Groundhog Day Resolutions

NOTE: You can find all the recent Groundhog Day Resolutions post (still running in 2016!) under the ghdr tag!. Have fun!


Groundhog Day is one of my favorite holidays, though calling it a “holiday” may be a stretch for most people. Last year I marked the day by reading up on its history, and discovered it is actually quite an old holiday dating back to Roman times. Also, the whole prediction of “six more weeks of winter” is actually a joke of the “Heads I win, Tails you Lose” variety; the Spring Equinox happens to fall approximately six weeks after February 2nd, and technically winter is over no matter what. As fascinating as that is, my favorite part of the holiday is the mental image of a groundhog telling the future, and it’s just the sort of folksy holiday that reaffirms that we don’t have to take life too seriously. For me, Groundhog Day is a reminder to maintain a flexible, magical perspective on life.

For years I’ve struggled to think of a way to properly celebrate Groundhog Day. Even as a child, I was disappointed by the lack of spectacle with which people marked the day. There are no cards, candies, chocolates, or special dances. We’re lucky to maybe get a wry chuckle from the local news, perhaps a quick clip of Punxsutawney Phil doing his thing for the camera. But where’s the pre-game show? Where’s the post-shadow analysis on CNN? Why doesn’t the stock market tremble in the aftermath of Phil’s mighty labor of prognostication? Something just isn’t right here…to most, it’s just an ordinary day, about as noteworthy as finding a quarter in the washing machine.

Bill Murray gave Groundhog Day a much-needed boost with the eponymous movie back in 1993, and it’s been suggested to me that an appropriate way to observe the day is to indulge in his cinematic back-catalog. A reverent viewing with close family and friends would at least be respectful. However, I’ve had a revelation about the New Year, and have decided to move my resolution making to Groundhog Day. It makes perfect sense! No, really!

The Downside of New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t have an issue with the resolutions themselves, but they have suffered from being overexposed in popular culture. Because of that, they’ve lost the impact that they should have. Everyone expects people to make—and then forget—their New Year’s Resolutions, which leads to the more cynical among us to stop making them. Ubiquitious and cliched, making a New Year’s Resolution takes about the same level of personal investment as ordering the #1 combo at McDonalds.

There’s a second problem: The timing of New Year’s Resolutions are out of synch with the realities of our daily routine. While it makes sense to make New Year’s Resolutions on January 1st as to maximize the time to act on them, the beginning of the year is also the time when you are most mentally exhausted. Think about it: you’ve just survived another massive holiday season of eating, travelling, drinking, gift buying, and celebration. On top of that, there’s all the stuff that you were hurrying to finish last year that got put off until now. The first month of the year is so packed with catch-up activities, who has the time to think about resolutions?

I figure you need at least a few weeks to settle into the year before you even have the big picture necessary to target a few things to do. So I’m moving my New Year’s Resolutions to Groundhog Day, one month and one day past January 1st.

Holiday Traditions and Mass Media

New Year’s Resolutions have a problem in that they’re difficult to visualize in a way that captures the essence of the act. Every other major holiday is rich in imagery, and that imagery helps guide us through the rituals successfully. What we think of as “traditional Thanksgiving”, for example, has shifted over the years as various media forces have adapted the day toward different ends, in ways that capture the imagination. We have a model to follow because we have the stories to relive and retell.

We’re incredibly fortunate to have the Groundhog Day movie to perfectly express the sentiments behind making a resolution. What does Arbor Day have in comparison? If you’re feeling low on resolution juice, Bill Murray shows you how he did it—and why—in the movie; the Groundhog Day movie is the February 2nd equivalent to A Christmas Story. I can’t think of any culturally-relevant film for January 1st. Screenwriters: here’s your chance to make it big!

In the meantime, ADVANTAGE: GROUNDHOG DAY!

GHD: Making Groundhog Day a Habit

As we’ve learned in GTD, the weekly review is a critical part of making real progress toward our goals. The same principle applies to the making of resolutions.

There’s a pattern I’d like to exploit in conjunction with Groundhog Day. As you know, GroundHog Day falls on the 2nd day of the 2nd month. January 1st, the first day of the first month, should mark the beginning of the sacred period of preparation for making one’s GHD Resolutions.

Extending the pattern of dates, I hearby decree that the THIRD DAY of the THIRD MONTH, the FOURTH DAY of the FOURTH MONTH, and other dates with the same magical month/day pairing as days of GHD Resolution Review. That should be easy to remember for everyone, and the numerical pattern should work as a reasonably-good memory trigger.

