Conversation Topic and Video: Goal Setting


What is your goal?

Whether it’s the beginning of a new year, new semester, or new phase of life, setting goals is important. This post was inspired by Derik Sivers’ Ted Talk on goal setting. It is suitable for intermediate to advanced students and can fill a 60-75 minute class period. It can be modified for a shorter class by eliminating questions.

First, let’s take a look at what SMART goals are with some examples.

SMART Goals are:

Specific – What exactly do you want to achieve?

Learn English isn’t specific. Learn 5 new words per week is specific.

Measurable – How?  How many? How much? How will you know you achieved your goal?

Watch TED talks isn’t measurable. Watch 10 TED Talks in 30 days is measurable.

Achievable – Can you really do it? Is it possible?

You might not be able to realistically learn and remember 100 new words per week, but you can probably learn and remember 10 per week. Choose a number that works for you.

Watching 5 TED Talks per week is achievable for most people, but it depends on you. Maybe you only have time for 1 per week.

Relevant – Does it make sense to do it? Is it meaningful to you?

Watching TED Talks on the topic of engineering might be meaningful and relevant if you are an Engineering major, but if you’re a Sociology major, watching TED Talks on the topic of sociology will be more relevant.

Time-bound – When? Set a deadline.

Watch 5 YouTube videos doesn’t have a deadline.

Watch 5 YouTube videos by 10:00 pm next Saturday has a deadline.

If your goal is to improve your English vocabulary and listening skills, your SMART goal might be:

I will watch 3 TED Talks per week for the next 30 days and add 15 new words or expressions to my notebook each week.

Only you know what you have time for and what you are able to do. 

Writing SMART goals is a great way to stay motivated and achieve your short and long-term goals.

Now that you know what a SMART goal is, increase your chance of reaching your goals by writing 1-3 SMART goals. If one of your goals is to watch 5 TED Talks per week, you can get started right now. As we like to say in English to encourage people to take action immediately:

There’s no time like the present! 

Video and Discussion

Below are 10 discussion questions to use with Derik Sivers’ Ted Talk about keeping goals to yourself. The video is 3 minutes and 9 seconds long and includes a transcript and subtitles in over 50 languages.

Begin with the first 4-6 questions, then watch the video and continue with the remaining questions. If you are studying alone, you can think or write about your answers in English. You can even speak about them by talking to yourself. It may sound strange, but this kind of speaking practice will help you improve your speaking skills. If you’d like, write your answers in the comments below, and I’ll write back to you.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is goal setting important?
  2. How often do you usually set goals?
  3. What are some goals you have set in the past?
  4. Do you prefer to share your goals or keep them to yourself?
  5. How do you feel and what do you do when you fail to achieve a goal?
  6. How do you feel and what do you do when you succeed in achieving a goal?
  7. What role does motivation play in achieving goals?
  8. Had you heard of SMART goals before today? What is your usual method of setting goals?
  9. Have you heard of Growth vs. Fixed mindsets? If not, what do you think they are?
  10. After watching this Ted Talk, do you want to share your goals or keep them to yourself?

TED talk about goals by Derek Sivers

Have you written a SMART goal?

If so, will you keep it to yourself or share it?

If you’d like to, feel free to join the conversation and share your goal below. Or, wait until after you’ve achieved it and come back and let me know!

For more TED Talks on goals, click here.

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