Groundhog Day 2024: What are you going to do today?

Good morning!

It's Groundhog Day... again... and soon I'll be rewatching Phil Connors repetitive journey through a day. After a very, very long journey through "a very long day", but in living that "day" Phil, will reshape his life in a new and better way.

I'm writing and posting this article early today because I want to start it with a variation of Phil's question at the end of the film: "Is there anything I can do for [me/]you, today?"

I hope that question can be a catalyst for reflecting "forward" in order to make today a great day to repeat.


Groundhog Day 2023: Better next time

Well, it's Groundhog Day... again.
And it's amazing to think a year has passed since my last Groundhog Day reflection. I guess after one watches a film many many times through the years, things start to blend together in memory. In fact, I find these writings have also become a review of what I've written before, if at least so I don't repeat something I've already pondered before.

This year I had a topic in mind before that alarm clock hit 06:00, but that's not what I ended up reflecting on today nor what I'm writing about now. Before I even saw the sun rising this morning, my thoughts wandered in another philosophical Groundhog Day direction.

As we all often do in our days, I had a number of things go not so well today. Of the many minor things which occurred, I'll list three events which are most prominent and useful for discussion.
The first was that I hit my head pretty hard while hurrying to catch a bus... I can still feel the bump more than 15 hours later. The second I'll mention was when I dropped a cupcake that I was looking forward to snacking on. The third and last event I'll mention was a bus ride at the end of the day that ended up being caught in traffic, having the exit for my stop closed, and therefore reaching my stop almost an hour after its scheduled time.
Each of these events were certainly unfortunate, but felt different today thanks to a small bit of Groundhog Day perspective.

After the first event, when I hit my head, I was quite upset. It hurt really bad -- and honestly still is quite tender to the touch. Even so, the circumstances for the occurrence were completely understandable. It just happened to be that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thanks to my thoughts being philosophical today, I found myself thinking, "I'll remember to avoid this occurrence 'next time around'." The idea being as if the day would repeat and I could simply avoid the mistake altogether. That shift in perspective allowed me to laugh at the silliness of the mistake and move on with my day with an added smile. Still a bump on my head, but at least not dwelling on negative thoughts.

Later, during/after some other minor similar unfortunate experiences, I kept a similar perspective. Carrying on "knowing" that I'll just do better next time. By the time I dropped the cupcake which I was very excited to eat, I had internalized that perspective and laughed aloud at the dropped cupcake. I recovered and ate what I still could, then said aloud, "OK. No hitting my head. No [makes motions with hands] while attempting to eat cupcake."

And, finally, after the diverted and delayed bus ride, I departed the bus, smiled and said, "No hitting head, no dropping cupcake, taking [alternate bus route] instead of [delayed bus route]."
I knew none of these notes would be directly applicable, as the day is unlikely to repeat as it does for Phil Connors in the film Groundhog Day [TMDB]. However, I have found this mindset to be freeing today and perhaps something I'll carry forward into the future.

As I think back on my day today and the bumps (literally) along the way, I feel lighter in mindset about the permanence of the choices and experiences we make in our one brief life. Mistakes happen; it's our reaction and recovery from those mistakes which define us, not the mistakes themselves. So, maybe, the next time I hit my head and wish I hadn't, I'll remember that I can still do better next time. And I will. As long as we keep trying, we will each do better next time.


Groundhog Day 2022: Where would you like to be?

I wrote my first Groundhog Day blog fifteen years ago. Since then, I've enjoyed the intentional tradition of meditating on my various PHILosophies in life through the viewing of the 1993 film Groundhog Day [IMDB].

Usually when I choose a direction for my Groundhog Day articles, it's because some theme jumps out to me on my viewing of the film. Typically, I'll watch the film and feel drawn to a certain interpretation. I then use subsequent viewings to hone in on the theme and form my thoughts on it completely. Today was pleasantly different.

