Dr Fern Kazlow Of Kazlow Global On How to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone to Grow Both Personally and Professionally

An Interview With Maria Angelova


Getting past your comfort zone is a mind/body experience.

It feels most comfortable to stick with what we are familiar with. But anyone who has achieved great success will tell you that true growth comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. What are some ways that influential people have pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to grow both personally and professionally? As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Fern Kazlow.

Dr. Fern Kazlow, founder of the Power Collaborative, has spent her career challenging high-performing entrepreneurs, CEOs, and other professionals to take the necessary risks to turn their ideas, passion, and mission into extraordinary outcomes. She created the Integrative Therapy methodology, and established one of the first holistic centers in the world, based in New York City. With over 100K hours researching, teaching, training, mentoring, consulting, and providing psychotherapy, she has spearheaded breakthrough integrative approaches to mind-body healing, peak performance, and business success. Dr. Kazlow is forging a New Power Paradigm™ that moves you away from inauthenticity, lack of self-trust, and limitation, and enables you to move into your full power, allowing greater creativity, courage, and possibilities, and positioning you to be the leader the world so badly needs. https://www.DrKazlow.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

In second grade, I told my teacher, “I can teach her better than you can. You can’t treat her that way.” Fuming, my teacher said, “From now on she’s your responsibility. Every day after you finish your work, you help her.” I retorted that I was bored anyway, so that was fine.

To say my teacher wasn’t pleased is an understatement, but speaking out wasn’t out of character for me. This was the environment I went to school in. Teachers hit boys with a stick when they misbehaved, or were “fresh”. I was definitely happy to be a girl! Otherwise, I’d have had a very sore bottom.

The little girl in my class was labeled low IQ, diagnosed as retarded. The teacher had written her off, barely giving her any help or attention. Speaking out for what I believed she could accomplish, put me firmly on the path of what I do today…helping high performers shatter limitations and create extraordinary outcomes. After helping this girl go way beyond what the teacher thought was possible, the school sent me other children who needed help reaching their potential. By high school, I had a private tutoring business under way.

But it wasn’t just in school. I’ve always hated being told what I or others couldn’t do. Maybe it had to do with my parents’ belief that girls shouldn’t do certain things, go certain places, have certain careers, or maybe being small and cute influenced how people perceived me. In any case, I was frequently saying “You think I can’t, watch me.” and “Wanna bet?”

I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t pushing the limits, being a rebel, and doing what others said was impossible. In fact, I pushed the limits so much that in high school my guidance counselor said that the administration would like to help me get into college early (Translation: Please leave! You are too much of a challenge to the status quo). As I had already skipped a grade, going to college at 16 was a definite no to my parents.

It may seem contradictory to the firm constraints and limits my parents placed on me, but my father always said “You can accomplish whatever you put your mind to.” I believed him.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A quote that has been meaningful to me, and many of my clients, is a quote that came from the Apple “Think Different” commercial. What started as a commercial has, over time, become iconic.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

- Steve Jobs, 1997

Many high performers — including me — are rebels, disruptors, and, at times, troublemakers. We have big dreams that are often discounted or even mocked by those close to us. We have felt different, sometimes like misfits, and been judged as crazy. Often, we didn’t fit with our families and we felt like they didn’t get us at all.

Personally, I don’t like rules and hate being put in a box. I’m happiest when I’m innovating, creating something that hasn’t existed before. When I first started creating mind-body methodologies, and opened my center for Integrative Therapy, it was considered like voodoo. I had people warning me that I could lose my professional license for the work I was doing. Today integrative, holistic approaches are widely accepted.

Hearing Steve Jobs’ words, “…while some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” was powerful and affirming. This short commercial took what high achievers often feel bad about, and turned it into a superpower we suspected we had all along. And, it gave us real encouragement to keep going for what we believe in.

Whenever I heard that commercial, I nodded my head and smiled a bit. And, that is the reaction of many other high performer entrepreneurs as well.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’m going to answer this with one book from my childhood and one from adulthood. Both were about the difference we can make when we follow our purpose. The first, focused on what I could achieve if I didn’t give up, the second, what we can all do together.

As a child, my favorite book was The Little Engine that Could. I loved reading how the Little Blue Engine helped the train that broke down to fulfill her mission — getting good food and toys to the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain before the children woke up — despite the obstacles and the odds. It seemed like an impossible task. But she kept on going, speaking power into herself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” until she succeeded.

