This vocabulary lesson plan on goals can stand alone, or it can be used as part of a unit on willpower and achieving goals. As written, it is aimed at intermediate students, but with some adaptations it could be used from high beginners to advanced students. (I have taught a similar lesson for mid-low beginners using picture material-- soccer players scoring a goal, etc. You could find such a picture on the web, and teach SMART goals to beginners.)
Warm up by asking students to write (or illustrate, if you have some lower level students) one to three goals for the next year, then share with a partner.
As an introduction, discuss SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited.) For a discussion with some language learning goals that might give you ideas, see Learning English Online.)
For the teacher presentation, briefly discuss and possibly demonstrate the vocabulary students will need: achievable, goals, (overcoming) obstacles, specific, and possibly resolutions, as well as some of the following words.
If you’ll be using Practice with Words for Success (which also demonstrates some of the vocabulary in its first paragraphs), consider (depending on the words your students already know): appropriate, attitude, capability, determination, energy, eventually, inevitable, motivation, priorities, security, succeed, and successful.
If your students know much of that vocabulary and you need a little more, you might also use one or both exercises on the page Vocabulary for Achievement and Goal-Setting and add some of these words: accomplish, achieve, attain (and/or any of those with –ment), budget, constraint, establish, financial, identify, incentive, objective, resolution, target.
Then you might watch a brief video on famous failures who went on to achieve greatness (link on the Words for Success page above) as a class. In more advanced level classes, have students discuss it with partners and tell any similar stories they know.
For the practice, have students read and complete the Words for Success gapfill pdf (in pairs if you have some lower level students.) (Right click to download it; copy the first page for your students, then go over the answers as a class.) This lesson would work well along with practicing the future tense, modals, or conditionals.
Evaluation or homework for higher level students: Goals for Success Crossword. (Answers here.) A matching exercise like the one in Vocabulary for Achievement (which you could copy and paste into a word processor and then modify) might be easier for lower level students. The Odd One Out on that page is another possible homework or end-of-class activity.
If doing a whole unit on achieving goals, you might start with the lesson above (SMART Goals, with Vocabulary for Achievement for the additional vocabulary and practice) but NOT use Words for Success and its vocabulary and video until a second lesson on failures as stepping stones to success. Then use Learning from Failure as a reading (possible vocabulary: attained, benefits, energy, failure, inevitable, rejected, security. successful), watch the video on famous failures on the Words for Success page, and use the Words for Success pdf to practice. Use the Success Vocabulary Quiz (pdf) as an evaluation.
Then you could do a lesson or two on willpower and establishing good habits. Newsletter 10 has a 6-minute TED talk (Don’t Eat the Marshmallow!) and The New York Times article on willpower. You can find a list of the Academic Word List vocabulary in each of them on the 2nd Academic Vocabulary List page.
All three are interesting, but I would especially recommend the TED talk (fairly easy, though you may need to explain that marshmallows are a soft white candy) and the Scientific American article that gives a very different perspective on the same experiment.
Those might make one lesson, and the New York Times article (which is more difficult, but also more goal-oriented) might make a related lesson, emphasizing how people can use research on willpower to make it easier to establish healthy habits and stay on track to reach their goals. You might want to discuss the research but NOT have lower-level students read the article.
If you do use the NYT article, I would recommend looking at newsletter 10 in Back Issues for ideas for introducing ‘willpower’ and a little difficult vocabulary in the NYT article that you may not want to teach explicitly but explain so the words won’t hinder your students from understanding the main points.
I redesigned the quiz for newsletters 9-10 to just cover important words in these three sources. If you use all three, you might finish the lessons with the Willpower Quiz, a gapfill exercise with several paragraphs on the marshmallow experiments +. (It tests acknowledge, arbitrary, grade, implications, indicated, outcomes, participants & participation, predictions, principles, rational, research & researcher.)
You might also want to check out the other vocabulary lesson plan and unit ideas in Vocabulary Lesson Plans.