The first line of the film caught me immediately upon my initial viewing and I knew what I would write about this year:
"Somebody asked me today, 'Phil, if you could be anywhere in the world, where would you like to be?' And I said to 'em, 'Probably right here...'"
Admittedly, that line continues and Phil identifies a physical location where he'd like to be, based on its current weather forecast. However, the pause after he states "Probably right here" was just long enough for me to think of the question as if regarding a state of being or place in life.

I briefly mentioned being mindful of the present in my 2013 Groundhog Day reflection. That sense of mindfulness can help us value our actions now as we form our future. I find it important to ask myself every now and the same sort of question that Phil mentions. If the answer to that question is, "Probably right here", then I can take a moment to find contentment with the path that's led to this place in life. If the answer is to a place elsewhere in space or time, then I'll know what to adjust to get where I want to be.

I hope you're feeling happy with where you are in life or at least hopeful for the path you have ahead to get there. Take care in this year ahead, we're not through this strange "winter" just yet.


Groundhog Day 2021: Empathy

There are few words which can describe how significant the last 12 months have been in all our lives. We (human society) have been deeply affected by a global pandemic which has changed the way we work, play, learn, interact, and, well, live. And while 2020 contained some wonderous events for me personally, such as my wonderfully personal and connective wedding, the events of the past year have also laid bare some of society's darkness as well. (For more on those sorts of topics though, I'd refer you to my Guy Fawkes Day articles.) Being Groundhog Day, I prefer to pause with internal reflection not outward commentary and evaluation.

When viewing the Groundhog Day film in my usual way today, I looked at it through the lens of this last year. When we watch films, we tend to focus on the experiences and perspective of a specific individual or group. Much of the film's background is therefore filled with people who are "extras" or side-characters. Similarly, we humans tend to view our lives in the same way. We see ourselves as protagonists in our own story and therefore see others as side-characters in it.

Groundhog Day, the film, centers the story around Phil Connors' experiences of repeating the day over and over again. Today, in my viewing, I found myself focusing not on Phil, but on the people around him. I imagined how his actions or words may impact them. Notice the impact of Phil's choice to bribe the piano teacher to oust a young piano student mid-lesson. Or imagine the impact of Phil's degrading comments toward Larry early on in the film. Now, imagine if these experiences are repeated for eternity for those individuals. Meaning, what if Phil's actions in these moments become the moments that these people have to relive with him everyday, the way he relives everyday in the film.

My point in bringing up these observations isn't to condemn Phil. In fact, later in the film, Phil is shown to be quite different as a person. We can envision how this new kind person might have patiently allowed the young piano student to finish her lesson. We also can see when Phil makes an effort to genuinely connect, or at least befriend, Larry by asking him about his life. My point is to prompt that previously mentioned thought exercise: imagine the story these "side-characters" experience through their interaction(s) with Phil. We, as the audience, see the transformation of Phil from "wretch" (to quote Rita's quote) to hero. Each character in that film would likely have a very different view of Phil. "Yesterday, he treated me like trash, but today he wants to be my friend? Will tomorrow be trash again?"

In our lives, we present ourselves to others and share with them a piece of our selves. We give them pieces of our story with which they try to build their own understanding. Now, that understanding is built through their own perspective, bias, and life-experience, but it forms a story in their minds about us. We do the same thing with them. We receive pieces of their story and form those pieces into a story that we tell ourselves about them.

I don't want to delve to deeply in this reflection, so I'll conclude here by saying the following:
Use care when building a story in your head about other people. They live rich full lives and have had wonderful and horrible experiences. Those people aren't simply side-characters in your story.

Lastly, be kind in the way you share your story with others. Your actions and your words will be the story they repeat to themselves about you.


Groundhog Day 2020: Hope

It's Groundhog Day!
If you're reading this I'm sure you're well aware of my Groundhog Day reflections, so I'll jump right into it....

In the film Groundhog Day [IMDB], when Phil Connors begins his long long day, we watch him first experience confusion, then panic, then he tries to indulge his ego and distract himself from his own shallow existence. Those indulgences and distractions are only temporary and eventually reality hits him with a slap to the face. He crashes into despair and hopelessness. Time and time again, he tries to end his empty experience, even attempting to kill himself in various ways. Eventually, we see him seated with Rita as he confides in her his belief that he is a god, an immortal being, bound to endless torture in a single day.