I took that message to heart, and in spite of facing many obstacles including life-threatening illnesses, and other challenges that seemed impossible to surmount, I kept going. I refused to accept obstacles and limitations, and I didn’t give up. My results showed me that against all odds, I could make a difference in my own life and help others fulfill their mission as well.

My mantra became “Help me, support me, or stay out of my way, but just don’t tell me it can’t be done.” Later I realized, say what you will, it will only make my resolve stronger. This became foundational for my life, and my work helping high performers get past their limits, break free of their stories, and create their extraordinary future.

As an adult, and practicing psychotherapist, I was influenced by Greg Braden, Ph.D. First, in his early book, The Isaiah Effect, and later in his book, The Divine Matrix. Bringing science and spirituality together, Braden shared data showing that when a certain percent of the population prayed or meditated together in particular ways it changed history. During the window of time they prayed, murder rates declined, climatic events became less catastrophic, and even the course of a war was changed. In The Divine Matrix, Braden talked about how we are all connected, and how all it takes to jumpstart a raise in consciousness is the square root of 1% of the population.

I saw powerful results not only from individual therapy and mentoring, but also from the therapy groups and masterminds that I led. This reinforced what Braden said, and my belief in the power of people coming together. This was part of the inspiration for my founding The Power Collaborative.

The Power Collaborative is where leaders can be part of that square root of 1% that makes the difference. This is a place where leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and other professionals connect and collaborate to grow themselves, their impact, and make the world a place we’d love to live in…which is especially needed now .

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s start with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. What does “getting outside of your comfort zone” mean?

Getting outside of your comfort zone commonly means going outside of what’s familiar, safe, and comfortable. In a deeper sense, it’s about doing things that help you expand who you are being, harness your full power, move toward self-actualization, and toward creating what you want in your personal life and in the world. Usually it connotes positive things ranging from modernizing your hairstyle, or trying a new restaurant, to leaving a job you know to start a new company, ending a bad relationship, even leaving home and moving to another continent to bring much needed education or medical services.

Your identity, your sense of self, and your purpose are challenged when you get out of your comfort zone. It may make you question your relationships, habits, or any aspect of your life.

At its core, getting out of your comfort zone is about striving to be all you can be to create the life and impact you desire.

Can you help articulate a few reasons why it is important to get out of your comfort zone?

We come into this life to grow, achieve our purpose, reach our potential. None of that can be accomplished if we stay where we are. Life is designed for growth, along with the challenges that help us achieve it.

Babies are born with huge potential. But they don’t grow and thrive without love, emotional support, good nutrition, exercise, and education…along with falls, mishaps, some scrapes and leaving behind what’s familiar.

Although we don’t always enjoy what’s happening, it is important to remember that life is always happening for us … not to us.

Is it possible to grow without leaving your comfort zone? Can you explain what you mean

I love this question. The obvious answer would be no, you have to leave your comfort zone to grow. It seems like the very definition of growth. Yet, the answer is richer and more complex. First, some people have a wider range in their comfort zone than others. They actually have room to grow within that zone.

Much like a jacket that fits well, but loose and comfortably, there may be ample room to grow before it gets too tight and you outgrow it.

Eventually, to continue to grow, whether it’s a jacket, or your way of being, you have to leave your comfort zone. And while your comfort zone is defined by its feelings of comfort, security, and familiarity, getting past it involves changing who you’re being, what you’re doing, and sometimes where you’re doing it and who you’re doing it with.

Depending on your relationship to change, how you’re wired up, your traumas and previous life experience, leaving your comfort zone may or may not be so uncomfortable. Some people are more comfortable with new experiences than others. Getting out of your comfort zone, being uncomfortable, while acutely painful for some, is pretty inconsequential to others.

You have the kindergartner who is clinging to his parent’s hand, crying and shrinking in fear…and others (like me) chomping at the bit to go off to a new adventure. In fact, I literally begged my parents, and the local elementary school, to let me attend a year ahead. It took about 3 months before we negotiated a deal and I started kindergarten early .

In later life, you see some entrepreneurs excitingly leaving their job and taking big risks, and others, I call them Reluctant Entrepreneurs, starting a company because they can’t get a job, and being extremely anxious about their new endeavor.

Most often, it’s fear and resistance to change that’s uncomfortable, more than the change itself. The idea of change, leaving what we know, including your old self, old relationships, and habits, can feel daunting. Yet the change may turn out to be easier than you thought it would be. Frequently, it’s even a relief.

Bottom line: life is about growth. If you’re not growing, you’re stagnating. You’re either living or dying. You can’t stay in your comfort zone forever…if you’re committed to achieving your potential, impact, and/or legacy.

