you still doubt your capabilities: you are likely in a comfort prison.

You aren’t growing and haven’t for a while, it is the same procedure each day/month/year with minor changes.

You are afraid of risks and are negative about ideas that may bring change and put off for tomorrow the adventures / challenges / opportunities that come across your inbox today.


Realising that you are in a comfort prison in some areas of your life is tough; doing something about it is tougher. What holds you inside is often the inner voice that I wrote about in my last Industry Insight. Read that for some guidance on where to start.

After you have started taming your inner voice, it is time to stick your toe outside the door of your prison. I am not suggesting a huge leap. I am suggesting a small shuffle out.

Realising that you are in a comfort prison in some areas of your life is tough; doing something about it is tougher.

For one of my coaching clients, it meant setting a target to speak up once in every team meeting; for someone else it meant thinking through a new approach with her manager which included standing up for her priorities.

For you it might be deciding to learn a new skill (see my piece on investing in personal equity). Whatever it is, plan it and commit to it. A coach can be helpful to keep you accountable, but a fierce friend will do too!


Don’t delay for tomorrow what you can start today. Get going on your new strategy.

Remember the definition: Confidence is the characteristic that distinguishes those who imagine, from those who do. It is the stuff that turns thoughts into action (The Confidence Code, by Kathy Kay and Claire Shipman).

Doing something new might be scary, and yes it might fail, but at least it is done! And Done is better than To Do: just ask any list-maker.

When you start doing, the doing builds momentum. The doing starts telling you that you can do new things. Not everything will work brilliantly, but Doing takes the scary out of the To Do…. And DOING builds CONFIDENCE!

Doing the plan is the way to ESCAPE the prison. Thinking about the plan will keep you locked up, talking about the plan will pin you to your prison bunk bed, researching will weld the lock shut. It is in the DOING that the door unlocks and the prisoner walks free!

Angela de Longchamps

Director, Tandem Learning and Leadership Solutions

Angela de Longchamps is a passionate South African who has worked across the world, but chooses South Africa to call home. Her 20+ years of international corporate experience with PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM, in HR and as a leadership development facilitator, learning designer and event speaker, and the very grounding reality of taking her job as mom to three children very seriously, are the foundation for her business: Tandem Learning and Leadership Solutions. She partners with local and international businesses to help leaders shape up and step up.

She is also founder and CEO of a collaboration economy blended learning approach and methodology called: Inspired Leadership.

De Longchamps speaks to teams, facilitates workshops and training, inspires leaders, and assesses and consults on gender perception in organisations.

See also