In the movie, Groundhog Day, Phil Conner (played by Bill Murray) is a weatherman who gets stuck in time, reliving the same day over and over, always waking up on the morning of Groundhog Day (February 2nd) until he finds happiness. Once he attains happiness, he makes it out of Groundhog Day into the next day.
When the movie starts, Phil is not a very nice
guy. He is sarcastic and rude. He is egotistical and selfish. Later in
the movie you discover Phil acts that way because he's not happy. He is
busy trying to live up to the goals society or his parents have given
him and the goals of his own self-centered ego — trying to be
successful, well-known, and wealthy — rather than asking himself what
would really improve his mood.
Phil's goals were the kind people have when they haven't taken the time to wonder what they really want with their life. They are the built-in, default kind of goals: Impress others and have lots of money.
he discovers he is re-living the same day, his first response is to be
unnerved. He loses his cockiness and some of his rudeness. He's
Next he begins to revel in his freedom from
the rules of society. He does whatever he feels like doing. The laws
don't matter any more because even when he is thrown into jail, he wakes
up the next morning back in his bed, and as far as anyone else is
concerned, none of it happened.
He pretty much indulges
his whims, using his unusual situation (being able to anticipate what's
going to happen) to his personal, selfish advantage, but he's still
unconnected to who he really is and what he really wants. He just tries
to satisfy his appetites for food and sex and money. He steals. He takes
advantage of women by lying and pretending. He buys expensive cars.
it gets old. None of it is making him happy. Simply indulging his
appetites, as many newly rich people discover, does not produce any real
satisfaction. It is an empty gratification.
day he goes through the motions of doing his weather report, so he sees
Rita (his producer, played by Andie MacDowell) every day and he begins
to realize what a good person she is. He falls in love with her, but
can't reach her. As far as she is concerned, up until today he has been
an egotistical jerk, and she still thinks of him that way.
he begins an elaborate seduction, getting farther and farther with her
each day, pretending to like what he doesn't like as he learns more
about her, pretending to be what he's not in order to win her over. He
tries to be what he thinks she wants. But she always sees through his
fake character at some point — no matter how cleverly and carefully he
tries — and slaps him in the face, ending his romantic ambition for the
rest of the night.
Eventually he gives up on this last
attempt at happiness, feeling trapped in Groundhog Day forever, with no
hope of love or happiness, and he decides to kill himself.
he won't die. Every day he wakes up in his bed again. He tries
electrocuting himself, jumping off a building, stepping in front of a
bus, and driving off a cliff. But nothing works.
he gives up on even that, and begins to just be himself. He starts
being honest. He starts noticing what he likes and wants.
walks by an ice carving contest and realizes it looks like fun to him.
He never would have even thought of doing it before because he was so
focused on becoming a rich and famous weatherman.
hears a piano and thinks learning to play the piano might be something
he would enjoy doing too. He sees people having trouble of one kind or
another and finds pleasure in trying to help them, using his unusual
situation (being able to anticipate what's going to happen) for good
instead of evil, and he begins to relax and be himself. He finds he
feels good when doing good.
He discovers he likes being himself.
he is stuck in Groundhog Day, he can't advance his career, which is
what he was obsessively focused on before, so he is free to ask what
else he might want. His mood rises to a state he has never felt before.
he finds love — not by being a phony game-player, but by simply being
his honest self. And he finds happiness. "No matter what happens
tomorrow," Phil says, "I am happy now." The next morning is the day
after Groundhog Day. He made it to the next day.
Every Groundhog Day, I think about this movie and the lessons it teaches: if you will bloom where you're planted, pursue what is deeply important to you, be yourself, and help other people, you will enjoy good moods more often.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.