Can you share some anecdotes from your personal experience? Can you share a story about a time when you stepped out of your comfort zone and how it helped you grow? How does it feel to take those first difficult steps?

I’m one of those people with an entrepreneurial personality. I thrive on change and getting out of my comfort zone…or at least some types of change. I do enjoy going to familiar restaurants or shops and I seem to be committed to wearing at least one item of black clothing at all times.

As much as it was exciting, there were a number of changes early in my career that definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I had worked as a full-time consultant along with teaching part-time at colleges and universities for years. Being an all-in person, I realized that I couldn’t grow my private psychotherapy practice to the extent I wanted as long as I was still doing consulting full-time and teaching. So, despite being seriously ill, with limited savings, and having my doctorate to finish, I quit consulting and teaching cold turkey. I devoted myself to finishing my dissertation and building my practice. I can’t say it was never scary. At one point I had to borrow money to pay to format my dissertation and pay my New York City rent.

I finished my dissertation, repaid my debt, and built my private therapy practice in record time. And, I gained the confidence to take another huge step a few years later. I opened one of the first integrative centers for mind-body health and business in the world, based in New York City. This was huge step out of my comfort zone. I had to borrow a lot of money and designed every inch of the space myself. I developed approaches to mind-body health and business that were seen as radical and caused some repercussions and serious discomfort for me. And, I went from trusting myself and my husband to treat patients, to hiring other therapists and holistic practitioners and entrusting them to see patients who came to see us.

Although at times it was nerve-wracking, and definitely out of my comfort zone, it was also exciting and affirming. I had more than a few naysayers warning me against doing it. And, there were moments it seemed they might be right. I lost 250K because of a well-respected contractor who turned out to be a savvy crook. But I made it back within the year, further empowering me. I went from a partnership with my husband to a 12 person enterprise within 10 months, and I became more convinced than ever to follow my intuition and my dreams.

Here is the central question of our discussion. What are your “five ways to push past your comfort zone, to grow both personally and professionally”?

  1. One of the best ways to push past your comfort zone is to change your lens, change how you see and experience the process.

Getting out of your comfort zone is a journey…and if you’re committed to continuing to grow and striving to reach your potential, you’re going to have to push past your comfort zone, over and over, as you reach for the next levels of growth.

If you view it as a struggle, something hard, to be dreaded…it’s going to be tough for sure. Explore how you can experience the journey as an adventure — no faking it, but see what can shift it for you. I’ll share some changes that can help you do just that below.

Many high achievers I work with love the push, the growth, the excitement, but they often do it in a way that eventually gets them stuck, leads to frustration, exhaustion, or burnout.

So, what can you do to push past your comfort zone more effectively…and, yes, even enjoyably?

  • Change your relationship to fear. We’re taught fear is the enemy. It isn’t. You don’t want to get stuck in fear, or “come from fear.” But, fear holds valuable information that you can use to grow, and create safe, effective, even extraordinary plans for your personal and professional life.
  • Be willing to fail. Embrace the quote from Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I win or I learn.” And, be willing to fail, fast and frequently on your way to a new version of yourself and to creating the life and business you desire.
  • Shift from willpower to willingness. We’re encouraged to see willpower as a virtue. While it works for a while, relying on willpower eventually limits and exhausts you. It can cause frustration, loss of creativity, momentum, drive, and burnout.
  • Instead, cultivate willingness, openness, creativity, and courage.

Jane, like many successful CEOs I’ve worked with, was an expert at willpower. She got far, gained recognition, and was a respected CEO of her company. She was also exhausted and was starting to wonder if she could continue her work. Jane had been pushing herself hard, using willpower to achieve her goals, since she was a kid. When she learned that she could get better results by being in a flow state, and coming from “willingness” she was hugely relieved. Excitement about her work returned, her company thrived (and the staff enjoyed themselves), her health and energy got better, and she was able to get past her comfort zone for new growth with ease.

2. When you’re really struggling to get out of your comfort zone, look to see if you’re working on the thing that’s actually blocking you. Often we’re focusing on the wrong issue. Look deeper, address your fears, and moving past your comfort zone will happen way more effortlessly.

I often see clients who have gone from coach to coach, therapist to therapist, and don’t see the results they desire…or the results they get don’t last. Often the reasons is that they aren’t getting to the core of the problem. While the problem they are addressing is real, it’s not the key issue that when resolved will provide the results they’re looking for.

