Arnold Schwarzenegger on Visualizing Your Success Pick your target. Conquer like Conan.

Every top-tier professional athlete, politician and actor have scores of accolades.

If Michael Jordan was to ever sit down and write a resume for an entry level position, he’d be doomed. It would take Jordan hours to scroll through his awards and recognitions and select the most important ones to fit on a single page. But there are only a handful of top-tier professionals who have been able to crossover to different arenas and find success.

So it’s extremely rare and special when someone comes along and shatters glass ceilings and expectations with utter disregard for “pick one thing and do it well”. Arnold Schwarzenegger is among that group.

Whether it was his seven-year monopoly of professional bodybuilding greatest trophy, his long standing acting career or his eight-year tenure as the Governor of California, Arnold excelled at everything he picked up.

There’s a recurring question, though: how does someone from a small town in the middle of Europe win the Mr. Olympia title seven times, star in movies that grossed upwards of half a billion dollars and get elected as the governor of America’s most populous state?

It starts with a clear vision. A vision so clear and precise that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make it a reality.

Arnold exemplified his ability to clearly visualise when he defied his father’s authority and strict Austrian military rules to participate in a youth bodybuilding competition.

“Arnold, what is it about you that is so different? Why are you the only one that sees it so clearly? Going to America, winning the Mr. Universe contest, getting into movies, making millions of dollars. No one else talks about it. Arnold, the key is to be focused. Visualize your goal, and I saw myself standing up on the stage like Reg Park and it became more and more clear: Arnold, you got to go.”

In the early hours of the morning, an 18 year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger escaped the military base he was stationed at and boarded a freight train to Stuttgart, Germany. The competition Arnold risked jail time to compete in was the Junior Mr. Europe Championships — a prestigious youth bodybuilding competition that had the power to alter Arnold’s life.

Arnold won first place and began his journey to bodybuilding stardom.

When Arnold arrived back to the military base he was placed in solitary confinement, but when news of his victory in Stuttgart surfaced, he was pardoned for his defiance. The Austrian military, which at one point discouraged him from participating in weightlifting, employed welders to build gym equipment for Arnold and encouraged his passion for bodybuilding.

“In the military they loved discipline and they loved using me as an example. They were very proud.”

It’s naive to think that Arnold Schwarzenegger achieved success in different arenas like politics, athletics and film solely because of his ability to visualize.

“The good bodybuilders have the same mind a sculptor has. If you analyse it, you look in the mirror and say, okay, I need a bit more deltoids, so that the proportion is right. So you exercise and put those deltoids on, whereas an artist would just slap some clay on each side.”

Everyone can incorporate visualization into their daily routine. Before you begin a task, sit down and visualize the end result. What does it look like? How does the finished product feel in your hands? How do you feel about yourself after completing the task? The more detailed the questions you ask yourself, the more rewarding the experience will be. The task doesn’t have to be grand or very important, it just has to be something you’re passionate about. Once you’ve visualized the end product, the steps needed to achieve it become significantly clearer.

Ever wonder what a professional athlete looks like when they visualize? Watch Mike Cammalleri of the New Jersey Devils use mental imagery to prepare himself for a playoff game:


Image Credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified for cropping.