Groundhog Day Effect: Five Ways to Break the Monotony

groundhog-day billThere are times when I feel like I’m stuck in a Groundhog Day. I am not talking about the national holiday where we look to a large rodent for weather predictions. No, I’m referring to the classic Bill Murray movie where we learn how to become better versions of ourselves.

In Groundhog Day, Bill plays Phil Connor, a grumpy misanthrope who finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. Once the initial confusion fades, he enjoys being able to behave without consequences, knowing he will wake up the next day with a clean slate. After some time, the excitement fades. Boredom is replaced with depression and Phil does everything he can to try and end the monotonous cycle.

I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned… And every morning I wake up without a scratch on me, not a dent in the fender… I am an immortal.

To avoid Phil’s destructive endeavors to break free of his repetitive routine, how can we learn from Phil and break out of our monotonous cycles? Here are five tips that can help:

Seek help

When every one of Phil’s attempts to end the time loop is unsuccessful, he divulges his living nightmare to his co-worker. She inspires Phil to improve his outlook and find meaningful the ways he spends his never-ending day.

You need to find the people in your life who are willing to listen to your discontentment. They may not have the answers to magically fix your problems, but they can provide some needed perspective and maybe a little inspiration.

Help others

Once Phil decided to live a more meaningful life, he begins to use his omnipotent knowledge of the happenings of the day to help the townspeople. Phil runs to catch the kid who’s falling out of the tree. He starts changing the tire of a carload of elderly woman before they have time to ask for help. And he performs the Heimlich Maneuver on the Mayor while he is choking at dinner.

Phil was not expecting anything in return; heck, he knew that if he didn’t perform these good deeds, he could just do it tomorrow. Phil was helping because he found enjoyment in it. That same sense of altruism can make your day more momentous and less tedious.

Self-improvement

In addition to providing aid to other people, Phil begins working towards personal fulfillment. He learns how to play the piano, write poetry, sculpt ice, and speak French. This may seem like a nice luxury to a man with nothing else to do, but it is just as necessary for each of us.

We need to push our mental boundaries. If you aren’t learning something new every day, you’ve just wasted a day. And unlike Phil, you won’t have another chance – when today is over, it is gone. Pursue eclectic interests that stimulate different parts of yourself. By doing something inventive, you’ll find that being more open to creativity and new experiences will have a positive effect on other aspects of your life.

Change your habits

We may not be experiencing the same day…but it may feel like it. Most people have a natural desire for predictability and routine. Because these cyclical habits are engrained and automated, it takes effort to change them.

In an interview with the author of the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg stated that every habit can be divided into three phases: 1) the trigger that starts behavior, 2) the routine, i.e. the behavior itself, and 3) the reward. Therefore, to change any habit, consider what is triggering it and how you are rewarding yourself once it is done. Then, work towards establishing new rewards to reinforce the habits you are trying to build, change, or extinguish.

As many as 40-45% of our daily activities are habits which means if you don’t get your habits right, you won’t reach your goals.

Don’t drive angry

When Harold Ramis, the Director of Groundhog Day, was asked how long Phil was trapped in the time loop, he originally speculated that it was around ten years. However, after further contemplation he stated,

I think the ten-year estimate is too short. It takes at least ten years to get good at anything, and allotting for the down time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like thirty or forty years.

With goals that take so long to accomplish, how do we practice and remain disciplined while continuing to avoid monotony? Once you have your big goal, start breaking it down into bite-sized pieces. What can you accomplish this week? This afternoon? This minute?

Change your agenda so guitar practice does not always come after Italian lessons but before archery. Change your eating habits and exercise routine. Change the coffee shop where you go to write your opus. Change, change, change.

It took Phil experiencing a nervous breakdown with the attempted murderous rampage of an innocent groundhog before he was able to begin his quest towards serenity. Don’t let your disgruntlement go so far. With work, family, and all of our other responsibilities, it is easy to get lost in the repetitiveness of our days. Fight the urge to relive the same day. After all, it is only the same if you let it.

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