“I wake up every day, right here in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February second, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
That’s Phil Connors explaining his rather odd predicament in Groundhog Day. Poor guy, right? He gets stuck repeating the same monotonous day over and over again. The movie’s premise seems almost as ridiculous as the holiday it’s based on.
Then why do we love it? Well, for starters, Bill Murray is a hoot. There’s something else, though … something deeper. Maybe it’s because we can relate to the feeling of repetition—the longing for life to move forward and the feeling that nothing we do actually makes a difference.
One of the biggest places we experience this time loop is in our careers. Luckily, Phil Connors has something to teach us about how we can leave this Groundhog Day—and all its work-related problems—behind.
Make the main thing the main thing.
When Phil’s alarm sounds at 6 a.m. on the umpteenth February second, it’s a signal for him to get up, get ready, and head out to give the Groundhog Day report. And report he does—begrudgingly, hilariously and even shockingly—on the little animal’s shadow.
It’d be easy to assume that the groundhog is what Phil’s story is all about. It’s right there in the plot, plain as can be. His daily report becomes the most annoying part of the repetition. Still, it wasn’t the main thing. Phil’s main thing was his attitude.
Takeaway for your career: Before you can act on your main thing, you’ve got to identify what it isn’t. What little things are distracting you from your story? Maybe it’s the frustration of a boss who doesn’t see your potential or responsibilities that neither challenge your mind nor utilize your skill set. Recognize that those little things aren’t holding you back, then do some digging to figure out what is.
You can only control yourself.
Being stuck in a time loop would make any sane person feel helpless. That’s the stuff of science fiction—with no proven method for getting out! It’s no wonder Phil felt there was nothing he could do about it.
Still, in the midst of the mess, without knowing what it would actually do, Phil focused on the main thing. A rude, self-centered and arrogant guy, he eventually used his time for self-improvement. That, as you know, changed everything. He woke up on February third with a new outlook on life and a lady to love.
Takeaway for your career: Sometimes, you can’t change your circumstances. You live where you live, work where you work, and go home to whomever you go home to. You definitely can’t change the people you interact with. But you can change yourself. Work on fixing your main thing and see where it leads. You can’t expect to improve your career if you’re unwilling to improve yourself.
Change takes time, so start today!
Fun fact: According to the director, Phil repeats Groundhog Day for a total of 10 years! Holy cow. That’s more than 3,600 repetitions. Thank goodness the movie showed only 34.
It took Phil every bit of that time to get it right. Why? He’s human, just like us. He was slow to come around to the idea that he wasn’t perfect and therefore wasted days—well, years really—in the process. The end result was wonderful, but it sure took him a while to get there.
Takeaway for your career: What you do today will have a direct result on where your career is in 10 years—and every day you wait to get started pushes the finish line that much farther away. So don’t wait! If you can identify the main thing holding you back and commit to working on yourself, you’re ready.
As Jon Acuff says in his book Quitter, “Start where you are. Start with what you have. Start today.” Make this February second the day you see past the repetition, past the shadow, past the predictions of others and into your future.