While amazed at his knowledge of the townspeople, Rita is undaunted in her patience. As they spend the day together, Rita displays her general optimism which is quite contrary to how Phil approaches life at that point in the film. Earlier, Phil was the subject of a spot on observation by Gus in the bowling alley: "You know, some people would see this glass and say it's half full. Other people would say it's half empty. I'm thinking you're a half-empty kind of guy." Gus is right about Phil in at least two ways. Not only is Phil a pessimist -- seeing the glass as half empty, he's also a half-empty person. Phil is so wrapped up in himself that he doesn't see the world around him.

Rita casually mentions how she would use the opportunity to repeat a day. Her optimistic idea nudges Phil to take a new perspective on his experience: "I don't know, Phil. Maybe it's not a curse. It depends on how you look at it." The next morning, he is fresh and excited to embrace his journey as a whole. He leaps out of bed and begins treating every person he can with kindness. Each day is a new day. One new morning, we see him leave his room and answer his fellow hotel guest with the words, "Winter slumbering in the open air, wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!"
That line is from the 19th century poem, I've included here:
Work without Hope
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
February 1825

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair.
The bees are stirring, birds are on the wing.
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!

And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.

I've written before about the importance of connection and creating purpose for yourself. Those fundamentals are certainly important, but beneath those fundamentals is a foundation of hope. Phil's hopeless pessimism is what destroys his dreams time and time again. He tries to get what he wants, but he never really buys into the journey. He only reaches for the destination. Once Phil embraces his experiences with hope, we see him begin to change as a person. Phil's daily work becomes full of hope, not empty like the result of attempting to catch nectar in a sieve.

Think of this while you pass these last minutes before midnight or while you embrace your new day. What is your Spring? What hope is in your dreams? Will you endure winter in the open air, keeping warm with a dream of Spring?
I think I will. Colorado has a "big blue thing" on its way tonight, so I HOPE I can stay warm with a dream of my Spring, both literal and metaphorical.



By the way, this year's Groundhog Day has TWO special bonuses!
First, today's date is a palindrome whether you write it 2020-02-02 (yyyy-mm-dd), 02-02-2020 (dd-mm-yyyy), or 02-02-2020 (mm-dd-yyyy).
Second, Bill Murray was in an ad today which played a bit with his role in Groundhog Day:

His day sure does look full of hope.


Groundhog Day 2019: Priorities and Prediction

It's Groundhog Day. Again. My silly tradition of using this day as inspiration for self-reflection continues for another year. Throughout my groundhog day reflections, I've written about many things. As I sit here thinking back on the past year and life in general, I find myself thinking about priorities and prediction.

Life can be beautiful in its chaos and entrancing in its opportunities for connection. Today, we are the person who was molded by our life up to this point. Tomorrow, we will be a slightly different person, changed by the experiences of today. If we attempt to predict who we will become in the future, at the whim of our daily lives, our predictions are increasingly inaccurate the further into the future we imagine. We can better predict who we will be in one minute than who we will be in one year. Life changes us, very much so, but we too can change our lives.

Prioritization is how we determine the importance of our life's components (e.g. activities, interests, people). We set that priority through the application of our time and engagement. That priority then defines the thing's impact and integration into who we are. For example, I have spent many many years being interested and engaged in adventure seeking. That interest has become a part of who I am, all the way into my daily personality. Our choices today will form routines, those routines will become habits, those habits will solidify into our minds and become us.

We should be intentional with how we set our priorities everyday. Today, my first priority -- having finished a bit of breakfast -- is writing this article. Tomorrow, I'll set my mind to other tasks that are of priority as well. In the film Groundhog Day [IMDB], Phil Connors develops a routine, setting his priorities of the day such as to maximize his impact on the town around him. Through the routine exercise of these experiences, he becomes someone whose personage reflects his forming priorities of kindness toward people, development of self, and an exploration of art.

