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Sailing in the Growth Zone

Doing my usual job on the J/105. 

Doing my usual job on the J/105. 

The Goal

This year, I’ve had a specific goal to be a better sailor. Some people have laughed and said, “Why do you need to be a better sailor?

This was my 22nd year racing on the same boat, with the same crew. I like to win and want to make sure we stay at the top of the fleet. I also enjoy doing things well, perfecting the art of whatever I do, professionally and personally.

To become a better sailor, I needed to try some new things – on my own. All year long, I’ve taken advantage of different opportunities to spread my wings in new ways.


Growth Zone

This is known as my “growth zone.” In the growth zone, you are taking risks, trying new things, stretching in new directions. The growth zone can occur in all aspects of life-professionally and personally, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The growth zone is where we thrive, grow, feel most alive and vibrant, and have the most success.

Previously, sailing was in my “comfort zone,” something I can do competently and confidently, not worry about it, and know everything is manageable. When we stay in the comfort zone, life can get a bit stale, boring, and predictable. We can even start to backslide a bit.

Adjusting the backstay during the women’s regatta

Adjusting the backstay during the women’s regatta

Sailing and Stretching

To get into my growth zone, I first joined our club’s team racing group. Then I took a race management course to learn how to be a “race officer” so I can be on the race committee for regattas our fleet doesn’t compete in. I raced in a women’s regatta, and now I’m practicing driving so I can skipper in next year's women’s regatta. Throughout the year, I’ve sailed with and against an ever-changing group of sailors. I’ve traveled to different places and sailed on a variety of boats.


All the stretching this year has made me more excited about sailing. And the results are paying off in multiple ways.

While I’m more intentional about it, I’m also having more fun. I’ve loved meeting so many new people. All the boats I’m racing on are getting better. The energy I’ve put into it has come back multiplied. I have a renewed enthusiasm, even when I’m racing in my core position on my regular boat with my amazing team.

Winning a regatta last month in the British Virgin Islands with my usual team, but not on our usual boat or in our usual venue!

Winning a regatta last month in the British Virgin Islands with my usual team, but not on our usual boat or in our usual venue!

Embracing Growth

Sometimes, we are thrown into the growth zone – by the challenges of a new role, a new organization, a new partner, the loss of someone. But we can opt to strategically put ourselves in the growth zone for various reasons – to improve a skill set you know would be valuable, for example, like overcoming shyness and meeting new people, or understanding complex financials, or managing difficult employees or, like me, to maximize the benefit and enjoyment of something you already do to improve your life overall.

As we mature and grow, the activities and challenges that are in our growth zone migrate into the comfort zone and the comfort zone becomes bigger. So, we need to look for new ways to stay in our growth zone-to keep that spring in our step and embrace the “joie de vivre” of living life to its fullest.

This is a great time of year to look ahead and see where we will be in the growth zone. What curve balls is life going to throw at us? Family dynamics, career challenges, moves? And what curve balls are we going to throw ourselves? Personally, I can’t wait.

For more from Molly Wilmer, visit

For more images by Will Keyworth, see


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