"You have to fight for your comfort zone"

Interview with trend researcher Peter Wippermann

22.12.2015 | Grafenfels editorial staff

Peter Wippermann is one of the most well known trend researchers in Germany and is a Professor for Communications Design at the Folkwang University in Essen. In this interview, he talks about the enormous importance for us to have a comfort zone.

What is behind the term ‘comfort zone’
and what constitutes one?

The comfort zone is a protected area that an individual can control and construct for him/herself — and can find peace in. This can be every form of a real existing space, but it could also be an immaterial space. One example of this is the so-called ‘digital detox,’ which allows us a period of time away from digital devices.

This trend describes the act of turning away from being constantly available. An individual consciously makes a space where is he/she cannot be reached — independent of where that person physically is at the time.

Why is an intact comfort zone more important
today than ever before?

Today, being overstressed already starts in kindergarten. Young people are already practicing self-marketing in the virtual world. They attempt to pin themselves down and send signals about their identity even though they are still developing. The rapid acceleration of modern life is pushing us towards performance-oriented goals in all areas of our lives.

At work, you should already be a senior manager by the time you are 30, but on the other hand, you are expected to work until you are 67 years old. Our everyday lives are full of unpredictable things, making us long for security, tranquility and relaxation.

In today’s often very complex working environment, 
could a comfort zone make a person more successful?

At the moment, we are in a phase where our working times have started to become more individualized. With this, we also have to decide for ourselves when to take a break and when to be constantly under pressure. This is illustrated very well by the discussion taking place in unions and works councils concerning the need to protect employees from company emails after 6 or 7 pm.

We have to be clear in our own minds about the fact that we need periods of relaxation. Our ability to concentrate can only be achieved when we also plan in our breaks. This is the only way that it is at all possible to be successful in the long run.

What happens to people who do not spend
enough time in their comfort zone?

For this, the oversimplified term of ‘burnout’ is used, indicating that there is a continuous stress overload in a particular area. This can happen when the time for regeneration is ignored or cannot be taken.

Many sociologists are strongly advocating
that we leave our comfort zone. You are arguing that we can only
develop our identity in an interesting way by making use of it.
What do you mean by that?

For me, the idea of not getting stuck in a routine is a rather obsolete concept. This discussion came to a head in the leisure society of the 1990s. This was a time of saturation — when the world was thought to be extremely secure. People thought that the only way to develop oneself was to get away from everything.

Since we have come into the twenty-first century, this concept is no longer relevant. The comfort zone is not something that can be taken for granted by everyone. Rather, it is something to fight for or something that one has to organize for oneself.