The Answer to Boredom isn’t Variety
Everyday Phil wakes up it’s February 2 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania – Groundhog Day. That’s what happens to Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in the comedy classic, Groundhog Day.
Maybe you feel like it’s 2:00 a.m. and you’re on a long freeway with no exits. You do what you’re supposed to do and say what you’re supposed to say. But there’s no joy.
Boredom and futility turn to suicide in Groundhog Day. Phil tries to kill himself by driving off a cliff, electrocuting himself in the bathtub, stepping in front of a truck, and jumping off the bell tower.
Surprisingly, Phil Connors shifts from suicide to fulfillment, but his circumstances don’t change. What if futility can’t be answered by changing your circumstances?
Feeling stuck is a choice.
Meaning in the mundane is found when you shift focus from yourself to others. In the movie, Phil shifts in two important ways.
- Show up to serve. Phil meets the pressing needs of others. He catches a falling child, changes flat tires, and performs the Heimlich Maneuver on a choking man.
- Improve yourself. Phil learns to play the piano and he also learns how to save a sick bum.
The pursuit of happiness isn’t the answer. Phil pursues meaningful service. He shifts from a self-centered egotistical jerk to servant.
At the end of the movie, Phil wants to live in the town he wanted to escape. What if changing your circumstances isn’t the answer? What if you need to change?
What shifts elevate perspective in leadership?
Bill Murray was bitten by the groundhog twice.
Premier Magazine lists Bill Murray’s portrail of Phil Connors in Groundhog Day as the 48th greatest performance of all time. Jack Nicolas is #47 in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Bill Murray’s character is Phil. The groundhog’s name is Phil.
How To Understand The Philosophy Of ‘Groundhog Day’ And Live Life By Its Message (NPR)
Groundhod Day (Library of Congress)
It’s Time to Celebrate Groundhog Day: 10 Life Lessons You Can Learn from the Bill Murray Comedy (People)
Reliving Groundhog Day (The Atlantic)
Shift from being closed to open–the more open you are the more connections you make.
Move from a fixed mind set to an open mind set. The more you believe in growth, the more opportunities you see.
Shift from being self-centered to other-centered. The servant leader,ask, “How can I help?”
It reminds me of a story about a toll-both collector (a vanishing breed) who was asked how he kept so cheerful with such a dull job that was often filled with frustrated drivers and changeable weather conditions. He said he is always learning something during lulls in his day that made him happy and he spread that happiness to the drivers he met all day long. His latest venture was teaching himself how to dance in his confined space. Hey….he was happy and he spread the happiness. That’s why he was being interviewed. I love that story.
Dan, I don’t know how you do it. Every day is another insightful article. The message of Groundhog Day is a powerful one. A life focused on serving others is one where we feel fulfilled. A life where I only look out for myself is lonely and sad.
I’ve been reading Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (two navy seal team leaders). Their book’s purpose is less about war stories and heroics and more about the leadership qualities it takes to lead a successful mission and how that can translate into business. When you asked, “What shifts elevate perspective in leadership?” I immediately thought of this book and the recurring premise of extreme ownership. They claim that there are no bad teams only bad leaders and when leaders can make that “shift” to view themselves as the source of a problem only then can they truly develop their team to be successful. I agree with this, and I think it fits nicely into your analysis of Groundhogs Day, a movie I watch annually. Phil Collins started to finally look inwardly and considering his actions might be the problem. That is a foundational principle of extreme ownership…checking yourself.
Thanks for the thoughts today Dan. I laugh every time I think of the Sonny and Cher song that plays over and over every morning in the movie “Then put your little hand in mine….”. Aside from being a great movie, it shows us that there are “opportunities” every day that present themselves to be exceptional people and leaders. We just need to be open to those possibilities. Phil’s circumstances never changed, but his openness to being a man for others-the servant. By the end he truly becomes enlightened not only to himself, but being aware of his surroundings and how to interact within them.
The journey from self centeredness to genuinely caring for others rarely happens all at once. In real life this journey requires awareness of how we are being with others. Those wake uup calls can be tough to deal with. How willing are we to alter our perceptions and judgments of other people? How well do we recognize our impact on those we work with, live with, encounter accidentally ? Growing up includes stretching out into communities and people who need us to share our talents generously and our leadership wisely. Positively, Pauline