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La La Land is not just a love story but it is also a story of the sacrifices two very passionate people make to achieve their dreams. In the movie, as in life, pursuing dreams and goals that are truly fulfilling does not come without costs. Sebastian was very passionate about jazz music and his goal was to own his own Night Club and play jazz music on his own terms.

Mia loved acting and her dream was to be a Hollywood actress. The question La La Land ponders is, how far are we willing to go to fulfill our dreams? We all have had lofty goals but very few of us achieve them because the bigger the dream, the more difficult the trade-offs. How do we separate wishful thinking from truly passionate and meaningful goals that is worth sacrificing for? Once we dedicate ourselves to these goals, how do we know that we are making the right choices along the way?
One way to do that is to make sure that we are choosing “SMART” goals to pursue. Traditionaly SMART goals mean choosing goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible. However, analyzing the choices we make in life in this manner can be too rigid for some of us. The traditional method does not speak to our inner core nor address why we are following our pursuits. To remedy this, Carol Anderson, Founder of Money Quotient developed an alternative concept to help us pursue goals that we connect with on an emotional level.

There are five components to a SMART Goal:

  1. It is Significant.

    To be significant means to give us meaning and purpose in life. Sebastian is a jazz pianist who wants to own his own Night Club because he is passionate about keeping jazz music alive. In his heart, the only way he could accomplish this is by playing music his way. Mia is an aspiring actress who has dreamt of being a Hollywood star ever since she was a little girl. Acting is in her blood and is what makes her feel truly alive. We should feel the same way about the big goals in our life. How significant are your goals? Unless we feel passionate about the goals we are pursuing, it will become a chore instead of a dream.

  2. It is Meaningful.

    Our goals should be based on our personal set of values, beliefs, and priorities. When we choose goals in order to please others (parents, partners, employers, society, etc.), it tends to lose meaning for us over time; especially when difficulties and challenges arise. To Sebastian owning a Jazz Club resonated with his core belief that Jazz music must be kept alive.

    However, in the middle of the movie, he changed his goal from owning his jazz club to playing in a mainstream jazz band because it provided the steady and stable income that he thought Mia wanted. How meaningful are your goals? As we saw in the movie, goals that are not meaningful often lead to conflict, negativity and tension. Unless our goals resonate with us and are based on our own unique belief system, there is a strong chanced we will not be truly satisfied with the pursuit or the outcome. Either we will abandon the goal or if we achieve it, may end up feeling less than satisfied.

  3. It is Attracting.

    When our goals are both significant and meaningful to us, they provide us with a clear and positive vision of what that goal looks like. It naturally pulls us towards what we want to achieve. Reaching that goal may be difficult, but having a positive vision will sustain us even in the face of difficulties.

    When Sebastian was barely making it as a lounge pianist or playing in weekend bands, he never lost sight of his vision of owning his own Jazz Club. Mia was willing to go through one failed audition after another because she had a clear vision that she could one day become a Hollywood Actress. How attracting is your goal? The stronger and clearer it is, the more it will pull you towards what you want to achieve.

  4. It is Rewarding.

    The easier the goals we set for ourselves, the less meaning it has for us in the long run. Goals that are truly rewarding does not come without challenges. When things get tough, it is natural to have doubts about our ability to be successful. As the movie shows, our lives are constantly evolving. These ever-changing events causes us to continually re-evaluate our choices. This in turn, sometimes causes us to lose sight of, or change our original vision. Forming a relationship with Mia caused Sebastian to re-evaluate his dreams of owning a Night Club.

    A major setback with her one-person show caused Mia to re-evaluate her odds of becoming an actress. As Sebastian and Mia discovered, if we honestly assess conflicts inherent in the pursuit of meaningful goals, and we find ways to overcome them, we will discover that the journey is just as rewarding as the achievement. How rewarding are your goals? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment along the way? The more challenging the goal, the more hurdles we have to overcome. It is the overcoming of those hurdles that bring joy to the journey.

  5. It is Timely.

    Some goals, like saving for a new car can be accomplished in a few months or years. Larger goals like becoming an accomplished musician, actor, or dancer are life time pursuits where there is no specific time-frame for completion. Regardless of the goal, we must be willing to commit the necessary time required to pursue that goal. Otherwise, the odds of accomplishing that goal is small. We also must consider the timing of when to pursue a particular goal.

    Sebastian and Mia are willing to put in whatever time is necessary to accomplish their dreams. They are young so this is a great time to pursue their dreams. How timely are your goals? Is the timing right and can we commit the time necessary to complete the goal? Some goals will have finite time-frames while loftier goals may not. The bigger the goal, the longer it may take to achieve that goal. It can be easy to become discouraged and not pursue it because we think it will take too long to accomplish. We should be careful about being too restrictive about deadlines as they can cause us to limit the goals we wish to pursue.

    For example, while we may dream of playing the piano or becoming an actor, we might decide not to pursue these endeavors because we are too old or can’t be “experts” in a specific amount of time. Setting hard deadlines can limit our creativity, growth, and our ability to dream big. A better method would be to break up the big goal into a series of smaller goals so that we can feel a sense of reward along the way. In addition, this method will allow us the flexibility to modify our goals as our life situation changes.


La La Land was a great character study of what happens when two people are SMART about their goals in life. Applying these rules, we too can be smart about choosing goals that are satisfying and fulfilling as well.