5 Daily Habits to Steal from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Including Playing Chess on His Lunch Break
As a digital nomad and journalist, I travel the world while logging around 70 articles a month. To effectively manage a country-hopping lifestyle while also building my bylines and clients, I turn to the advice of seasoned movers-and-shakers who have developed habits and strategies for success. Each week, I’ll highlight the daily routine of influential professionals, making for the right kind of fodder while you down your coffee.
In his lifetime, Austrian-American, Arnold Schwarzenegger has held many titles. From competing as a professional bodybuilder and powerlifter, earning the Mr. Universe and Mr Olympia top honors several times to acting in all of the critically-acclaimed Terminator films, among many others — his fame doesn’t stop there. In 2003, he followed in suit of other actors-turned-politicians and was elected as a republican senator in California. After serving two terms, he returned to acting, and continues to dedicate his time to philanthropic causes.
Though he had a rather public and messy divorce from President John F. Kennedy’s niece, Maria Shriver, he remains a household name and fan favorite. To wear so many hats successfully — and earn an estimated net worth of $400 million — this 71-year-old maintains a few key habits. From meditation to smiling, here’s what he does day-in and day-out to lead a happy, healthy life.
He stays focused on his vision.
Consider those parts of your life that you feel the most confident about. Whether you’re lucky to have a fulfilling career that leaves you satisfied and happy, or you’re in a long-term, dependable relationship that brings you joy, it is often those bright-shiny areas that seemingly go the best. If you ask those who believe in the power of positivity, they’ll credit a laser-focused vision for part of their success.
In an ESPN documentary, Schwarzenegger explained how he approached any task, from bodybuilding to acting: “Here’s the goal, and whatever it takes to get there, I will do.” This mantra wasn’t just targeted toward the determination and actionable steps it takes to reach a goal, but Schwarzenegger shared it also was about picturing himself at the top, right from the start. Psychologists stand by this approach, articulating ‘seeing is believing’ isn’t just for those on Santa’s nice list, but an effective way of getting where you’d like to land.
Though he comes across as a happy-go-lucky type of person, Schwarzenegger has been open about his battle with anxiety for years.
In one interview with renowned author of The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss, he revealed he would often get lost in his worries, resulting in a heavy burden that was difficult to weed through. So when a friend introduced the idea of Transcendental Meditation to him, it became a life-changing moment.
Referred to as TM, this type of practice recommends sitting with your eyes closed for 15 to 20 minutes, repeating a specific phrase or mantra as you inhale and exhale. He told Ferriss once he put this into motion twice a day for two weeks, he felt an immediate impact. “I got to the point where I could really disconnect my mind … and learn how to focus more and calm down,” he shared. Though he added he doesn’t need it every day now, he has it in his toolbox for when his mental aptitude needs an upgrade. Considering countless studies reveal the benefits of this wellness habit, it’s not a bad ritual to try.
He gives himself breaks.
When discussing his former bout with anxiety, Schwarzenegger described the feelings as overwhelming, as if he collected all of his stressors into one oversized sum. Even if you don’t battle diagnosed angst, when you’re tasks with endless deadlines and commitments, you likely relate to the pressure.
To combat this, he breaks up his output into sessions: 45 to 60 minutes of diligent, streamlined attention, followed by a break. During this time, he might play chess, work out or something else that stimulates a different part of his brain. Science backs this philosophy, explaining more people are able to be productive in short stints, than over long hauls.
He doesn’t compete.
You might scratch your head at first, considering the start of his career was defined by competition, but in his book, Schwarzenegger shared a crushing defeat by bodybuilder Chet Yorton gave him a new perspective on competition.
Instead of comparing himself to others or making his success based on beating someone else, he would turn his sights toward what he wanted to personally achieve, without setting benchmarkers against anyone. By taking others out of the equation, he avoids any feelings of inadequacy or anger, giving him a clearer path to his own pursuits. Psychologists support this theory, explaining those who always have one eye on the person next to them, never reap the value of honing in on their own talents and unique offerings.
It seems simple, sure, but grinning from ear-to-ear doesn’t just make you photogenic and approachable, but it can also change your attitude, too. If you look at nearly any photo of Schwarzenegger you’ll find a threat that connects them all: a big ‘ole smile.
In his book, Schwarzenegger shared this innate habit kept his mental space thriving—after all, faking it until you make it is all about outward expressions. As psychologists note, giving a flash of those pearly whites to anyone—including yourself—will take you further than a frown.
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