A Lesson in Reframing From Groundhog Day

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In the movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a weatherman named Phil. Self-centered, bitter, and sarcastic, Phil is not a happy man and he tends to make other peoples' lives more difficult.

One day Phil has to go to a little town to cover a Groundhog Day festival, and the next day he wakes up and it is still Groundhog Day (February 2nd). The next day the same thing happens. He has to live the same day, Groundhog Day, again and again. Every morning he wakes up, he's in the same place on the same day. For weeks, months, years.

Phil feels trapped, and in his anger, he tries to take advantage of the situation. He steals money, drives like a maniac, tricks women to have his way with them. He may have gone to jail the night before, but the next morning he wakes up back in his bed and nobody is the wiser. But this doesn't make him happy.

All the while, Phil talks to Rita every day. Rita is the producer of the show. He slowly realizes he loves her. Of course, she only knows him as the egocentric jerk he has been so far, so he is frustrated. At first he tries to be phony, learning all about her likes and dislikes, and trying to get her to like him. But then every morning, nobody remembers anything about the day before except him, so she thinks he's a jerk again.

Finally he gives up, gets depressed, and decides the only way out of this nightmare is to kill himself. He drives his truck off a cliff, jumps off a building, gets in a bath and drops a plugged-in toaster in the water, etc. But every morning he wakes up in his bed again, not a scratch on him.

Finally he gives up and starts being his honest self. And when he does, Rita responds to it. One day he hangs out with her all day and tells her what is going on, and she reframes his situation for him. She says, "Sometimes I wish I had a thousand lifetimes."

He changes his attitude and decides to bloom where he is planted. He decides to accept his situation and make the best of it. He decides to fulfill himself and be happy. And he does. He learns to ice-sculpt and play the piano. He starts finding people in need and helping them. He becomes a happy, satisfied man.

And then, of course, Rita falls in love with him, and once that happens, he wakes up and it is finally the day after Groundhog Day.

The movie is a good demonstration of how dramatically life can change with a new perspective. All his objective circumstances were the same. When he thought of it as a trap, as a sentence, he was miserable and made everyone else miserable too. But when he saw the opportunity in the circumstances, when he chose to make the best of it, he transformed. And he was happier, and everyone he knew was happier too.

How can this apply to you? Watch the movie and think about what you have in your life that you think of as a trap. What unchanging circumstance do you have that you resist or hate? Now ask yourself, "What might be good about this? How might I take advantage of this? How could I thrive and fulfill myself right where I am?" Honestly pondering those questions shifts your attitude, improves your mood, and opens the possibility of surprising new opportunities for joy.

- Excerpted from the book, Viewfinder, which is all about reframing.

1 comments:

Fred Miller 8:00 AM  

He learns to accept people on their own terms (in their own frames). Two books taught me this lesson. Two native American writers: William Least Heat-Moon and Ian Frazier. Frazier's book Great Plains is highly critical of people, much like Murray's character. Heat-Moon's book, all of them, show that he meets people on their own terms. It's easy to pick which way I want to be.

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