Groundhog Day

In my recent interview with Matthieu Ricard in Singapore, I asked him what some of his favourite movies were. He said he likes movies that “give hope in human nature” and gave two examples. One was Groundhog Day – one of my favourite movies too.

So I watched it again, after some years, and appreciated it even more. (This post has spoilers so please come back if you’d prefer to watch the movie first.)

Scrooge-like Phil is made to re-live the same day over and over again. It’s a call for him to transform. And he does, first negatively. Initially he breaks all the rules and takes the hedonistic route, since he only has one day to live. Then he tries to court his producer but more as a conquest.  Then an encounter with death starts to transform him. He learns to love more and more people…and breaks through.

As Ricard said,  Phil’s way “fails, fails, fails until compassion comes in.”


The links I share below have many enlightening thoughts on the movie. I would just add:

  • One of the most precious messages of the film that I take away is that life lessons present themselves to us again and again and trigger pain until we learn them. There’s no point changing jobs or a relationship that isn’t working if you don’t change.
  • Phil’s breakthrough comes only when his love becomes much more expansive and includes many others, beyond trying to win the love of one woman.
  • People change, even if sometimes the change is initially tiny and imperceptible. If you believe in your own power to change, you’ll find it easier to believe in other’s.
  • If you had a day/month/year to live, how would you spend it? Phil learns to love people, a town he hated, himself and his work. He learns new skills that add beauty to the world. Each encounter with someone becomes rich and meaningful.
  • He is transformed by the death of the old man. Will you let your own impending death or those of people around you transform you? For most of the past two years I’ve been living as if it’s my last year to live and I would recommend this to most people. More on death. 

I recently read “Wheel of Life” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who was the world’s eminent expert on death and dying. Some of the key messages she shared in the book were:

” The sole purpose of life is growth.” 

“When you learn your lessons, the pain goes away.”

“Every one of the thousand of patients I spoke to about their near-death experiences recalled going into the light and being asked, “How much love have you been able to give and receive? How much service have your rendered?”

This movie captures these very lessons powerfully.

The following links provide excellent, deeply reflective observations and questions on the film. I’ve pulled out some extracts from each of them.

“The first thing that most of us do when we realize we are stuck is to look to make changes in our outer lives. This might mean changing jobs or leaving a relationship or making a grand new year’s resolution to change the way we look. Such changes rarely have the desired effect because we are changing the wrong things.

A new job, a new car or a new look might bring a fleeting send of happiness but it soon disappears. To bring about genuine change we need to change the way we see ourselves and the world, we need to change our inner lives and escape our conditioning….

When you accept you are stuck, and accept that only you can change your life, you start to move on and break out of your rut. Like Phil, you accept that your old self and your old beliefs are no longer working; and you stop blaming others and begin to change yourself instead. This is truly transformative.”

Groundhog Day: A Values and Vision Guide by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

“If your spiritual task was to work on diminishing your egocentricity, where would you begin? What tasks do you believe you’re here to accomplish? What character flaws would you like to work on?”

“What have you learned about the shadow side of your personality in love relationships? What flaws in yourself have you come to accept?”

Groundhog Day – Breakthrough to the true self by Ken Sanes

“Like many of the heroes of fiction, he can only escape his exile from himself by being exiled in a situation not of his choosing.”

Seeing the shadow by Dairyu Michael Wenger Sensei (For Buddhist readers)

Why not screen the movie for friends, at work or other communities you belong to and have a discussion after? Share this post. The above links provide excellent possible discussion points.  After your screening, do post any comments you have in this post or on the facebook page.

(Please note that a licence is needed to screen movies outside your home in Singapore. Contact the Motion Picture Licencing Company (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.  )

Thank you to Matthieu Ricard for sharing this gem with us. Let us make best use of it.

PS: Punxsutawney was the town that Phil wanted to leave yet finally ended up staying there – not because it had changed but because he had changed himself. It reminds me of my relationship with Singapore…. 

Related: More Inspiring Movies


Resources: Courage

We need courage to move towards greatness in life. And often we are pulled back from stepping forward by our beliefs, fear, others’ expectations of us etc.  So if there’s something that’s very important that we want to do for the greater good, we need support to develop courage. Here are some resources to help do that:

Daily actions to develop courage (and other strengths)

Movies to help develop courage (and other strengths)

Watch Pixar animation, Brave.

Read “The Courage Quotient” by Dr Robert Biswas-Diener

And do get at least a friend or two to support you to take courageous steps forward.

Do you have a gunshot wound? We all do.

