If I ask you about your “comfort zone,” what comes to mind?

Maybe, to you, it means that well-worn easy chair you settle into at the end of a hard day’s work. You prop your feet up, wrap your hand around a cold one and settle into your comfort zone. But that’s not what I’m talking about in today’s column.

I’m talking about the well-worn treads that lay in your path each day through your professional life. We wake up, grab coffee, and go about our days with our wheels following the same ruts as the day before. It’s the easy thing to do. In many cases, it’s the productive thing to do.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. I have to set myself on a certain amount of autopilot just make it through most days, balancing all the demands of work and life in general. That autopilot is kind of a survival mechanism. So many of the things I do every day have to be at the bottom end of my attention span just so I can get the most productivity out of eight or so hours on the clock. I’m talking about things like paying bills, filling up my truck with gas and deleting all the spam emails in my inbox. These are all tasks that I prefer to handle without sparing too much attention.

Then, there are tasks that challenge all of us and demand more of our attention bandwidth. This brings me back to the concept of the comfort zone.

I am not very comfortable speaking to crowds. Oddly enough, this extends to the occasional webinars I do. I’m on camera, but don’t see the crowd I’m talking to. Yet, somehow, I just feel the presence of an audience and get a little nervous. It’s gotten better over the course of doing a few of these things, but doing webinars is definitely out of my comfort zone.

So, what do you do that falls outside your comfort zone? Maybe you were born with the hands of a mechanic and always get the “Hey, can you take a look at this …” call when the rig goes conks out, but you can’t wrap your head around the concept of an invoice. Maybe you’re working yourself up through the ranks of a small contracting company, but haven’t had the chance to prove that you can manage people. Maybe your company has been doing water well drilling for a generation, and you can’t quite bring yourself to branch out into geothermal — even though you know there’s money to be made.

Frank Zappa once famously said, “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” Now, I’m not a huge fan of his music, and I don’t expect you to be either, but I think there is a lot of truth to that statement.

Stepping out of your comfort zone in your professional life helps make progress possible, whether you’re trying to start a new business venture, trying to climb the corporate ladder, or simply trying to get your boss to realize what a think-on-your-feet kind of person you are.

So, take some time today to think about the things that make you uncomfortable. Maybe, like me, public speaking makes you uncomfortable. Pick something outside of your comfort zone and build a professional project around it. You’d be surprised at what you can do when you challenge yourself to take your wheels out of those everyday ruts. You just might find a road that leads you in a new — and profitable — direction.

Have you taken on a project that falls out of your comfort zone? Did it help give you a professional boost? Tell me about it. Send an email to verduscoj@bnpmedia.com.

Stay safe out there, drillers.