Monday evening our family did what we try to do every year on February 2 – celebrate one of our favorite holidays by watching one of our all-time favorite movies, “Groundhog Day”. For those who do not remember it, the movie tells the story of Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray), a weather forecaster who finds himself stuck reliving Groundhog Day over and over and over.
At the beginning of the movie, Phil is a self-centered and cynical weatherman forced to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The one day visit turns into an endless loop in which he finds himself waking up each morning to the same song and stuck in a perpetual cycle of reliving Groundhog Day. Initially, he tries to use the situation to his advantage, taking knowledge of what is going to happen each day to do things like steal money from the back of a bank truck or convince people to do things for him. The emptiness of these efforts eventually leads him to try to end it all, only to find himself incapable of even doing that. No matter what he does, he finds himself waking up, the clock at 6 am, “I’ve got you babe,” playing on the radio.
Eventually, Phil shifts his focus in two ways. First, he decides to focus on improving himself, taking piano lessons and learning how to create ice sculptures, for example. Second, he starts to focus on helping others. We see Phil timing his walk down a sidewalk just in time to ensure he catches a boy falling out of a tree, kneeling in the street with a jack and tire iron to change the flat tire of a group of older woman, performing the Heimlich on a man who is choking on a piece of steak. Phil learns about every person in the town, spending the time to find out what each person needs and striving to spend his entire day making each person’s life better. In the end, his producer falls in love with Phil because he is a truly good person and Phil, after what seems like thousands of days, finally wakes up on February 3, freed from his endless Groundhog Day loop.
Watching this past week, I was struck once again that Phil’s resolution happens when he develops a growth mindset and, at least to my mind, embraces Hillbrook’s core values – be kind, be curious, take risks, be your best. Phil shifts from a cynical and selfish individual, to a generous and kindhearted person focused on reaching beyond himself to make a difference in the world. Only when he truly becomes selfless, when he realizes his ability to be his best, does he fall in love and find himself released from his one-day prison.
This Monday morning at Flag I wished everyone Happy Groundhog Day and noted that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning that we are in for six more weeks of winter. While I suspect that very few of us are overly concerned about an extended winter – indeed, if anything, we are all hopeful that a longer winter might bring more rain! – I know myself that keeping tabs on the most famous groundhog in America each year is actually just an excuse for re-watching a classic movie and for reminding myself of the importance of striving each day to be the best person I can be.
To the groundhog.