Have you ever wondered if a movie can really change your life? Well know it can, because a movie changed my life, and I also know that it can change yours too. If you are feeling anxious, confused, or overwhelmed, I recommend that you watch the movie Groundhog Day. If you are feeling unhappy or pessimistic or see no way out of your predicament—I recommend even more strongly that you watch the movie.
This time I want you to watch it not just as a comedy, but more as a life-changing parable about overcoming adversity and finding genuine happiness and fulfillment while facing the worst hardship.
For, in the movie, Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, is forced to confront his desperate quandary and find a way out when it seems impossible. He is stuck forever in a nightmare of the same recurring day, with seemingly no opportunity to escape. He tries every possible strategy to escape the time loop until he eventually has to face the starkest of choices. Either he sinks into complete despair, or he reinvents his core personality, beliefs, and behaviors to adapt and flourish in his new reality.
After many failed attempts, he finally transforms himself and turns disaster into triumph, and changes the very same day from the worst day of his life to the best day of his life. Moreover, he achieves this in a way that all of us can apply in our own lives.
Groundhog Day is a movie about facing and overcoming terrible adversity, and there has never been a more important time to reflect on its deeper meaning and lessons. We are living in a time of tremendous hardship when so many of our certainties, expectations, and cherished beliefs are being challenged and even ripped apart. Nobody has a job for life any more, very few can rely on a steady retirement income, and almost all of us face an uncertain future.
All this chaos and turbulence takes a terrible toll on our emotional well-being. Just like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, no one is prepared for this ordeal. No one has been prepared for handling this many challenges. Indeed baby boomers, like me, have been raised with a Pollyanna-like optimism in the inevitability of constant progress. Home prices will always rise, our children will be wealthier than we are, and the United States will strengthen its economic dominance.
Now we live in the Age of Anxiety, when we feel that our very sense of self is collapsing. We feel out of control, and we risk losing hope. In a world where nothing seems certain, what should we do?
We cannot control our external world, so we have to try much harder to control our inner world. This is challenging because no simple self-help mantra or quick fix can help. There is a lot of work to do, and, like Phil in the movie, we have to undertake a challenging journey that we never feel ready for.
This is a journey into our inner lives, where we must cut through all the self-deception and denial, all the projections and carefully cultivated self-images. So many of us fall back into recurring patterns of thinking and feeling that prevent our growth and progress. We are so caught up in our own stories, like passive and predictable characters in a play.
If we take a closer look, we will find that our stories explain why we are unhappy or not getting what we want. After all, we are the authors of our own stories, and we freeze ourselves in the past with the power of their words. Now, this is not necessarily such a big deal when everything is going well and we are lost in the constant rush of "busyness." The challenge is when our patterns and stories collapse in the face of crisis and we begin to realize and accept that the old, familiar strategies just don’t cut it anymore.
So, if you still spend your time blaming the economy or the government for everything that has gone wrong in your life, it’s time to change the pattern. If you are convinced that your woes are caused by your upbringing or what family or friends did or didn’t do to you, it’s time to change. This is really the time to break free from the shackles of the past, wake up, and choose to think and live differently.
When we pay attention to the tired old patterns, we see them for what they are and that we are so much more than our stale stories and jaded justifications. When we cast them off, we are ready for the journey, and we become aware that our destination is true acceptance, peace of mind, and the discovery of our authentic self. Yet we must also acknowledge that the path is long, arduous, and full of struggle.
Phil Connors had no choice but to take this journey. He had tried everything else and realized it was the only way forward. We do have a choice, and our problem is that we like to take the easy route back into our comfort zone, to do what is easy, not what is right. My hope is that you will avoid this temptation and instead wander down what Robert Frost called the road "less traveled."
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
When faced with the two diverging roads, the first thing we have to do is rise above our natural fight-or-flight response, and let go of our anger and dread. In this quiet space, we allow ourselves the possibility that there is another road and that we might safely venture down it. We have an infinite number of roads and potential futures before us; we are restricted only by lack of imagination. When we broaden our vision, it is like rising above a dense, impenetrable forest and seeing the way out. We recognize how our conditioning and habitual thinking have imprisoned us and that we can free ourselves too.
This often means confronting our deepest fears and staring into the unknown. This can appear very dark, and if we can just stay resolute and courageous, we will notice that just beyond the darkness is a small light that illuminates the path ahead. And the good news is that this light gets brighter and brighter the longer we stay determined. If we can just be still and resist the temptation to run away or look for a savior in empty distractions, a deeper truth will start to emerge. And this truth is that it will all be OK and that all the worries, concerns, and fears that have consumed you are not you. You are so much more than the drama of your life.
In the movie, Phil travels many roads. He tries every strategy to deal with the time loop and immortality. He experiments until he makes a breakthrough. He is very resourceful and learns how to make the best of the cards he has been dealt. How about you? How resourceful are you? Do you realize that you have a choice and that each day can be a wonderful experiment in how to live?
When you recognize that adversity is your greatest teacher and allow yourself to try new responses to life’s challenges, you open up many new, exciting possibilities. You can generate new ideas, new thoughts, and new behaviors. With an open and flexible
mind, you move beyond your conditioning and increase your number of choices.
Creativity is the supreme human quality. Your ability to create new thoughts, new beliefs, and new behaviors is your greatest power. It gives you the ability to choose how you want to think and how you want to live. Whatever is happening around you, you can control your response.
Phil goes from the worst day of his life to the best day of his life, not by changing his outer world, over which he has no control whatsoever, but by creatively changing his inner world. This is the most important lesson of my life, and the movie Groundhog Day is the ultimate class in how to survive and flourish in these troubling times. Like Phil, you and I can wake up and discover joy rather than boredom, hope rather than emptiness, and love rather than self-absorption.
In the movie, adversity forces Phil to strip away everything meaningless in his life until he finds the essence. And this essence is 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. This is the greatest secret that Groundhog Day reveals. So make adversity your friend, and take the opportunity to discover that love is the only assured path to genuine happiness.
If you would like Paul to help you discover the Magic of Groundhog Day in your life, check out his 6-CD set and workbook that includes the movie too!