Hiring and Growth

Groundhog Day Lessons That Will Help You Get Out of Your Small Business Rut

Gusto Editors  
Groundhog Day Lessons

“Well, what if there was no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”

If you’re looking to get your business mojo back, you may want to fire up your TV. Groundhog Day, the seminal 1993 film directed by Harold Ramis, stars Bill Murray as a crabby weatherman named Phil Connors, who ends up reliving February 2nd ad nauseum. While the premise may sound a bit overdone, there are actually some incredibly profound life lessons baked inside. The film shines a light on why we hold ourselves back from improving our lives, and how with a little work, we can all break free of the obstacles we create.

Here are a few ways you can use the themes from Groundhog Day to stop making the same business mistakes over and over (and over) again.

[Caution: Spoiler alerts ahead].

Every day is a chance to change

Phil: Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?

Mrs. Lancaster: I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.

In the movie, Connors is sent to Punxsutawney, PA to report on the annual Groundhog Day tradition — but he gets stuck, in the town and within himself. To reverse the curse, he experiments with making small changes: learning poetry one day, piano the next. The thing is, there’s no reason he couldn’t have done all these things before he got himself lodged into the Punxsutawney time warp. The takeaway here? You don’t need an excuse to reinvent yourself. You can take steps to improve things every single day.

Change is scary. However, there are many small ways you can dip your toes in as a small business owner. Start by asking yourself one key question: What would I do if I was just starting out?

Maybe you would’ve spent more time with your family, or perhaps ventured into a different space altogether. Or maybe you would’ve played around with funky marketing stunts, or tested out fun ways to appreciate your customers. Whatever it is, there’s no reason you can’t approach your company with the same twinkly eyes you had when you first opened up shop.

You can’t forego your day-to-day operations, but according to Lloyd Shefsky, author of Invent, Reinvent, Thrive, in order to be successful, all entrepreneurs also have to open themselves up to change. Just like driving a car, “you always are looking forward but peripheral vision lets you know if somebody on the side is entering your lane or doing something ridiculous,” Shefsky says. After asking yourself that golden question, circle a few things that you can implement today. Think about what you want to do by using the SMART framework. Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. This worksheet can help you begin charting them out.

Make room for meaning

Phil: Can I be serious with you for a minute?

Rita: I don’t know. Can you? don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.

In the end, how did Connors escape the confines of Groundhog Day? He learned how to accept his situation, which then gave him the freedom to start looking for ways to make his life more meaningful. And it was right in front of him the entire time. The snowy little town that caused him so much annoyance is what saves him in the end.

There are so many ways you can apply this positive mindset to your own business. According to Stanford social psychologist Jennifer Aakers, those who live more meaningful lives don’t just live in the moment — they are the thinkers who process the past, with one eye on the future. Pause and look around at where you are today. Set aside some time each week where you don’t do anything but analyze and plan ahead for the future. Try out this benchmarking tool from the Small Business Administration to give you a place to start the reflection process.

In How to Find Fulfilling Work, philosopher Roman Krznaric lays out another model that can help you pinpoint where you derive meaning in your career. Which of the following phrases means the most to you? Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

  1. Earning money
  2. Achieving status
  3. Making a difference
  4. Satisfying your passions
  5. Leveraging your skills

By finding the place you get your energy from, it can help you start saying “yes” to opportunities that satisfy those areas. For example, if you lean heavily on the third tenet, search for opportunities where you can help others, perhaps by conducting a free course for your community, or by reworking your messaging so it captures your company’s mission. You can find meaning everywhere, you just have to make room for it.

Sometimes taking a step back can be the one thing that moves you forward. By stringing a few of these Groundhog Day lessons into your life, you can spring back from the drudgery, and start reframing the way you think about your business. And all this goodness from a groundhog, Bill Murray, and a little movie magic.

Updated: January 5, 2021


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