Troy, a high achieving entrepreneur I worked with, wanted to scale his business to be more lucrative and more impactful. He would get to a certain point and couldn’t get past it. Troy hired coaches and advisors who kept trying to help him. He’d make progress and bam…he was back where he was before.

These advisors were making great suggestions for things Troy could do, new ways to think and to scale his business past where it was. And, they talked about his fear of failure. He kept insisting he wasn’t afraid of failing…he was right.

What wasn’t getting addressed was Troy’s fear that if he was too successful, it would be too much for him. Issues of trust were coming up and fears that he would be surpassed by the people he hired. Also, Troy was terrified that his health would suffer if his business got too big and demanded even more of his time and energy. When he dealt with those fears, taking steps to improve his health and resilience, and his feelings of inadequacy, Troy was able to come up with a plan to scale his business successfully and manageably, and enjoy his life.

3. Use what I call the Litmus Test question. Part of The Process that I use to guide entrepreneurs to unlocking potential is to ask “Is this thought, feeling, action, or belief bringing me closer or further from who I want to be, and what I want to create?” If it is bringing you closer, do it. Embrace the thought, the feeling, the belief. Take action. If not…don’t.

Explore what thoughts, feelings, and actions would be more in alignment with who you want to be and what you want to create. Start to embrace those instead. The Litmus Test question can be asked when you’re frustrated, uncertain, or at a crossroads. I recommend asking it daily as you plan your day and make decisions about what gets your time and attention.

An entrepreneur I worked, James, was super excited by many things he wanted to do with his business. But, it was hard for him to stay focused and see projects through. He was highly successful despite this, but was frustrated that he had a number of big projects he hadn’t made headway on. James found himself with little energy at the end of the day for his family or working out. When he began to ask the Litmus Test question, his priorities and path became clear. If he answered yes, he nurtured the thought, embraced the feeling, deepened the belief, took the action. If not, it was clear and he could decide what to do instead. James’ productivity soared and his quality of life improved.

4. Surround yourself with risk takers, people who are focused on growth, and who support your growth. Early in my career as a psychotherapist, I was in a training group with therapists that were very traditional in their methods. They charged low fees and had very different ideas about wealth than I did. While they were sincere about helping their patients, they were all about avoiding risk. The group tried to hold me back, suggesting I work as they did and abandon the methodologies I was developing that were working so well for my clients. They wanted me to build my practice more slowly (I had more patients in a year than most therapists had in 5 years). They were adamant that I should not charge more than they were. Basically, they supported each other in not rocking the boat and no one going beyond the others. The supervising therapist leading the group concurred.

It didn’t take long for me to leave that group. Instead, I connected with therapists that were not only experienced, but were also involved in cutting-edge technologies, open to being different, and not following the status quo.

I found a mentor who, although the methodologies I was developing were vastly different from what she did, supported what I was doing. As most therapists aren’t entrepreneurial, eventually I spent time with entrepreneurs who were excited about business and innovation.

And, I focused in both my psychotherapy practice and my mentoring/consulting work on the issues of high achievers, mavericks, those who wanted extraordinary growth in themselves, their impact, and their legacy.

5. Getting past your comfort zone is a mind/body experience.

While many preach change your thinking, change your mindset, change doesn’t happen in your mind alone. That’s one of the reasons people struggle to change or why change is short lived. If change doesn’t happen in your body, it isn’t sustainable.

Regulating your nervous system, shifting your state, and making it a mind-body experience will make it easier to push past your comfort zone…and make anything else you’re doing to grow more effective.

I’ve developed a technique, the Kazlow Anchor, that powerfully shifts your state right away…anywhere, from the boardroom to the privacy of your bathroom, and no one can tell you’re doing it. You can find it on the internet or I’m happy to share it if you reach out.

For right now, you can make a shift if you simply drop into your body and focus on your breath. You can use a breathing technique such as breathing in through your nostrils for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, exhale through your mouth for a count of 8.

I frequently hear from my clients how frustrating it used to be to try to change the way they were thinking or feeling when they were confronted with a tough situation, a trigger from the past, something that pulled them back to their old self. When they tried to push past their comfort zone by changing their thinking alone, they felt stuck. When they used the Anchor, or one of the other mind-body techniques I taught them, they went from frustrated, emotionally flooded, upset, repeating old patterns to breaking free, feeling in control, and creating a new better version of themselves.

From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that keep someone from pushing out of their comfort zone?

