What Groundhog Day Teaches Us About Today

Image: Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (1993), Columbia Pictures

Time Is of the Essence

In the movie Groundhog Day, one of my all-time favorites, self-absorbed weatherman Phil Connors is forced to live the same day over and over again — until he gets it right. That day just happens to be the day that he and his crew travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to report on the groundhog’s forecast. Too bad the little guy saw his shadow.

Phil: When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the circle of life.

On screen, we watch Phil relive 38 days, but he makes references to many more. He talks about being stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned. Since we only see one of those in the movie (toaster in the bathtub), add another 6 days to the total. He later says it takes six months to learn how to expertly throw cards into an upturned hat and when on a date, he says he saw a movie, Heidi 2 of all flicks!, 100 times. That tacks on another 380 days.

In the diner, Phil knows details about coal miner Tom, drunken sailor Gus, engaged couple Debbie and Fred, waiter Phil, and waitresses Alice and Doris. Assume it takes a day each to learn these intimate details. Speaking of details, when did he meet his date for Heidi 2, score WWF tickets as a wedding gift for the couple, memorize those Jeopardy! answers, or even find out that Rita likes Rocky Road ice cream? Add at least another 4 days.

Then, think about what it takes to be in the right place at the right time. He saves a kid falling from a tree, changes the old ladies’ flat tire (he even had his own jack — when did he hunt that down?), and performs the Heimlich maneuver to save Buster from choking. Not to mention how long it would take to become an expert ice sculptor, pianist, or learn to speak French.

Director Harold Ramis once said Phil Connors’ story spanned 10 years, but film aficionados have calculated it to be anywhere from 8 to 33 years.

The Perfect Day

Does the actual timeline matter?

Not really.

The concept of using your time well, however, THAT is at the heart of it all. So often we are on automatic pilot or we put the bulk of our focus on the future, pushing ourselves to meet some unmet goal. Having goals is great, they help us to grow and become better people, but how often do we actually live in the moment?

Phil was so intent on leaving the small town for the big city, he missed out on the good things Punxsutawney had to offer in the NOW. It took a time warp to set him straight. Even then, it took him a while to get over the fact this of all days was his do-over.

Phil: I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank pina coladas. At sunset, we made love like sea otters. *THAT* was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get *that* day over, and over, and over…”

We all have those “perfect” days, those days that are effortless, carefree, exhilarating, and inspiring and if not, I sure hope one comes your way soon. Maybe it was the day you met your soul mate, the day your child was born, or in the case of we writers, the day you got a book deal. Those days are not only special for what happened in them but because you knew to slow down and appreciate them.

Imagine how glorious life would be if you could make any day feel that way, if you could make an imperfect day perfect.

Make Every Day Groundhog Day

Not every day is going to rank on your top ten list. In the real world, “stuff” happens that is going to derail even the most promising of days. We need to learn how to make the most of what we’ve got. That means taking the common everyday moments and counting our blessings.

— Caller ID
— Color-coordinated office supplies
— Cuddles from your kiddos
— Friendships, new and old
— A good cup of tea
— Moleskine notebooks
— Movies you can watch again and again
— The perfect playlist
— Soft pillows
— Watching a sunrise
— Your health (even on days when it isn’t perfect)

I experienced all of these this morning, and how grateful I am! We need to stop waiting for tomorrow to be thankful for what we have today. We need to appreciate the day we are living. Of course, time is limited. We cannot do everything today, but we can make the most of it.

Phil: Do you know what today is?
Rita: No, what?
Phil: Today is tomorrow. It happened.

The bigger question is, if you had all the time in the world, what would you do with it? What is it that you want? With that in mind, do what you can TODAY. Make every day Groundhog Day.