The Happiness Project

Approach Groundhog Day Like a Philosopher

Today, Feb. 2, is Groundhog Day. My associations with this quasi-holiday are less about a groundhog’s prediction about the beginning of spring and more about the movie Groundhog Day .

In the movie, Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) is a cranky, cynical weatherman who, while on assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day Festival, finds himself reliving the same day, over and over again.

(Which reminds me of a scene from another movie: In Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters , when Mickey reflects, “Nietzsche, with his theory of eternal recurrence. He said the life we live, we’ll live over and over, the same way for eternity. Great. I’ll have to sit through the Ice-Capades again.”)

Noticing that Groundhog Day was approaching prompted me to reflect: “If I had to relive one day over and over, what would I want to do with it?” I’m such a lover of routine and familiarity that my perfect day wouldn’t be made up of anything very dramatic or exotic. Just reading in bed, for example, would take up several hours.

I asked some friends what they’d do during their perfect days, and the striking thing was how attainable these perfect days were. Several people distinguished between “a perfect day at home” and “a perfect day while traveling,” and one friend’s perfect “home” day was a Saturday morning trip to the green market, an afternoon trip to Whole Foods, a few hours spent cooking something challenging, and friends over for dinner. That isn’t an impossible dream! But when I asked how often she spent a day this way, she said, “I don’t know why not, exactly, but I can’t remember the last time I spent a day like that.”

So Groundhog Day makes a good yearly spur to ask: “What would my perfect day be?” It might be easier than you think to arrange.

* A family friend wrote a very moving tribute to his wife, a year after she died of cancer.

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just e-mail me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.