Your Personal Reality and Groundhog Day

by Stephen Mills on August 25, 2009

Groundhog Day

Your Personal Reality

Just to be clear up front, I believe there is an actual objective external reality that exists “out there”.  I know that not all people believe that, but that external reality is more or less irrelevant to the point of this article.  Either way the point I am making in this article still applies.

External reality has to be perceived by individual human beings.  As part of that process,  it is filtered through that individual’s experiences, memories, conditioning, genes, biases, knowledge, and any number of other factors.  Two people look at the same external reality and “see” something that might look quite different.

I think this is uncontroversial.  Two people can be in virtually identical circumstances and see and react to those same circumstances very differently.  Think about all the different perspectives and personal realities through which the health care issue in the United States is being viewed.

From a personal standpoint I can attest to the fact that changing my personal reality, the way I view the world, has had a major impact upon both what I see and how I react.   Change your personal reality and to a very real extent you are changing reality.

Is all this just a bunch of irrelevant doublespeak?  No, on the contrary it is an insight that, if you accept and internalize, can make all the difference in the world.  Instead of having to suffer in the present to create an ideal reality in a future that may never arrive, you can alter your perspective by changing your personal reality now.  Then you may discover that you are already living in an ideal reality right here and right now.  Instead of hopelessly trying to create perfection, you are discovering the perfection that you already have.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust

Groundhog Day

Paul Hannam wrote a book called The Magic of Groundhog Day.  The thesis of this book is very simple.  You can transform a mundane day into a magical day simply by changing yourself – your attitudes and perspective.

The book is based upon the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.  In the movie Bill plays the character Phil Conners who gets stuck in a time loop.  The same day, Feb 2nd, repeats itself over and over in a time loop that apparently is going to last forever.  Every day at 6:00 AM Phil wakes up to the exact same day.  Nobody else is in the time loop except Phil.  He’s the only who is living the same day over and over.

Phil Conners hates the original Feb 2nd that occurs before he gets stuck in the loop.  He is a TV weatherman on a one day assignment to cover Groundhog day in Punxutawney PA.  He is miserable and can’t wait to get out of there.  But then he wakes up to the same day the next day, and the next, and so on in a never-ending loop.  When he realizes what is happening to him, he tries to kill himself but he wakes up very much alive at 6:00 AM Feb 2nd the following morning.

There are no consequences to anything he does.  The next day he wakes up with the entire day and all it’s consequences wiped clean.  The exact same day starts over.  Phil knows what is happening, that he is living the same day over and over.  He has his memories from each day and he uses this to benefit himself.  It’s a hedonist’s dream.  He knows what is going to happen next so he uses that to manipulate situations and people and seduce women.

Phil doesn’t enjoy his strange life and no matter what he does he doesn’t find happiness.  However, he eventually discovers something magical.  He discovers that even though everything else is exactly the same, he can change the way he views the circumstances he finds himself in.  He discovers that by changing himself, he can turn a horrible day into a magical day.  The circumstances that are dealt out to Phil are identical each day.  The only thing that changes over those thousands of repeating days is Phil himself.  So by changing himself, Phil changed his day from hell into his magical dream day.

In the book The Magic of Groundhog Day, Paul Hannam takes the lessons from the movie and lays out how they apply to all of us.  It doesn’t matter that each of our days have somewhat different circumstances (they are similar in many ways).  The lesson of the movie is that any particular set of circumstances is filtered through your personal reality, through the way you personally view the world.  Depending upon your personal reality, the same set of circumstances can be a horrible day or a magical day.

You have the power to change your personal reality.  It it easy?  No.  It takes a lot of reflection and a lot of effort.  You have to change a lot of your personal filters and biases.  It took Phil Conners a lot of time and effort in the movie.  But it can be done and it is much easier to change yourself than it is to change the world around you.

The good thing is that it doesn’t have to happen all at once.  You can start making changes and you will see the impact right away.  A lot of what I have written on this blog lately speaks to this issue.

“Tomorrow might be very similar to today.  You might be unable to change the place or the people, but you are able to change your attitudes, thoughts, emotions, and actions.  You have more control over the outcome of your day than you might realize.  You decide if today is going to be something to endure or a unique opportunity to be imaginative.  Is today a dreaded routine or a chance to open up new possibilities?

When you wake up tomorrow, think of the day ahead as a blank canvas on which you can paint anything you want.  As you learn to craft your life, you will discover the ability to create your own masterpiece.”  — Paul Hannam

What about you?  Are you prepared to change your personal reality and discover your own magical days?  Are you ready to paint your own masterpiece?

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Schryer August 25, 2009 at 7:03 am

Don’t you hate it when you read a really great article, and you want to comment, but then you realize that you have nothing to add to the conversation? That’s kinda what I’m feeling here, Stephen. You covered it. I don’t have anything useful to say that will add to the discussion. So, I’m forced to leave you nothing more than a “Great post, I loved it” comment!

Next time, try not to be so thorough, OK? 🙂
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..The National WWII Museum =-.

