Recently - while running - I had that spontaneous thought: why not writing a wish list to Santa.
I am now in my mid-thirties and the first thing my inner critical voice said was also: you're crazy - wish lists are for children! Secondly I attributed that thought to the runner's high and all the funny chemical stuff that happens inside the brain when moving outside. After some days: the wish list thought came back. And there's a lot of juice in it...
Compelling goals instead of SMARTly disguised carrots
If you ever stumbled across SMART goals or any other "usual" goal setting tools in business you might have also experienced that people seem to have a hard time to come up with really good goals. goals that are compelling. Goals with a purpose. Goals that attract the person pursuing it. Goals where you can recognise by the pursuer's gesture, mimics and her voice how important that goal is.
Don't get me wrong, I don't want to argue neither for nor against specific techniques like formulating SMART goals. I want to add another perspective. Maybe it's of value for you - and I am really curious what you think!
Imagination is one step towards to reality
So back then when I was a child and a toy was on my wish list I already imagined how it would be like when I had it... . How fluffy that one single elephant would feel that I missed in my collection of plush elephants. What unique ears he had, where the elephant would live in my room and which games I could play with my friends once that particular missing elephant would be mine... (and so on :-)).
Today barly no material things are on my wish list. It's more about the immaterial 'things' you cannot buy with money. There the imagination part is even more important!
How would the world look like, if my wish came true? What do I see, what am I feeling... and what am I hearing... ? Is there anything else to sense in that very (future) situation?
In my experience a serious imagination part quickly and almost automatically rules out non-positive goals like the classic "I want to lose XY pounds" or the "I want to do more sports". It also quite naturally makes you think about the 'why' of your particular wish - or in other words: about the purpose of your goal.
How my wish list looks like...
Coming back to my "crazy" wish list for Santa: I ended up in just writing down all the stuff that popped up in my head - one idea/wish per post-it note. For one thing I already started imagining how it would be like when 'I am there'. Some post-it notes got already dumped again because I noticed that I do not want to pursue that (or better strieve for something else). And for one or two bigger topics I will take dedicated time during the Christmas holidays to imagine how it will be like, once I am there...; i will imagine that I woke up and the wish has already come true... how would I notice?.
There's also research within the area of Positive Psychology on how writing about your goals helps with achieving them. One intervention I recently read on is doing expressive writing about (a part of) your better/best possible self (e.g. see research from Laura King).