I took a transformative workshop by Dr Donna Hicks when I was at Columbia University a few years ago. It was on healing and reconciling relationships through the power of dignity. And one image she painted through her writing has stuck with me for years – that emotional wounds are like gunshot wounds…

“The desire for dignity is a powerful force and the time has come to recognize and understand it. What is so critical to understand is that the experience of humiliation, resentment, and anger that these dignity violations instinctively create does not go away on its own. The injuries are as serious as a gunshot wound, but no one is rushed into an emergency room when they happen. There is no 911 call for when we have been shamed, misunderstood, treated as invisible, or had our identity dishonored, and these unattended injuries can fester in our inner worlds for a lifetime, severely affecting how we feel about ourselves as well as our capacity to be in relationship with others. They leave a vengeful and often crippling mark and without attention paid to these injuries, they can linger on in perpetuity, dominating one’s personal and group consciousness. (by Donna Hicks, as quoted in Berfrois. Donna has written “Dignity:The Essential Role it Plays in resolving Conflict.“)

Our emotional wounds can affect us in different ways:

– As she notes above, our relationships can suffer. We can unknowingly inflict our unhealed emotional wounds on others. I have also noticed that I attract certain relationships (whether at work or on the personal front) that seem to mirror any unhealed wounds I have.

– We can become physically ill.  Scientists are now discovering how our emotional and mental states are linked with our physical wellness and illness.

So healing our emotional wounds has immense benefit for us.

The way we choose to heal may vary. There are many methods, tools, professionals – some more effective than others. We need to use our intuition and wisdom to choose wisely.

I have tried different tools over the years. Finally though what helped me were simple and fairly inexpensive things

– sharing my feelings and unmet needs to deeply compassionate and wise people (some were not even helping professionals). Some may have gone through a similar experience and come out wiser and more loving (not bitter or fearful).

– listening to the life lessons in the wound. What could I learn from it? If the wound could speak, what was it trying to tell me? How could I become a better, instead of bitter, person because of it? What was I grateful for?

– accepting that it is part of my story with grace and thinking, “How I use it for the betterment of others is what matters now”.

reading books and articles that have wisdom to offer. These books often chose me instead of me choosing them. They would draw me naturally at bookshops, or online.

homeopathy (at specific times only)

What could help you heal? Set a powerful intention to heal, and can attract the right resources (people, tools, books etc) to help you on that journey. Please note that sometimes professional therapeutic help is needed.

(This piece focuses on our wounds. However we are not only wounded beings.  We have strengths such as resilience, courage and compassion. We have both light and darkness.)

Related: Forgiveness

Changing, with Support


Get support when you're making change...makes things easier! Copyright: Joy Works (

For some of us, it’s easier to make change, whether it’s releasing an unhealthy habit or starting to develop a positive habit, when we have someone we could be accountable to.

I was introduced to this list below during my training to become a Transformation Game facilitator. It’s a list of roles that we could look for in support partners.

We can share with these people what our goal is, when we intend to take specific steps, and what milestones we are looking for.


This role requires someone to ask you about whether you’re keeping your word.

This person, I find, needs to be able to look through justifications we may make for not keeping our word. The person also need to be organised enough to remember our deadlines.

I prefer the gentle but firm confronter. Helps when they use humour sometimes! :)

Check out

This person is someone we can talk and think things through. Sometimes just by verbalising something to someone, I get the answers I have been looking for and the person hasn’t even said a word!

Innerlinks says that it could be useful to have Check out people who don’t necessarily see the world the way you do.

I personally find that it helps to have someone who has wisdom. And the person needs to have time for us.


This role is one of encouragement, when the going gets tough or simply to inspire us to keep going.


I love to have people I can celebrate with! It helps me to have someone who can celebrate small steps, not just big achivements.


– Support Partners can play more than one role.

– Innerlinks says that it could be useful to have people in both “work” and “personal” areas of our lives.

(Thanks to Innerlinks for creating this useful list.)

Personally, it helps me if the person who supports me is a reasonably good role-model (no need to be perfect!) for the specific issue I am striving to grow in. Sometimes we may choose to partner with someone who is working on the same issue as us. In those cases, would be useful to try and ensure we are a mutual positive influence. Even if we take a step forward and two steps backward, we can keep moving in a positive direction.

Who around you could play these roles for you when you’re making a positive change?


Lotus in Gold

Hello Friends,

I’m happy to let you know of a friend, Melissa De Silva, who has found her calling in art. I was fortunate enough to be a witness to her journey of transformation and discovery.

Here’s a painting by her, which is on sale. If you know of people who may find joy in owning this piece, please forward this post to them.

I invited Melissa to share more about her painting.


This work for me represents our collective human journey through life. For all of us, it is a
transformative journey that may start out in a dark and murky place but ends in
a space of light, brightness and purity.

