Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career was skyrocketing to a new level in 1975. He was the greatest bodybuilder in the world and had the beginnings of a film career.
Schwarzenegger had just finished shooting the film “Stay Hungry” and was participating in the documentary “Pumping Iron,” which followed him through his training for Mr. Olympia, which he would win for the sixth straight time. He was also a successful California real-estate investor.
As his international celebrity — and bank account — grew, Schwarzenegger realized that despite his signature extreme self-confidence, he was starting to feel overwhelmed, he tells author Tim Ferriss in the latest episode of Ferriss’ podcast.
“Eventually it felt like I’ve got to do something about it because I have such great opportunities here and everything is happening and everything is going my way, but I’m just clustering [it all] into one big problem rather than separating it out and having calm and peace and being happy,” Schwarzenegger said.
He told Ferriss that during this time he ran into a friend at the beach who told him that he was teaching Transcendental Meditation (TM), which prompted Schwarzenegger to reveal he had been struggling with anxiety for the first time in his life.
His friend set him up with an instructor who taught him proper TM technique, which entails sitting with your eyes closed for 15 to 20 minutes while breathing deeply and repeating a mantra.
“I did 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night, and I would say within 14 days or three weeks, I got to the point where I could really disconnect my mind … and learn how to focus more and calm down,” Schwarzenegger says.
After a year of daily practice, Schwarzenegger’s anxiety had subsided, and he no longer felt as if he needed to keep up his TM habit. But he tells Ferriss that his year of intense daily meditation fundamentally changed the way he approached life.
Today Schwarzenegger prefers to work intensely for 45 to 60 minutes on whichever project he is involved in before playing a game of chess to detach his mind from whatever he had been focusing on. He uses workouts in the same way.
Ultimately, TM taught Schwarzenegger that the root of his anxiety was seeing all of his responsibilities as part of a massive, interconnected task that seemed impossible to overcome.
“Even today, I still benefit from [the year of TM] because I don’t merge and bring things together and see everything as one big problem,” he says.
For example, now when Schwarzenegger studies a script for a movie, he says, “I don’t let anything else interfere. I just concentrate on that.”