Who do you want to be? Define yourself with a goal in mind and build routines that will move you toward that goal. Set your priorities in life such that who you become is who you wanted to be.


Groundhog Day 2018: Connection

Looking at my blog and seeing that I haven't published an article since last year, one might think that I'm stuck in Groundhog Day of 2017. The fact is that a year has passed -- and what a year it has been. If you're wondering why you haven't seen an article from me in a while, it's because I have been largely focused on writing for my academic pursuits as well as some other fear related research. However, my mind is not on the intellectual parts of my life, it's on the people.

As I spend time in my usual Groundhog Day reflections, I find myself thinking about connection. Human connection and our connection to our own individual lives. In past reflections, I've written about chaos, time, fear, change, and tradition; the things that make up some constituent parts of life. One piece that seems to be missing is connection.

Today, as I watch the film Groundhog Day [IMDB] on repeat, I'm noticing how Phil connects with others. Throughout the film he forms greater connections with himself as he forms greater connections with the people in his life. The essence of connection is in our intention with it. When we connect with a person in our life, we must be conscious of the significance of the mutual impact of that connection. When we connect with a hobby or interest, we must acknowledge our investment of time and effort into developing a new skill, knowledge base, or practice.

In the film, Phil Connors recognizes the significance of connection as he considers the impact he can have and has already had on the lives of the people in Punxsutawney:
"When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope.
Yet we know winter is just another step in the cycle of life.
But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts,
I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter."

"Ciao!" Image captured from Groundhog Day (1993) [IMDB]

When we focus our minds on our activities and reactions, we become lost in the day-to-day. To find substance in life, we must connect with it. We must become active participants in our own choices, not simply reactants to outside influence. That's not to say that outside influence has no place. In fact, it is through our interactions with the outside world that we discover ourselves. Without connection, life would be bleak and disjointed. Without compassion, life would be cold and empty. Without outside interaction, we would be stuck within our own inner worlds. Outside influences will always impact our lives, situations and people will always exhibit attempts at control over our autonomy. How we respond to those influences and how we choose to influence others is what defines a life of suffering or one of happiness.

Phil frees himself from his daily repetition through his connection with others. His freedom in life comes through his embracing the way that he can be a positive influence toward others. At the start, Phil views the repetition of life as doldrum and torment. For as long as he views the repetition as torment, it is his torture and seems to have no end, even in death. Once he uses the repetition to change his life and the lives of others, the cycle ends and he is free. He has transformed himself and countless others who are connected to him in life.

So, today, I encourage you to ponder the lives entwined with your own. In what ways can you positively influence others. How will you transform yourself and free yourself from the repetition of the day-to-day?


Groundhog Day 2017: Thriving in both chaos and order

It's been ten years since I wrote my first Groundhog Day article and even longer since I made the day something of a personal holiday. Here I am again noting the prognostications of various groundhogs, playing the film Groundhog Day [IMDB] on continuous repeat, reflecting on my journey in life over the past year, and revisiting the thoughts and writings of past Groundhog Days. These traditions are, for the most part, invented for myself by myself. That said, I also appreciate the company of others who choose to celebrate the day that has become uniquely special for me. It's a day that is oddly balanced as a visitation to both the repetitively routine and the excitingly evolving.

This past year has been tumultuous for many. Things have shifted in unexpected directions locally, socially, globally, politically, and environmentally. For better or worse, chaos is upon us. And yet, I find myself unafraid in the face of the unknown. I don't mean apathetic when I say unafraid; I mean that I feel ready and energized to experience new challenges. I have grown as a person thanks to the challenges I've experienced in life. Every new mountaintop -- whether literal or metaphorical -- has given me a new perspective. Sure, climbing each mountain was an arduous journey, but the experience has made me better able to climb the next mountain. Every challenge to my resolve has strengthened my willpower, every sadness has taught me new depths, and every smile has brought me new light. My journeys through chaos has become my new order.

In the ten years since I started writing each Groundhog Day, a lot has happened in my life. I have had more than a few perspective changing experiences coupled with more than a handful of "significant life events". I've learned well to embrace adventure and to seek challenge for myself both in my mind and the world around me. And yet, every year, I still circle back to a day of familiar routine and tradition.

