Arnold Schwarzenegger on How to Achieve Your Goals

Arnold Schwarzenegger reflects on the relationship between goals and success:

“The biggest difference between me and other bodybuilders was this: “most bodybuilders did not think I’m going to be a winner. They never allowed themselves to think in those terms. I would hear them complaining while they were training, ‘Oh, no, not another set!’ The negative impulses around a gym can be incredible. Most of the people I observed couldn’t make astonishing advances because they never had faith in themselves. They had a hazy picture of what they wanted to look like someday, but they doubted they could realize it. That destroyed them. It’s always been my belief that if you’re training for nothing, you’re wasting your effort. Ultimately, they didn’t put out the kind of effort I did because they didn’t feel they had a chance to make it. And of course, starting with that premise, they didn’t.”[1]

If you’re training for nothing, you’re wasting your effort.

If you’re training for nothing, you’re wasting your effort.
— Arnold Schwarzenegger

I’m not the most disciplined person I know. Most days, I wake up very early in the morning and lift weights. I do that because I was inspired by example by others who do that. But people message me all the time, asking for the secret: “How do I become disciplined? How do I find the motivation to work out? How do find what you want to do with your life? How do you build a vision?”

No one can give you a vision. No one can light your fire. You have to light your own fire.

There is an analogy here to my friend, who is a personal trainer. When he first started training people, he would coach them with a super positive attitude: “You can do it! You can change!” Most people didn’t change. Most people quit. Most people never show up for the second workout. Most people don’t last 24 hours on any goal they set for themselves. Now, every single person he coaches gets the same speech: “You’ll never change. You won’t. You never do it. You lack the will. You lack the discipline.” 

When someone looks you in the eye and tells you that you’re going to lose, you can have one of two mindsets in response: (1) You give up and walk away from your goal in defeat, (2) You look that person back in the eye, and you say, “No. I know what I want. I want to be better, stronger, faster, leaner, more muscular, better looking, better performing. Here’s what I want. Now show me how to get there.”

So few people have a vision for their lives. So few people know exactly what they want. And that’s exactly why they never get what they want. They linger their entire lives in an ambiguous longing to be like people who know what they want. This is, in fact, the ultimate factor that differentiates people who achieve their goals from people that don’t—a clear goal, combined with an iron will.

Do you want to know the shortcut to achieving your goal? Have your goal, and want it. People ask me all the time how to get unstuck out of their bad habits, or how to build better habits. The most important thing to realize is that no one can do it for you. No one can give you a vision. No one can light your fire. You have to light your own fire.

Without fail, with every single guy who comes to me asking me to help him get out of his funk, he never really takes ownership for himself. The people who succeed are the people who are fed up with the way things have been and have an ironclad will to succeed. Those are the 1% of people who actually change themselves. Everyone else wants you to take them by the hand and drag them kicking and screaming all the way to victory. 

Find a tactile, performance-oriented goal that has clear cash value for your particular goal, and train for that performance. Make yourself competent to perform.

Don’t do that. Focus your eyes. Clench your jaw. Write down your specific goal. Write down a specific plan. Write down a specific timeframe. And execute that procedure. Crush that goal. Make it happen no matter what. Don’t complain. Take failure with stride—and your journey will be littered with failure and inconsistency. But take ownership for yourself.

That’s the primary thing that most young men lack—especially those who complain about being stuck. They lack a clear vision for their lives. They lack a clear North Start to guide them. They don’t have anything worthwhile that transforms suffering into productivity. They just complain about the pain of weakness. Don’t do that. Find a goal that requires strength, and then make yourself stronger each day. Find a tactile, performance-oriented goal that has clear cash value for your particular goal, and train for that performance. Make yourself competent to perform.

Childhood is over. You’re on your own. You’re alone in this universe of making and achieving goals.

Once you can stand on your own two legs, you won’t need “advice” from other guys about how to “get out of a funk.” You will be your own source of advice. You will be your own source of motivation. You will be your own source of vision, drive, determination, and will. Don’t wait for someone to come along and maximize your potential. That person isn’t coming. Childhood is over. You’re on your own. You’re alone in this universe of making and achieving goals. You will achieve your goal to the degree that you believe it’s worthwhile and to the degree that you put in the actual work.

Then, your life will feel meaningful. Then, you will have something to celebrate. Then, you will be able to take pride in yourself. Then, you can stop just trying. Everybody tries to be great. Everybody tries to succeed. But few do. What is it? What’s the factor? It’s the intersection of clarity of vision and intensity of work. When you can achieve that intersection, then you can look at the competencies you’ve built in yourself as proof that you can ask more from yourself, and you should ask more from yourself. Anything less will only yield a crushing despair that will make you miserable.

“The biggest difference between me and other bodybuilders was this: “most bodybuilders did not think I’m going to be a winner. They never allowed themselves to think in those terms. I would hear them complaining while they were training, ‘Oh, no, not another set!’ The negative impulses around a gym can be incredible. Most of the people I observed couldn’t make astonishing advances because they never had faith in themselves. They had a hazy picture of what they wanted to look like someday, but they doubted they could realize it. That destroyed them. It’s always been my belief that if you’re training for nothing, you’re wasting your effort. Ultimately, they didn’t put out the kind of effort I did because they didn’t feel they had a chance to make it. And of course, starting with that premise, they didn’t.”[2]

FOOTNOTES

[1] Arnold Schwarzenegger, with Douglas Kent Hall, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005; orig., 1977), 90.

[2] Arnold Schwarzenegger, with Douglas Kent Hall, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005; orig., 1977), 90.

 
 

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