As we’re coming to the end of the third quarter of 2020, how are you feeling about the progress you’ve made during the last three months? Are you satisfied or dissatisfied? Or do you have mixed feelings?

I like to review each closing quarter to reflect on what I actually got done. Usually I’m pleased when I see what I completed and experienced. This is relatively easy for me since I habitually maintain a log of accomplishments and experiences on a quarter-by-quarter basis, so I review this list at the end of each quarter. I find it more useful to compare one quarter’s progress to the previous quarter instead of measuring progress against my actual goals. Then I can see if I’m improving quarter by quarter.

After this little review, I look ahead to the next quarter and think about what I’d like to experience next. Several days ago I set my goals for the fourth quarter of this year, so I can start thinking about them well before the quarter begins.

One feeling I have about the upcoming quarter is that it’s time to advance. The past quarter involved a lot of small projects, and in the new quarter I’m ready for bigger ones. The two big ones are to create and publish a new deep dive course on creative productivity and to write the first draft of a novel.

I’ve created courses before but never on this particular topic. I’ve never written a novel before. So these are both advancement goals. Just engaging with them involves stepping into new territory.

I love advancement goals because they aren’t just more of the same. They stretch our characters. They dance with risk. They require exploration and experimentation. And they deliver such a sweet sense of accomplishment afterwards.

With advancement goals I find it particularly important to frame them carefully. The process of achieving them is at least as important as the end result. I want the process of advancement to feel wondrous and rewarding, like Indiana Jones exploring a new temple in search of hidden treasures.

So the advance isn’t just about reaching the end goal. It’s important to advance the process too – to engage with life in new ways that feel purposeful and meaningful. Using the same old process to achieve a new result-based goal seems boring and not as growth-oriented. A machine can run the same algorithm repeatedly. As a human I want the process to grow and evolve with me each time. A stale process may be fine for a Roomba but not for a human being.

I don’t just want to create a new course and write my first novel. I want to advance the way I create courses, and I want to advance into fiction with a sense of appreciation and discovery. Ten years from now I want to remember that I loved creating the course and loved writing the novel. I want the memories of enjoyment and appreciation and wonder, not the memory of being stuck in a dull or stressful process. Remembering some struggle is okay too – I’d rather struggle a bit than be bored.

Is it really an advance if you’re seeking a result, but your process feels like a step backwards in terms of lifestyle enjoyment? Are you advancing towards a goal while feeling like you’re simultaneously retreating into stress, worry, and attachment? If so, can you really call that an advance?

When you advance towards a new goal, be sure to advance your process too. Set goals not just for outcomes but also to explore and improve your relationship with life. Make it part of your goal to advance your character too. Make it part of your goal to create memories you’ll cherish for years.

Don’t just advance towards a new goal. Also advance the way you set and achieve goals.