7 Lessons from Punxsatawny, PA.

JHL8eFh“Okay campers, rise and shine!”  We might be a long way from Gobblers’ Knob in Punxsatawny, Pennsylvania but after a couple of months in isolation, working from home and social distancing, you might just start to feel like you’re trapped in some recurring time loop like Bill Murray’s iconic role as cynical weatherman, Phil Connors, in the 1993 classic movie Groundhog Day (and if you haven’t watched it recently it’s trending pretty high on Quarantine Quareterly‘s “Hot Comedy List”).

Buddhist doctrine says it takes the soul 10,000 years to evolve to its next level and the jury’s out as to whether Groundhog Day  is symbolic of this period of transcendence and if Phil actually spent 10,000 years of February 2nds stuck in Punxsatawny.  Other calculations have attempted to approximate just how many groundhog sightings the self-absorbed meteorologist witnessed.  One estimate claims 8 years, 8 months and 16 days worth, while the most common computation, based on the skills acquired and relationships formed in the film, feel that Phil spent between 30 and 40 years idling on that frigid February day… a far cry from these first few months that we’ve found ourselves “in isolation”.

The first few weeks of our experience in isolation may, like Phil Connors’, have been filled (and potentially may still be filled) with any number of responses to “the news” and any number of strategies to try and make sense of the evolving situation and adapt to “the new norm”:

  • We may have experienced denial about what was happening or the seriousness of the situation;
  • Perhaps we became angry that this was happening… happening to US… and resorted to lashing out at those around us as our habits and routines became disrupted;
  • Maybe we opted to blame others for the situation, seeing anyone who didn’t believe or behave the way we did as a contributing factor to the situation and our distress;
  • With our routines seemingly flipped on their head and the uncertainty of what was to follow, we may have experienced moments of sadness and depression at the loss of our “normal”;
  • Others embraced more of a “fuck it” attitude, feeling that nothing would impact the outcome so their actions didn’t matter. Feeling that “if we’re stuck in this mess we might as well enjoy the crap out of it and do whatever the hell we want with reckless abandon”… unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, right?
  • We may have gone on a quest to find any and every loophole to rationalize continuing our “normal” without restriction;
  • There are many who have fought change and resisted settling into anything “different”, waiting with fingers crossed for a speedy return to their “old norm”, sitting with baited breath, clicking the “refresh” button and waiting for “this” to all be over.

We all step into stressful situations and perceive them differently.  We all conduct our “personal threat assessment” in different ways and respond to the data presented us in different ways based on our personal interpretation of it.  We do however, all have an advantage over Phil.  Although we don’t know exactly WHEN our time loop will end, we do know that it will end!  We don’t have to wait anxiously for the alarm clock to sound at 6:00 to see if it’s the same song playing as it was in yesterday’s version of today (Sonny and Cher’s, ‘I Got You Babe’, in case you’ve forgotten).  We can wake up and fully take control of our day.

When Phil Connors finally evolves beyond his carefree, “zero fucks given” approach to navigating his Groundhog Day time loop, he makes some amazing realizations.  His course changes and he eventually emerges no longer desperate to leave Punxsatawny but happy to stay there.  These lessons will hold us all in good stead, now and as we venture down the pathways ahead of us:

  1. We typically get very good at the things we repeatedly do each day. Capture and enjoy the opportunity to get good at things.
  2. Use your previous experiences to improve yourself in such a way that you continue to inch your way towards your goals and aspirations. Learn from your past to “grease the groove” of your abilities and skills so that they become comfortable, fluid and almost second nature.
  3. Develop a routine and follow it with relentless precision. Create a routine to improve yourself in such a way that you can make a difference in the lives of those around you.
  4. Embed joy in your daily tasks and routine. Work towards the things that make you happy – and very often, those are the very things that make others happy.  Strive to find fulfillment throughout your day.
  5. Look around you and see where you can make a significant impact in the lives of the individuals and in the community around you. Be a contributing participant rather than a silent inhabitant.
  6. Be patient with others and take the time to be kind to them. Take a sincere interest in their lives and earn about them.  This will better enable you to respond to their needs and help them when they need you.
  7. Enjoy each new day. Wake up excited to get started on making a difference and make the most of the time and opportunity that you are presented with.

If your Groundhog Day was to end tomorrow, you’d undoubtedly be relieved, but would you be happy with what you’ve accomplished during the time spent in your “time loop”.  Are you content in your Punxsatawny or still desperate to run from it?

For a few thoughts on persisting through this period of isolation read our previous blog: “The ABCs of Social Isolation”

For some ideas on starting to build a daily routine download our Routine Building Worksheet.


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