Here’s my proposed calendar to systemize the GHD Resolution Methodology:

DATE NAME PURPOSE
1/1 New Year’s Day Catch up and get settled in so you can make your resolutions in February!
2/2 Groundhog Day Make your resolutions! You’ve got 6 weeks of winter, what else you going to do?
3/3 Review Day So, how are those resolutions going?
4/4 Review Day No, seriously, how’s it going?
5/5 Cinco de Mayo! Spring is around the corner, so today’s a particularly good day to be positive about resolutions
6/6 Review Day Those resolutions are coming along, yes? Good!
7/7 Tanabata! It’s the Japanese Star Festival, and it’s also halfway to next year! Make some wishes and help keep your resolutions on track!
8/8 Father’s Day! In Chinese, the number eight is pronounced “ba”, so 8/8 is “ba ba”, which also sounds like the word for “father”, so this is Father’s Day in Taiwan. I’m not a dad, so I guess I would mark the day by muttering some fatherly words of encouragement to myself, or by calling up my elders to report my GHD progress. Telling people what you’re doing is always a great way of gaining perspective.
9/9 Review Day We’re moving into the end of the year, so look back and see how the year’s been.
10/10 Review Day The crisp autumn air reminds you that it’s time to start closing some of those deals you made with yourself.
11/11 Review Day It’s the 11th day of the 11th month, which has a kind of ominous “get stuff done” feel to it. The 11th hour tolls!
12/12 Resolution Day The holiday craziness is in full-swing, so you might as well review what you’ve gotten done for the year then let the festivities wash over you. Congratulations! Enjoy the holiday season!

Of course, figuring out some way of measuring progress on these goals is the trick. For right now I’m going to just be subjective and note whether things seem to be moving forward or not.

My Groundhog Day Resolutions

2006 was a good year in terms of personal growth. I started hitting my stride on the blog, pulling together some important patterns in my life while breaking free from some old ones. For example, I know that I really want to be making things I can distribute and get into the hands of people. Making a living doing that would rock. I think I have found that this is a sustainable source of energy, so the trick now is to find a sustaining source of income from the activity.

  1. Commit to Deriving Income from Writing and Making Stuff — I love making and learning stuff, because I love writing about the experience. The reason why is that I like to believe anything is possible if I put my mind to it, and it’s a lot easier to believe in that if I believe everyone else can do it too. Can I make a living from practicing this? I want to find out.
  2. Build Sustainable Social Networks — My working theory is that social networks are built on observable points of interest, which become the gateways for communication. In other words, the more you can show, the more people you’re likely to meet. The biggest challenge is how to maintain networks, given the finite energy I have. A true network will generate its own energy and sustain itself because the nexus points become natural conversation enablers. So my second resolution is to build a working model of this.
  3. Sell a Product This Year — As I said, I am drawn to the idea of making product that I can sell. There is no reason for it. I could make perfectly fine living working at a company with awesome people, or continue to do freelance work on a contract basis. I am finding, though, that being a creator of things people can actually hold is enormously pleasing. It’s feels like something primal, but it’s possible that this is merely curiosity. For example, I found that once I had taught a class, my interest in doing that as a career diminished considerably. In any case, I need to find out.

I think everything else that’s on my mind, like meeting a nice girl, getting healthier, and finding the right business and creative partners, will come into alignment if I get these three things moving. Why? They represent the development of new personal infrastructure, and they get me closer to finding my sense of vocation. When that happens, I think I’ll be in a stronger overall position.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Looking forward to March 3rd, I should take note of where I think I am on these three resolutions:

On 1: Work is coming in from the blog, which is great, but not direct revenue from the blogging itself. I have some ideas here relating to AdSense and consulting, but I need to really rethink what revenue is.

On 2: I’m meeting more people, and I’ve joined a social group locally, but I don’t have the professional work version in place yet. I have some ideas about how to do this.

On 3: I’ve been talking to people about how to make a printed package of some of the PCEO forms, so that is something I’d like to try. A book would count too, if I knew what to write about.

I suppose I could distill all of this down into a simple two-part action statement:

Step 1. Do what I love. Step 2. Profit!

Have a wonderful Groundhog Day, all!

12 Comments

  1. LOVE IT!

    Especially the new calendar!!!  That’s wonderful!!!!  And so appropriate to how life should be – especially with 2/2, 7/7, and 8/8 being such clear evidence of the brilliance of the new calendar system.

    I think 11:11pm on 11/11 must be a very ominous time… coming after Halloween and before Tgiving… oooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhh.

    THANKS! Super post!
    I dig your summary. Yep, that says it all.

  2. AK 10 years ago

    though not a day-off-holiday, 3rd of March is girl’s day and 5th May is Boy’s day in japan, celebrating the children in the family, and wishing them to grow up well (7th July is also not strictly a holiday but something to celebrate). Of course some then takes the 4th April as day for gay and lesbians ;)

    The japanese have a great system where they make the birthday of the emperor as a national bank holiday… and when they die, it still remains a bank holiday. so another few thousand years and they won’t be as hard working as we know them to now.

    Groundhog day resolution. Great idea, allows you to adjust the ones you make on the new year day, if you are failing rather badly at it too!

  3. Beverly 10 years ago

    Most excellent!
    I now have a new reason to turn on my crimson Jalapeno lights, blended carefully into the tall tree (of debatable origin) in the corner of my office!

