Happy Groundhog Day!

I’ve been hearing people commenting recently that each day is beginning to feel like Groundhog Day. The days blur into each other. Saturdays feels like Wednesdays. Routines and conversations don’t seem to change much. This state can leave us feeling stuck, lacking in motivation, and maybe even a bit numb. I certainly feel this way sometimes.

Interestingly, I discovered the delightful, classic 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Have you seen it? 

I found it not only entertaining but possibly showcasing where the expression “every day is Groundhog Day” originated. Most importantly, I noticed how the main character uses his character strengths to shift away from challenges and toward new possibilities. 

Although the classification of virtues and character strengths was yet to be published in 1993, we can learn some important lessons from this romantic comedy about the things we can change and how to change them when every day feels like Groundhog Day.

The practice below will show you how.

The Inspiration

Groundhog Day is an annual tradition in Canada and the US that dates back to the late 1800s. Every February 2, a groundhog named Phil, who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania predicts whether there will be an early spring or whether winter will continue six weeks longer. Apparently, Phil’s predictions aren’t relied on too heavily by experts, as he has been right only about 40 percent of the time in recent history.

The movie by the same name, Groundhog Day, was released in 1993. Spoiler alert: The summary below provides a synopsis of the movie. If you plan to watch it and don’t want to know what happens, skip to the practice below.

In a nutshell, Bill Murray’s character – Phil – is a sarcastic weatherman who ultimately wants what many of us want: a meaningful relationship with someone special. His ego constantly gets in the way, although he’s not aware of this. Every day, he wakes up to face the same day – the same music playing on his clock radio, the same conversations with the same people, the same routine. 

He begins to notice this, although he is the only one with this awareness. Over time, he also realizes he can do whatever he wants. He stuffs his face with donuts. He drives his car on the railroad tracks. He can get away with this since any consequences are erased the next day. Realizing how stuck he is, he begins to understand that the path he’s on isn’t taking him where he wants to go. Day by day, he learns that he can achieve different results by changing his actions.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but by living into his strengths and creating good in the world around him, Phil ultimately gets what he wants and is set free from every day being Groundhog Day.

Specifically, how does he do it? His formula seemed to be:

Mindfulness + Gratitude + Love of Learning + Curiosity + Kindness 

What do you suppose is your formula? Try the practice below to find out.

The Practice

  1. Think of a situation in which you feel stuck or lack the motivation to change. Start with something basic and try to be specific. For example, “I cook dinner, and then we eat the same leftovers every day for lunch until they’re gone. It’s getting old and dull.” 
  2. Choose a character strength that can help enliven you to take a different route. If you’re unsure, start with one of the strengths that helped Bill Murray’s character: gratitude to appreciate the blessing of a nutritious meal, love of learning to master a new recipe using the leftover ingredients, kindness to make the favorite meal of a loved one, curiosity to explore how you might eliminate leftovers. 
  3. Appreciate yourself for having the wisdom to take a step. Thank yourself for taking action against a pattern that’s preventing you from getting more of what you want from life. 

The Reflection

When I feel enlivened by my character strengths, I can _______________. 

Can you become unstuck? Accomplish something new? Simply feel content or happy?

May Groundhog Day always feel like a celebration of strength,

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