One of the biggest factors is what I call the Resistance Paradox. We’re wired to grow, fulfill our purpose, and to move toward self-actualization. We’re also wired to seek safety and security. Add to that the very ways of being that helped us achieve success in the past, as we try to grow, can now hold us back, create stress, or other issues. The tension created by those opposing forces results in resistance. When you learn to work with resistance, instead of seeing it as the enemy, fighting it, or pushing through it, it becomes a potent gateway for getting out of your comfort zone and continuing to grow and succeed.

Trauma, previous life experiences, and a dysregulated nervous system, all contribute to holding us back and our resistance to change. Many of us get stuck in flight, fight, freeze, or fawn states, none of which help us get past our comfort zone, or past it in a healthy way. Healing the trauma, dealing with tough experiences, and learning to regulate our nervous systems are key for growth on all levels.

There is a well-known quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that says, “Do something that scares you every day”. What exactly does this mean to you? Is there inherent value in doing something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, even if it does not relate to personal or professional growth? For example, if one is uncomfortable about walking alone at night should they purposely push themselves to do it often for the sake of going beyond their comfort zone? Can you please explain what you mean?

Many people believe that pushing yourself to face your fears is the way to overcome them and grow. They believe that doing something scary every day will build resilience and courage. While there is research that seems to bear this out, the devil is in the details. How scary and for whom?

Exposure to scary situations should be measured and suited to the person. For some people it may build fortitude, for others it will shut them down or worse. And, some who appear to handle it, may be using coping mechanisms that are masking negative effects on their nervous system, health, and well-being.

What I do think will work for many people, especially for high achievers, is to do something out of your comfort zone frequently. Not something that will overwhelm your nervous system, but something that will build real resilience, fortitude, and confidence.

Be aware of who you are and how you react to change. Sometimes doing little changes can be a great way to build capacity. Try wearing different clothes or colors, commit to a new exercise program, take a different route on a walk with your dog. Change up your routine. Build capacity, without putting your nervous system into a state of dysregulation.

On the other hand, huge challenges may be just the right thing for you. It could be cliff jumping or a massive business undertaking, the riskier the better.

Do what works for you to keep you thriving, feeling vital, loving, growing and succeeding in life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’m actually excited to be working on that now!

I’m leading a movement, a New Power Paradigm™, that will move us away from fake and limited power and focus on harnessing the full power within. The prevalent way for dealing with power today, within ourselves and with others, is both a factor and a symptom of the problems we’re now facing on a personal and global scale.

We’re encouraged to “fake it til you make it”, get tough, push down your feelings, or compartmentalize them, and sometimes to bully and dominate for control. It’s a model that limits us from reaching peak potential, separates us from others, and even from ourselves.

We’re living in a time of radical transformation. We’re on a precipice where the old paradigms and ways of being aren’t working. Moreover, the old paradigms of power, and dis-connection are actually destroying us, our physical and mental health, relationships, and our joy, as well as our businesses, communities, and the planet.

The challenges confronting us are like never before. Dealing with extreme stress, far-reaching uncertainty, divisiveness in your relationships, and threats to your health, are heightening your anxiety. You struggle with your identity and sense of self, and not having the feeling of power and control you once had. Add to that, your concern about your family, your business, and the state of our rapidly changing world.

Faced with this massive uncertainty around us, it’s time to transform how you deal with uncertainty and other obstacles that may limit you now, or in the long run, and use these as opportunities to unlock and unleash your potential.

Every aspect of our lives is calling us to change, calling for a rise in consciousness, calling for deep transformation at our very core …calling for a New Power Paradigm.

This new paradigm moves you away from fake power, inauthenticity, lack of self-trust, disconnection, divisiveness and limitation, and enables you to move into your full power allowing you to become radically more creative, courageous, and impactful. It positions you as the leader the world so badly needs. The New Power Paradigm is one of collaboration, connection, and conscious creation of every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Seth Godin…and he lives pretty close to where I live in New York. I’ve followed Seth for years. In fact, his blog is the only blog I read regularly. Why Seth? He’s brilliant, humble, and opens me to thinking and acting differently in new, important ways. Seth is about making a powerful difference in a way that both respects us and brings out our best.

Seth is an iconoclast. He’s different, and continues to make a huge contribution to the world of business and marketing, and the way we live our lives. I can say, without a doubt, that following Seth, and his teaching, has helped me get out of my comfort zone and grow, numerous times over the years. and other platforms online.

How can our readers follow you online?

Dr. Kazlow on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/drfernkazlow) also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at angelova@rebellious-intl.com. To schedule a free consultation, click here.



Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.
Authority Magazine

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.