    I love ETP. As an ardent list and resolution maker I proclaimed 2007 the year to streamline my office management style. Imagine, even with wave after wave of technological innovations paper and pencil still make the most efficient solution.

    Looking forward to more posts-
    Your neighbor to the north (White Mountains)—-

  4. sarah 10 years ago

    Brilliant, and you’ve done a great job of convincing me. Now the trick is still going to be choosing a reasonable and realistic set of resolutions and approaching them in a smart fashion…but starting out by using your system will definitely work much better than the Jan 1st system – this year I was so worn out I didn’t even bother with New Year’s resolutions. Thanks!

  5. sarah 10 years ago

    follow-up: I’ve just set up a spreadsheet for myself with all your dates and my 3 resolutions to track them all year. I think this just might work. thanks and thanks again.

    PS: (re AK’s comment) We actually celebrate Girl’s Day on March 3rd but I haven’t thought of a way to make it relevant…

  6. Virginia 10 years ago

    Love this idea. I’ve long used the first day of a new season (spring, summer, fall, and winter) in a similar way, but I like your monthly angle.

  7. Ned Gulley 10 years ago

    I love the idea of Groundhog Day resolutions. I’ll have to do that next year.

    I’ve been doing Groundhog Day cards for years now. Sending your cards on Groundhog Day has lots of advantages. 1. There’s no Christmas/Hanukkah trouble. 2. You’re not doing cards at the same time you’re also madly buying presents, going to parties, and decorating your house. 3. If you can tolerate the delay, you can do your Christmas thank-you notes at the same time. 4. Nobody else does it, so you’re unique.

  8. Hey!  I just had another idea for you for tracking goals and resolutions.  This idea will work for the next twenty plus years.

    Today is February 7, 2007.  Potentially in those years up until 2030, someone could go through life marking that day of the week that falls on that year – so in 2007, Jan 7, Feb 7, Mar 7 could all be times to re-evaluate you day-7 resolutions, (Jan 8, Feb 8, etc. in 2008), and so on.  (I actually think I much more prefer your Groundhog’s Day timetable – with the tanabata and ba-ba affiliations!  But thought you might like to hear about this potential method too.)

    BTW, your Groundhog’s Day post and your Self-Regulation posted are very, very related in theme.  It’s no wonder you wrote them back to back!

    Happy Wednesday!

  9. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Senia: Thanks!!! :-)

    AK: Thanks for the information about girl’s day and boy’s day…it brings the rest of the family in, although Mom gets left out. I like the idea of thinking of it as a Jan 1st “do-over” day too :-)

    Beverly: Heh, the pepper lights sound neat. We should have a NH get-together on streamlining our management processes, someone else commented in another post about being from NH too.

    Sarah: Wow!!! Thanks for reading! I look forward to seeing how it works out. I love the spreadsheet idea too, so I may make some kind of worksheet for this. March 3rd is coming up quick! Incidentally, reading about you and Evan a while ago was one of the inspirations for going freelance in the first place, and to keep plugging away at making things that feel true to myself. Or at least daring to. Thanks for posting! My sis introduced me to your works quite some time ago, and she’s tickled that you left a comment :-)

    Virginia: If I could remember what days the first of the season was, I’d do that too! I’m playing a game called “Harvest Moon” that is a farming simulator, and I was enjoying how every season has a kind of festival to go with it.

    Ned: Groundhog Day cards are AWESOME…great idea! Can you post one?

    Senia, Again: That’s a neat idea too, using the number patterns on years. I don’t think it has quite the same impact though for me, because it seems so…predestined? It’s almost the same, maybe years themselves seem so heavy by comparison. Weird associations, I know :-) And yes, the GHD and Self-Regulation (I just noticed I totally stole your post title of a similar name, sorry!) are quite related. It’s on my mind a lot right now, as I learn how to deal with increased loads of activity!

  10. Alex 9 years ago

    11 November is Remembrance Day which marks, in particular, the signing of the Armistice to end World War I, which took effect at 11:00.

  11. fotos 9 years ago

    I may make some kind of worksheet for this. March 3rd is coming up quick! Incidentally, reading about you and Evan a while ago was one of the inspirations for going freelance in the first place
    :-)

  12. Andrus 8 years ago

    I really like the idea of not piling resolutions on January first. Whose idea was this anyway, doing long-term planning with a hangover..

    However just shifting the day to Groundhog Day, or any other day doesn’t quite cut it either. It’s your life we’re talking here (unless you resolve to watch more TV) and surely this is something one should work on all the time.

    I make resolutions on a continuous basis, some serious and some silly. A while back decided to turn this into a website and for about a month now http://www.pledgehammer.com has been live. It makes resolutions easy-to-share and adds a financial incentive – if you fail a resolution it nicely asks to donate money to charity. So there’s some good in unsuccessful resolutions, too. Would be great to head your thoughts on that.

    Good luck with your Groundhog Day resolutions!

A message from Dave:

I believe we all benefit when we respectfully share our perspectives on common experiences. My house rules are "please be respectful of divergent views" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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