Each year, since my husband and I first met in 1999, we have watched the movie ‘Groundhog Day' (starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell) on February 2nd. This will be our 13th year watching it. While some might roll their eyes at the irony of repeatedly watching a movie about a guy who is forced to relive a single day – Groundhog Day – over and over again, we love our annual tradition.
If you've never watched the movie, or you watched it back in 1993 and thought it was stupid, give it another chance. It's a great lesson in self-reflection and the perfect illustration of what it takes to make a significant life change.
In the movie, Bill Murray's character is a narcissistic jerk that is nasty to everyone. He plays a weatherman who visits Punxatawney, Pennsylvania to report on the annual Groundhog Day festival. His evolution begins when he gets snowed in there and is forced to stay another night… which turns into many, many, many nights as he relives the day over and over again until he gets it "right."
Enter real life. As we strive to live better and healthier lives, how many times do we relive our old mistakes before feeling successful? For many of us that answer is: "many times."
After I had my first child, I got down to my ‘pre-pregnancy plus 5 pounds' weight and held it. Following my second pregnancy, I got down to my ‘pre-pregnancy plus 10 pounds' weight and held it. Without paying much attention, I was now 15 pounds heavier than before I had kids. And, I spent about 2 ½ years in denial ("pre-contemplation") before realizing that I wanted things to change. In the following table I will use the Stages of Change model to outline my journey back to my pre-pregnancy weight, juxtaposed against that of Bill Murray's journey in ‘Groundhog Day':
|Stage of change||Bill Murray's journey to being a better man in ‘Groundhog Day'||My journey back to my pre-pregnancy weight|
|When Bill Murray's character wakes up to find it's Groundhog Day "again", he assumes everyone is playing a trick on him. He engages in reckless behavior, like stealing the groundhog, because of a perceived lack of consequences.||I assumed that my clothes were playing a trick on me and shrinking themselves in the dryer. I continued my current behavior wanting to believe that everyone who has a baby automatically weighs more than before.|
|He "falls in love" with Andie MacDowell's character and realizes that he could never be with her unless he changes his behavior and how he treats others.||I started to realize that my energy level wasn't where I wanted it to be and that I had grown uncomfortably out of shape. Nothing was going to change without some significant effort on my part.|
|He starts looking for ways to change and impress Andie MacDowell. He has a couple of false starts – learning French poetry and raising a toast "to world peace" – when he chooses things he doesn't believe in. But he wants to change and is trying to figure out how.||I knew I needed to get more active, so I started to look for ways to build more physical activity into my day. Knowing that my greatest challenge was finding something I could do in the evenings after work –I wasn't keen about going to the gym – I found a treadmill that was on sale.|
|He starts to actually help people because it makes him feel good – fixing the tires on an old lady's car, saving someone from choking, buying WrestleMania tickets for a pair of newlyweds. He starts to become a new person and Andie MacDowell takes notice. He wins the girl.||I built regular physical activity into my life – outside with the kids when it was possible and on the treadmill when that was possible. I ate well with sensible portions. The weight came off and I felt like myself again.|
|Who knows what happens after the movie… I'm sure every once in a while Bill relapses into being a bit of a jerk, but now that he's seen what success feels like, I'd bet it doesn't last long. Overall, I'm sure it's sunny.||I continue to keep active several times per week and the weight has stayed off. More importantly, I like how I feel and I'm comfortable in my body. I have the energy I need to keep up with my kids! Every once in a while I "relapse", but I'm not giving up. I just keep moving forward, literally.|
As the legend goes, if the groundhog wakes up and sees his shadow we get 6 more weeks of winter. What can we learn from this? Change is really hard. Even spring doesn't always get it right the first time.