I created the lotus from gold and silver foil shapes and hand smeared black paint over some of the petals. To the ancient Egyptians, the lotus was a symbol of rebirth.  In the evening, it closes and slips underwater but in the morning, it opens, rising resplendent above the water in glory. In Buddhist symbolism, because the lotus emerges from muck and corruption through purifying water into the sunlight, it’s a metaphor for the transformation of human beings as they make their way towards enlightenment. To me, that the lotus has emerged from the water (although a little muddy!) indicates that
despite our scars and bruises, our ultimate triumph will be the strength and radiance of our human spirit.

I chose to do the lotus in gold as a symbol of flexibility on our spiritual path. In a sort of
alchemic process, we assimilate life experiences and allow them to refine and
shape us.

The golden square suspended above for me, represents existence, or the divine. It is always with us, shining its light on us and guiding us to the true path of love, joy and
fulfillment that we are all created for.

In many ways, this work represents my own transformative journey, starting out as a rather clueless human being and taking heaps of wrong turns along the way, but
(slowly!) I am learning every day to listen to the compass of my heart and my
inner wisdom to guide me along way.


Melissa blogs at Finding The Lotus.



Video: Undercover Boss

Imagine what would happen if leaders went undercover in their own organisations with the intention of finding out what REALLY happens.

That’s what happens on “Undercover Boss”, a reality TV show in which bosses pretend to be entry-level/front-line staff in their own companies. It’s an exercise in empathy, appreciation and truth-seeking and truth-speaking, all of which I believe are important for leadership. (Yes, I admit that people behave differently when the camera is in front of them but don’t let the imperfections prevent you from appreciating the essence of this show.)

The bosses discover the difficulties faced, the strengths with which their staff members handle them, extraordinary service, family/personal challenges faced by staff as well as behaviours that lack integrity.

Watch this, and encourage your boss to....:)

I wonder how CEOs and other leaders in Singapore would be transformed if they became construction workers, salespeople, cleaners etc for a day…

I wonder how they would feel seeing the level of alignment between their company’s vision/mission/values statement and what is practised. Or between their own spiritual values and what is practised.

How much Truth do you/your leaders expose themselves to? (Thanks to Delta7 for creating these images for everyone to use!)

Literally going undercover may not be practical in many circumstances but there could be variations to it. They could:

Make surprise visits or ensure that a trusted team does surprise visits/inspections etc.

~ Become a mystery shopper.

~ Surround themselves with people who are courageous enough to speak the truth about them or the impact of their decisions on the ground.

~ Visit “Dialogue in the Dark” in Singapore, an experiential activity in empathy. Extend the learning from that to empathy in the workplaces or other areas of life.

~ Learn about leadership styles which emphasise self-awareness and self-reflection, and the impact of one’s actions on others. A few books that handle this in different ways are “A Hidden Wholeness” by Parker Palmer,  “The Leaders Way” by the Dalai Lama and international management consultant Laurens van den Muyzenberg and “Heroic Leadership” by Chris Lowney on the Jesuits.

~ Be guided by role-models who emphasises pursuit of Truth, integrity and listening to one’s conscience.

~ Slow down and really observe yourself. At the end of each day, reflect on  where you appreciate yourself, where you could have done better etc.

~ Slow down and really observe people. Master the art of spotting people’s strengths and positive actions and appreciating them meaningfully (which may not necessarily involve expensive gifts like sometimes it does on “Undercover Boss”). Here’s a useful resource on spotting people’s strengths.

What are other ways that leaders could seek and witness truth and experience empathy? How could you implement any of these ideas where you work?

I believe we are ALL leaders so although this post is aimed at formal leaders, if we all embraced truth, empathy and appreciation in our lives, we would see our world flourish sooner.

Catch “Undercover Boss” on Sundays at 10pm on Channel 5 in Singapore or watch clips on you tube. Here are a few clips:

CEO discovers safety hazards.

CEO reveals identity and rewards staff.


What’s the most powerful letter in the alphabet?



Because it changes things around it.

Being a vowel, it changes the pronunciation of “the” into “thee” so 

“the raging pig”


“the (pronounced “thee”) understanding pig”.

But what makes “U” so powerful for me is what it does to “Q”. I mean “Q” cannot even make a word without U! Without “U”, we would lose wonderful words like “quality”, “quintessential” and “quiet”…

“U” is a catalyst. It transforms things around it. It makes things come alive. It makes good things happen. There’s only one thing I don’t admire about “U”. A catalyst doesn’t change while changing others. I would prefer one that does.

Are U a catalyst?

Or better still, an aberrant catalyst that transforms others by transforming itself? :)