This spring, Snapchat invited actor, businessman, and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger to deliver a virtual commencement to 2020 graduates. "Life is all about overcoming obstacles," the action-movie star said in an inspiring video.
Most important, Schwarzenegger said overcoming the hurdles that derail your plans--like the coronavirus pandemic--requires a skill that he's used throughout his entire career:
Visualize the person you want to become.
In Schwarzenegger's virtual commencement speech, he revealed that he almost died in surgery just two years ago. It was the biggest obstacle he had ever faced.
Just four months before filming was scheduled to begin for Terminator: Dark Fate, Schwarzenegger underwent a minimally invasive procedure to repair a heart valve. Doctors told Schwarzenegger that he could resume strength training within days.
Unfortunately, something went wrong.
Surgeons had to perform emergency open-heart surgery or Schwarzenegger would die. When he woke up, he wasn't the same. It would take a lot of effort for him to breathe easier and to take a few steps with the help of a walker.
Schwarzenegger, determined to show up on time for filming, applied his "usual principles" that he had used to win seven Mr. Olympia titles, to become a world-famous actor, and to become governor of California.
"I began visualizing that, on August 1, I will be on the set shooting Terminator and doing all the physical things it requires," he recalls. "Sure enough, on August 1, I am there in Budapest on the set of Terminator six."
Schwarzenegger's visualization strategy has three parts. Here, a break down on each:
1. Be bold
Schwarzenegger thinks big. At the age of 15, he saw himself standing onstage holding the Mr. Olympia trophy. When he got to California, he visualized himself as a famous movie actor, even though he couldn't speak English very well. And, later in his career, he visualized himself running the state of California.
If you're going to dream, dream big. Now is not the time to hold yourself back with your goals.
2. Be specific
Schwarzenegger didn't have a vague visualization like "get healthier." Instead, he put a date on the dream. Visualization doesn't work unless the goal is specific. Otherwise, it's just daydreaming.
3. Celebrate small victories
Schwarzenegger says he celebrated small victories like taking the first 100 steps with a walker, or the day he could begin light weight-training. With every step, he saw his vision get one step closer to reality.
Schwarzenegger applied the same process in his bodybuilding career.
"Every crunch, every chin-up, every curl, every squat, every rep brought me closer to my vision of becoming Mr. Universe, the greatest bodybuilder of all time," Schwarzenegger said.
Without a clear vision, you won't know what steps to take after life throws obstacles in your path. But with a clear vision, you'll turn setbacks into setups for the picture you see in your mind's eye.