Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Top 5 Tips for Building the Life You Want

Bodybuilding world champion numerous times. One of the most highly paid actors in the last few decades. And now the governor of California. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s resume sounds more like the resume of three men rather than just one. How did he do it?

Here are a five clues, success habits and tips from Arnold himself.

1. Believe in yourself.

“I knew I was a winner back in the late sixties. I knew I was destined for great things. People will say that kind of thinking is totally immodest. I agree. Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way – I hope it never will.”

“We all have great inner power. The power is self-faith. There’s really an attitude to winning. You have to see yourself winning before you win. And you have to be hungry. You have to want to conquer.”

“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”

A very strong belief in yourself can be ridiculously useful.

Corny as it may sound, your belief in yourself determines a lot about your journey and your results. But the problem with statements like “Just believe in yourself, man!” is that they don’t come with any practical instructions on how to actually believe more I yourself. So you have a hard time getting anywhere.

I have found a few things that have been helpful.

  • First, by realizing that you are able to handle negative stuff that comes your way your belief in yourself and your capabilities grows.
  • You can also work on a similar process voluntarily. By setting goals and achieving them your belief in yourself increases. And by facing your fears and finding that you can indeed survive such experiences your belief in yourself goes up too. None of these options may sound that glamorous, fun or quick. And a lot of the time they aren’t. But like with so much else,you have to put in effort to get good results.

But there is also another side to this challenge. Quite a bit of the problem with a lack of belief in yourself comes from internal self-sabotage, self-limiting beliefs and resistance within your mind. It’s you holding yourself back.

I have found that reading Eckhart Tolle’s books like “A New Earth” – or books on mindfulness in general I guess – to help you realize that you are not your ego, thoughts or emotions and rereading to strengthen and deepen that belief can be very helpful to reduce the inner struggle, over-analyzing and self-sabotage. Over time you can get better control over your mind and you´ll stop listening so much to your own negative inner voices and emotional resistance.

Having a reasonably good handle on that part makes it easier to see yourself doing what you want to do. Because, as Arnold says, you have to be able to envision what you want to do or it will be very hard or just impossible bring that vision into reality.

By getting better control over your mind it becomes easier to hold this vision in your mind day after day, week after week. You’ll be less prone to self-sabotage. And your belief will waver less when being questioned or worse by other people or just society in general.

2. See struggle and failure as something positive.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

Failure is seldom the end of the world. It’s a part of the journey, a part of the learning curve. The problem is just that if you have a scarcity mentality then every failure or potential failure may seem as the sky falling. This can hold you back from performing well. Or from taking action at all. The key to overcome this is to develop an abundance mentality that tells you that there are always more opportunities. This allows you to not take the setbacks too seriously.

One way to help yourself to develop such a mentality is to replace some of the usual input – news, advertising – with information and the vibe from personal development authors/speakers. Another way is just to hang out more with people with an abundance mentality. Or just people that are positive and enthusiastic about life.

Now, most of the time you only really fail when you give up and surrender. If you keep going you’ll build your inner strength to live and move through rough patches. And if you are able to look at your setbacks and learn from them you can also deepen you knowledge, perhaps avoid some mistakes and find a better course towards your goal.

Remember that to succeed you need those failure. They make you stronger and smarter and that build-up of yourself is vital to success.

3. Go the extra mile.

“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”

Going the extra mile. It’s not easy. Personally I think this has often been because I have just thought too much. Overthinking often leads to negative thought spirals where you use your mind to decrease your own strength through self-doubt. And if you add up all the overthinking you can waste months or perhaps even years of your life.

It’s more useful to just stop thinking when all then thinking that is needed is done. And to then just go and do what you choose to do. And then to learn from your experiences and to keep going.

4. Go work out.

“Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”

Yep, working out is very useful in more than one way. I have found that one of the best ways to turn an anxious, negative or weak mood fully around is simply to go exercising. It is also reliable because it is not so dependent on your mind. You just have to drag yourself wherever you need to go and make your body do certain movements to get the desired result.

And, anyway, how are you going to be able to go the extra mile without extra energy? Over the last few years I realized that many problems are simply based in a lack of energy. So working out or not isn’t much of a choice really. If you aren’t naturally a bouncy, high energy person then you have to exercise in some way to create that energy you need to achieve whatever it is you want in life.

5. Go and help others.

“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”

Helping others is valuable in so many ways. Beside the wonderful upsides that Arnold brings up – like the fact that you are helping people out and at the same time enriching and adding meaning to your own life – you also create a lot of relationships.

And the Law of Reciprocity, the urge to give back is strong in people. If you provide value and help to them then they will often be inclined to give you a hand when you need it. Or feel the need give back by paying it forward and helping other people.

This creates big, expanding upward spirals of positive actions and thoughts. And that can be very useful for us all.

Image by d_vdm (license).

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Wow, such great advice! Arnold is my hero – I loved his bodybuilding film Pumping Iron. :)

  • Number 2 is so important! Many people don’t realize how essential “failure” is. If you don’t screw up at something, how can you ever begin to learn to do things better?

    Failing at something can definitely be frustrating (I’ve been there!) but it’s important to realize that in those moments, you learn the most, and start to find out what you’re really made of.

  • Hi Henrik,

    Arnold has done a lot in his life, learning from his experiences is valuable for us all.

    I have always felt that learning from others who have succeeded is the best shortcut to success. Spending time reading biographies really teaches you what they have done well and what they have done worse, by learning from them you can avoid their mistakes and take the positive and put it into use.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Great article. And a terrific insight in to how Arnie thinks. Must look at your book.

  • Now take that list of 5 and make it a daily habit and you will be unstopable!!

  • Great advice. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • i love the Governor! Thanx for this post.

  • I was surprised to find how much of an impact working out had on my mood. Even around the house, I could do 20 pushups and experience a quick mental shift.

  • Great post, amazing how your perspective can change everything and allow us to create something incredible. He’s achieved some amazing things, just by knowing that he can, the biggest hurdle for most others is realizing that they too can do anything they put their minds to!

  • Another great post Henrik,

    I particularly like point 3, going the extra mile.

    One of the secrets to success is to keep going when everyone else gives up and goes home.



  • Your posts are always so selfless and helpful. Well the first two points you’ve mentioned about increasing self-faith is sounding potential . Facing our worst fears can go an extra mile in increasing our self belief.
    How motivated are you? – The test finds out how inspired you really are.

  • Believing in yourself is ABSOLUTELY important.

    We must believe that we have already “won” before we have taken any action.

    The world is a reflection of our thoughts, and it mirrors back to us the very things that we feel about ourselves.

    It was Henry Ford who said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

    Your world begins in your mind.

    It is essential that we cultivate the appropriate thoughts within ourselves as we are growing up.

    Watch your thoughts, because they will become reality.

  • Thank you for adding your kind words and insights, guys!

  • No wonder he became successful at whatever field he’s chosen. I especially like #2 as failures should not stop us from pursuing our dreams. Failures should define us and make us more motivated to do what we want. Let us not allow one failure to overthrow our dreams. Struggles make us a stronger person; it sometimes make us immune so that next time, we won’t be hit as much as the first time. Let me share with you a great read on Turning Your Dreams Into Reality.

  • this is an outstanding post…..

    I like the way you break it down into common sense, anyone can do these things, especially wrapping it up with “help Others’

    keep the good stuff coming