Groundhog Day is a masterpiece and one of the most inspirational and enlightening movies ever made. If a picture paints a thousand words, then this great movie paints a thousand insights. It has changed my life, and I have recorded a new audio program about how it can change yours too!
If you are feeling down, watch this movie; if you are feeling trapped, watch this movie; if you are looking for love and meaning in your life and career, watch this movie. There are so many wonderful lessons in Groundhog Day, and I want to focus on three that make this movie so life-changing.
First of all, I believe that the concept of being stuck in the same recurring day is a brilliant metaphor for understanding the human condition.
In the movie, the main character, Phil Connors, is trapped. He is forced to relive the same day over and over again. In our own lives, I believe that we are stuck in our own version of Groundhog Day.
In our outer lives, in what we do at home and at work, many of us go through the same routines day after day—the same routine when we get up, the same commute, the same jobs, the same conversations with our colleagues and family.
And in our inner lives, what we think and how we feel, we tend to live the same day again and again too. What traps us is not a time loop, but our conditioning. We experience each day through our conditioning—the same beliefs, values, thoughts, and emotions that we have carried with us since childhood.
Every day can feel the same. I realized this when I read through my diary over 10 years and recognized repetitive patterns over many years. Whether I was in London or San Francisco or Sydney, whether I was teaching at Oxford or doing business in New York or just relaxing on a beach, I was having the same compulsive thoughts and experiencing the same mood day after day. My outer life was varied and changing; my inner life was stagnant.
I believe that we are stuck in our own Groundhog Day, and this is a big reason why so many people are unhappy, frustrated, and stressed.
Most of us are trapped. We are working longer hours and commuting farther, to make more money to consume more things that we do not need and—crucially— that are not making us happier. In this year when “recession” is on everyone’s lips, I feel that Groundhog Day can teach us so much about genuine, enduring happiness. It does not matter if you are a billionaire or an A-List celebrity. You can be living a glamorous, exciting life in your outer life, but in your inner life you can be eaten up by fear, insecurity, and discontent.
This is why so many rich and famous people are unhappy. And this is why we find it so hard to change—why New Year’s resolutions rarely work, and why diets and fitness programs fail so often.
Once I realized my own life was so repetitive, I made two choices that changed my life. First, I learned to recognize and pay attention to the patterns and say to myself this is not me; my routine is not my life.
Second, I accepted that I was stuck in Groundhog Day and decided to make the loops work for me. I chose to create a new conditioning, or a new reality for myself. So I started to build more positive patterns of behavior or habits, and replace old habits, like eating the wrong food, with new, healthier ones.
The second reason why I think this movie is so life-changing ever made is because it holds the secret to happiness.
In the movie, Phil Connors is literally stuck. The town never changes; the events and the people never change. Only Phil can change. It is impossible for Phil to have any control over his outer world, so he is forced to change himself.
Over the course of the movie, he makes profound inner changes and dramatizes how this is the key to our personal growth and happiness better than any other story or example I can think of.
Phil literally transforms the worst day of his life into his best day of his life, and the only thing that changes is his thinking and his actions. This is our greatest gift, and the ultimate solution to getting out of a rut.
Phil experiences exactly the same day thousands of times. The day never changes. His attitude and feelings toward it do. He experiences the full range of emotions about this one, unchanging day. It is a frustrating day and a fun day, a depressing day and a hopeful day, a dull day and an exciting day. It’s a day when he tries to end it all, and it’s a day when he falls completely in love.
This is the secret to happiness. Like Phil, we have the same choice to turn a miserable day into a magical day, and I have recorded this audio program, The Magic of Groundhog Day, to show you how to do this and dramatically improve your life wherever you are starting from.
When you first watch the movie, you might think this is just a charming romantic comedy. Well, watch it again and again, and you become aware that this is an incredibly profound, inspiring, and transformative story.
Phil makes the magical discovery that he has everything he needs to be happy today!
Phil finds happiness not by improving his outer life—he does not get richer; he does not become more famous or more powerful. He becomes happy by improving his inner life and learning the strategies to be happy whatever he is doing, wherever he is living, and whomever he is with.
He becomes happier not by acquiring more, but by relinquishing more. He has moved from the big city to the small town; from the high-pressure career to a slower pace; from restlessness to simplicity. He discovers that the best things in life are free—finding fulfillment in creativity and authentic relationships, and in being part of a community.
In my own life, I have found genuine happiness by changing one big part of my thinking from “What’s in it for me?” to “How can I be of service?” When I focus on what I want, I can easily create a miserable day; when I focus on helping others, I create a magical day.
The third reason why Groundhog Day is so life-changing is because it gives us a blueprint for transforming our lives.
The movie does not just reveal the secret to happiness; it also gives us a blueprint for transforming our lives day by day.
The blueprint consists of five magical abilities that every one of us shares. This is not magic in a supernatural sense, but the everyday magic that is the gift of being human and which we are all able to rediscover in our lives.
First, he discovers the Magic of Paying Attention. When Phil first arrives in town, he is living on automatic pilot and is blind to life around him. During the movie, he learns to stop living in his head and start living in the present moment. He discovers that there is extraordinary magic in the ordinary drama of life.
He pays attention to the consequences of his actions and fine-tunes his thoughts, feelings, and actions every day to create a magical life. When we really pay attention, we too can start to get out of our ruts and transform our lives day by day.
His second discovery is the Magic of Repetition. Phil learns to make repetition work for him. He gets to know the underlying patterns of his life and learns to replace negative habits and routines with positive ones.
He shifts from a daily routine devoted to instant gratification and serving his ego, to one devoted to serving others. All of us need routines, and in my program I show how you can develop positive, healthy patterns and habits that will transform your life.
Next, Phil learns about the Magic of Acceptance. Phil is forced to accept that he can survive his predicament and find meaning and purpose for his life only by changing himself. It is a magical point in the movie when he accepts that the time loop might be a blessing rather than a curse.
It is magical when you accept you are stuck and accept that only you can change your life. Now you can move on with your life and break out of your rut. Like Phil, you accept that your old self and your old beliefs are no longer working, and you stop blaming others and begin to change yourself instead.
Phil transforms his life by practicing the Magic of Creativity. He not only learns to make ice sculptures and play the piano, he learns to create a new life. He discovers he is the creator of his own experience and that he has all the resources to be happy today, right now in the present moment.
The resources he uses to create the worst day of his life are the same ones he uses to create the best day of his life. He simply alters his interpretation of the people, the town, and the events. This is our unique power as humans.
For it’s all about feelings. What is the point of being wealthy and powerful if you are always restless, dissatisfied, and miserable? We want the feelings, and Phil shows us the most direct route to these feelings—through connection, meaning, and, above all, love.
And the final magic Phil discovers is the Magic of Love. Phil strips away everything meaningless in his life until he finds the essence, a life full of love. He falls in love with the town and its people, he falls in love with Rita, and he learns to love himself too.
And this is the greatest secret that Groundhog Day reveals, that love is the only assured path to genuine happiness.