When a person, a team or a whole organization is stuck on the plateau, someone will invariably declare that it's Groundhog Day. This is a reference to the movie with Bill Murray and it has become an expression that means nothing has been changing, and by extension, will ever change.
To me, this misses the point of the Ivan Reitman movie–one of Bill Murray's brightest stars. Murray's character Phil is a self-centered, ego-driven curmudgeon set on achieving his version of fame, while somehow managing to get the girl. In the first part of the movie, as he is exploring the god-like possibilities of the timewarp he's caught in, he overuses his tired tactics and gets nowhere on either project.
In the second act, as he has been stuck in the revolving nightmare for untold days, he falls into a terrible depression and tries unsuccessfully to kill himself hundreds of times, failing each time as he continues to wake up every morning at the same time in the same day.
Ivan Reitman apparently said that he thought Phil was caught in the time loop for at least ten years, reliving the same events for thousands of days. The genius of the movie–at least the genius of how relatable it is–is that most of us are caught in the same time warp. With a few twists and turns, we are somewhat mindlessly reliving the same day over and over again. The monotony breaks only with the occasional beach holiday or health crisis. Most people live as Thoreau said, living "lives of quiet desperation."
How different is my day today from the one's that have come before it? Truthfully, not that much. I am like most people a creature of my habits and routines. The status quo is the mechanism of inertia and the mother of safety and stability. But disruption is the father of innovation. Both parents raise the day.
The central point of the time loop is that it affords the opportunity for self-improvement, progress and growth. Disruption need not and is not often the product of sudden and volatile forces but of continuous improvement towards a vision that is radical only as we see it from a great distance. Malcolm Gladwell gave us the culturally-delicious 10,000 hour idea to ground us in the idea that true and lasting and useful change comes mostly from a long process of self-mastery. Phil became a better person. He used his time in the loop to develop himself, his creative skills and his service to the community. And for that he got the girl.
I think it's useful that Groundhog's Day comes before Valentine's Day. So how about this: certainly enjoy a nice dinner, some roses, lingerie or jewelry or whatever you always like; but maybe this time, try just doing one thing different on February 14th. One thing to make your relationship better.
One of the things you can of course do for Valentine's Day is to buy someone special a copy of the second book in the blindspotting series. This one is all about creating stronger partnerships and I produced it with Rich Thompson and Dan King. Click here to order your copies. It's a short read and the boys have much good to share about what makes for a successful partnership.