Last year, I wrote about the value of perseverance and action. I expanded on those thoughts in a reflection on time. No matter how you choose to spend the time you have, be present in it. This year, I find myself thinking about the way that chaos has formed me into who I am, but how a personal foundation of meaning has given me purpose.

If life feels like a never-ending repetition, as it was for Phil in Groundhog Day, I invite you to find a way to create a little bit of chaos to stimulate fresh perspective. If instead you find yourself surrounded by chaos and turmoil, find a way to stay in the moment. If you panic, you allow the chaos which surrounds you to become a chaos within you. I invite you to thrive in the external storm of chaos while creating meaning and purpose within.

My life has been an amazing journey these past ten years; amazing in both its unexpected challenges and unanticipated growth. I expect that life will always present the unexpected and I know the future is unknown.
Life is a beautiful mix of chaos and order, routine and the unexpected. To live is to embrace that beauty and to heed the words of Douglas Adams in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" [Goodreads]... Don't Panic.


Review: A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way

A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your WayA Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way by Ariana M. Friedlander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was approached by a mutual friend to review Ariana M. Friedlander's book A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way. I later met with Ariana to ask her about the style and subject matter of her book, I wanted to be sure that it would align with my interests. I warned her that I don't alter my book reviews based on popularity of a book nor the source of its recommendation. She understood and still invited me to receive and review it.

I'm happy to say that my initial warnings were unnecessary as I very much enjoyed A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way. Whilst reading the book, I found myself often thinking that this was not only a "guide to building a business" but a guide to building a great life.

I enjoyed Ariana's use of cycling metaphor and her overview of related works to each chapter's topic. Unlike many other books of this style which spend too much time telling readers of their own success, Ariana kept her personal stories on topic and down-to-Earth in the reality of her challenges. The book relays a number of tips for overcoming challenges (internal and external) to reaching your goals. Many of the books she recommends for further reading are ones which I have enjoyed. Better still, she summarizes the ideas from those books well for people who have not yet read them.

I feel more than comfortable giving this easy read 5 out of 5 stars. Well done, Ariana. Your journey is one which I hope can inspire other misfits to reach for their goals in both business and life.

View all my reviews


Janus in June

[Image source: https://takingawalkthroughhistory.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/ianuarius-the-month-of-janus/]

Earlier this month, I was visited by an old friend who had been a supervisor of mine many years ago. Through our years of working together we had created many new processes, projects, and teams which have continued on even after he and I had moved on to other duties in employment and stages of life. I fell out of contact with him when he retired years ago and had sometimes thought to find a way to reconnect.

We happened to come across eachother when he was visiting an old office of ours while I was there making an inquiry of the current occupant. We both immediately shared a look of pleasant surprise and recognition upon seeing eachother. We made time in our day to catch up about all that had happened since his retirement and to reminisce about our time working together.

I'm certainly accustomed to bouts of nostalgia and gratitude, but I found myself notably introspective as I came away from our conversation. I gained a unique -- almost third-party -- perspective in talking with him about all of the changes since his retirement and also noting the things which remained the same. That perspective provided the kindling for a thought: You don't realize how far you've come until you look back at where you've been. I find myself pleasantly captivated with how applicable that thought is to both practical things such as hiking and metaphorically with life.

We spend so much time and energy setting goals, pushing forward, and looking toward new horizons that we sometimes lose touch with the accomplishments we have had and the improvements we have made both within ourselves and the world around us. I'm always eager to experience the next challenge and welcome new opportunities; I hope I will never lose that eagerness and excitement about change, but I now also hope that I can give myself pause in order to appreciate the paths of the past which have brought me to the present.

I'm not advocating for dwelling on the past; I find that people who are stuck in mindsets of bygone times and out-dated ways often stifle innovation, curiosity, and progress. Rather, my thought is that one should attempt to gain satisfaction with the present and motivation to form future goals by intentionally taking note of one's past progress, tasks accomplished, and challenges overcome.