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Stephen Mills August 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Hi Jay! Sorry, I thought maybe it was going to be a bit too long. Maybe it is. I had trouble getting to the point.

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Robin Easton August 25, 2009 at 7:11 am

I Like this and believe it to be one of Life’s core truths that is more powerful than we might at first realize. However, once grasped we find we can’t live any other way. When I finally had that “ah ha” moment and realized this truth, I felt set free and even to this day find great peace every time I apply this principle to my life.

Like you said, at first (when I was younger) it was not easy. We humans are funny creatures; we often want to hang onto our whining, our set ways, our point of view, our pain and so forth. It can ‘seem’ easier to complain about things, easier to be a victim than to let go and change the way we look and respond to our lives and any given situation. Sometimes we hang on because we are afraid to grow. Other times we hang on simply out of habit. But I know from experience that it is well worth it. We may not be able to always control what happens in life, but we CAN choose how we are going to respond to it.

Great article! 🙂
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Can You Slow Down? =-.

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Stephen Mills August 25, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Thanks Robin. The movie shows all this in a very entertaining way.

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Valerie M August 25, 2009 at 8:08 am

Ah, I totally forgot about that movie, Groundhog Day. I remember how humorous it was and how he started to have fun with the day. I think the point you’re making is very strong. I mean technically, we are living the same way. Everyday IS the same as the last one unless we do something to make it different. I can’t think of how many mornings I woke up thinking “Maybe today will be better.” It was the wrong mindset.
.-= Valerie M´s last blog ..Perfection does exist, but not the way we think of it =-.

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Stephen Mills August 25, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Hi Valerie. This book really makes a lot of incredibly good points and deserves to be more widely read than I think it has been.

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Positively Present August 25, 2009 at 8:58 am

I love that movie and the book based on it sounds really interesting. I love the idea that we can take our days and make them what we want them to be. It is so easy to just let things happen, but we really do have a lot more control over how our days and lives pan out that we give ourselves credit for. Attitude, for example, has a HUGE impact on your day and you can choose to have any attitude you want to have.
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..a letter to my older self =-.

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Stephen Mills August 25, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Hello Dani. It may have been a movie, but the point it makes about how you can create completely different realities with the same circumstances is very powerful.

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meatlessmama August 25, 2009 at 1:52 pm

We all get one life and it is up to each of us how we use it. We can choose to be happy and make the most of a situation, or to be unhappy and waste the time we’ve been given. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that the choice is really our own.
.-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Cauliflower Pie =-.

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Stephen Mills August 25, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Thanks meatlessmama. We say it all the time, but you are right. It seems hard to really internalize.

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BunnygotBlog August 25, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Ground Hog Day is one of my favorite movies. I truly know how things can be taken differently especially with my husband. I have discovered he is more thin skinned and certain people provoke him. Then it is the same for me – at times. Have to work on that.

Great article.
.-= BunnygotBlog´s last blog ..Lost In A Sea Of Identities =-.

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Stephen Mills August 26, 2009 at 5:53 am

Thanks for stopping by Bunny 🙂

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alex - unleash reality August 26, 2009 at 4:57 am

hey stephen!!

interesting you bring up objective versus created realities. just read amazing book that argues both sides and comes to a conclusion about this and other crazy interesting questions called “Paradigms Lost” – highly recommended 🙂

really really liked this article all-round. not only cos it reminded me of the magic of groundhog day.

every moment is a fresh start.

awwwsomeness 🙂

stumbled!

hope you well mate
alex – unleash reality

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Stephen Mills August 26, 2009 at 5:54 am

Hello Alex. I’ve Paradigms Lost and also Paradigms Regained. Thanks for all your support!

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Mike King August 26, 2009 at 7:57 am

I too love the movie Groundhog day for the same realization of how applicable the lessons in it are. We have our own choices about life and the way we live it directly affect the outcomes of what we experience in it.

A more recent version of groundhog day I saw in the TV series, “Supernatural” where Sam lives a day over a hundred times seeing his brother Dean die over and over in different ways and he can’t stop it. The opposite effect here wears Sam out and changes him deeply. He comes out of this loop not telling anyone but in a “single day” completely changed after the experience. The whole thing was a trick played on him by own of his “supernatural” enemies the trickster who is able to change anyone’s reality which he does to pay him back. Worst trick and villian EVER if you ask me.
.-= Mike King´s last blog ..Book Review: The Adversity Paradox =-.

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Dragos Roua August 26, 2009 at 8:31 am

Loved the movie, and I think this is a very powerful metaphor! I think I saw it over 20 times. You are so right, nothing really changes around us until we start changing ourselves.

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Steve September 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm

It’s so true that we create our reality through our beliefs and perceptions, as well as the attitudes we choose to adopt. There is a great chapter in Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within on beliefs. By examining our beliefs about ourselves, our future, and the word, we can construct healthier and more productive beliefs to get better results….or we can be oblivious and get the same results we’ve always gotten.
.-= Steve´s last blog ..Houston, We Have a Problem =-.

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