Remember the 1993 film Groundhog Day? It starred Bill Murray as Phil Connors, the annoyingly cynical and rather arrogant meteorologist. It was supposed to be a comedy but there was a really creepy element running through it, the idea that sometimes we can become trapped in the more negative aspects of who and what we are in the world. And the term ‘Groundhog Day’ has become synonymous with ‘stuck-ness’, staleness, and a fear of being trapped in some ‘goo of meaninglessness’.
Nor is this a surprise given the amount of organisational change going on in my client companies, everything from attempted growth, competitive positioning and risk control through a whole bunch of big strategy stuff involving mergers, acquisitions, re-organisations, downsizings, consolidations, and expansions. Change is everywhere but a lot of folks feel uncertain and tentative about what the future holds.
So not for nothing have I had conversations with a few people this month about them feeling stuck, stale and / or trapped in their current circumstances. After all, 2nd of February is actually Groundhog Day when the hairy critter augers the kind of year ahead. These thoughts and feelings might arise in you Dear Reader from time to time… maybe trapped in a negative or controlling relationship, stuck in your current role, lost your way in your career trajectory, and / or lost sight of youthful ambition.
I think Groundhog Day is also a useful analogy to describe the missing bridge between who we are now, and who or what we’d like to become. It can be difficult to sometimes describe what’s holding us back but we perceive it like a physical barrier to our future ambitions. So February is perhaps the ideal time to re-examine the real meaning of “I feel like it’s Groundhog Day” especially when New Year resolutions are wearing a bit thin (the stats on gym sign ups followed by rapidly declining usage are fascinating) and the winter seems to drag on endlessly.
During a recent conversation with a coaching client, we looked deeply at what might hold them back from maximising a career opportunity that seemed, at first glance, just ‘more of the same’ – the role prospect lacked energy, excitement, and change management… ‘Groundhog Day‘. And yet… the more we unclipped the assumptions surrounding what a Groundhog Day experience really meant, the more we came to realise its true potential.
What Bill Murray’s character found after untold iterations of the same day that woke with his radio alarm going off at 6am, was that he was being given the opportunity to discover who he could become and to hone his true human potential. Over what might have been hundreds or even thousands of Groundhog Days, he gradually changed his perception of who he was in the world, to someone who had a much more positive impact on the world.
In other words, who he thought he was, was not the person he became. Ultimately he was able to move on from the Groundhog experience when he became more in touch with himself and his impact on others, more generous, loving, thoughtful, considerate, and more skilled in a range of creative human activities.
For Bill Murray’s Phil character and for any of us, the Groundhog experience can be a prism through which we can be immersed in the journey of possibilities… to discover and unlock who we really are and what we are becoming (if only we realised it) as we live out our lives.
Some of us will continually find ourselves in a sub-optimal situations – such is life – but before dismissing it out of hand as yet another Groundhog Day experience and say to ourselves, “Oh God, here we go again”, or “This always happens to me”, or “How come I never seem to get the lucky break I deserve?”, or “How can I get out of this real fast?”… just take the time to use it as a bridge to reflect on what might really be going on and what ‘life’ itself might be telling you:
Some questions to ask of yourself; it doesn’t matter if you don’t hold all the answers, the value comes from reflection and allowing your ‘inner soul’ to speak to your outside experience.
- What are my driving values through which I am prepared to be judged?
- Can I un-stick myself by reconsidering all my present opportunities for improvement and / or innovation?
- Do I understand my own personality and stress triggers?
- Do I have a deep understanding of what really motivates me, and how to unlock these to guide my imminent decisions?
- What massive value can I add to others in their lives, their jobs and in my team and company / or business?
- What is the guiding light for my life and how might it serve me right here, right now?
You need not feel like you’re in a box like Phil the Groundhog (yes, there are two Phils in the film), but rather consider your situation as an ideal opportunity to take stock. That Groundhog Day feeling is really a platform or bridge to who you are becoming in the world. Embrace it and use the wisdom it offers up to help guide your next steps.
Buy the DVD now, put your feet up and… ponder.
Go on then… it might just change the course of your life.
And of course, I’m here right where you can find me should you need to unpack your thoughts.