Derik Sivers’ Ted Talk and Discussion Questions about Goals

Looking for a ready-made discussion activity? Here 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. I recommend beginning with the first 4-6 questions, then showing the video and continuing with the remaining questions.

Whether it’s the beginning of a new year or the beginning of a new phase of life, setting goals is important. This discussion topic 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. It can be extended with a focus on SMART goals or Growth vs. Fixed mindsets.

Discussion Questions

  • Why is goal setting important?
  • How often do you usually set goals?
  • What are some goals you have set in the past?
  • Do you prefer to share your goals or keep them to yourself?
  • How do you feel and what do you do when you fail to achieve a goal?
  • How do you feel and what do you do when you succeed in achieving a goal?
  • What role does motivation play in achieving goals?
  • Have you ever heard of SMART goals? If not, what do you think they are?
  • Have you ever heard of Growth vs. Fixed mindsets? If not, what do you think they are?
  • After watching this Ted Talk, do you want to share your goals or keep them to yourself?

TED talk about goals by Derek Sivers

Continuation activity:

Write SMART goals for 1-3 goals.


SMART goals are:

Specific – What?

‘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?

You might not be able to really learn and remember 50 new words per week, but you can probably learn and remember 5 per week.

Realistic/Relevant/Reasonable – ‘Watch 100 TED Talks or YouTube videos in a week’ is not realistic.

‘Watch 5 per week’ is realistic. However, it depends on you. Maybe you only have time for 1 per week.

Time-related – When? Set a deadline. ‘Watch 5 videos’ doesn’t have a deadline.

‘Watch 5 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 5 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.

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!

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