What I learnt from Arnold Schwarzenegger: Shane Kempton

On the surface, Hollywood movie The Terminator looks as though it would contain few life lessons. But as Shane Kempton explains, there's a lot more to Arnie's cyborg than meets the eye. He says the part-human, part-machine is the perfect example of how you need to upgrade your thinking, reprogram your self-identity and run your own race rather than getting sidetracked with someone else's mission.

“I’ll be back”, “Hasta la vista, baby”,” Come with me if you want to live”.

Yep, you guessed it, they are all iconic lines from the Terminator movies.

Arnold Schwarzenegger may or may not be your favourite actor, yet he shared some profound and life-changing wisdom in this movie. 

Decoding the Terminator

In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, there are five lines of script and dialogue between John Connor and the Terminator, which brings this all together.

I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this:

(I challenge you to read the part of the Terminator without using Arnie’s accent.)

John Connor: You’re not here to kill me – I figured out that for myself. So, what’s the deal?

Terminator: My mission is to protect you.

John Connor: Yeah? Who sent you?

Terminator: You did, 35 years from now. You reprogrammed me to be your protector here, in this time.

John Connor: Oh, this is deep.

The Terminator explained further and described himself as a cybernetic organism.

Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton.

Its only mission was to protect John Connor.

The Terminator’s mission and your self-identity have the same purpose and mission….”to protect you”, and they are both running cybernetic processes.

Defining cybernetics

When a machine or organism has a single focus or mission and self-corrects and adjusts its course, actions or behaviours until it achieves it, it’s running a cybernetics process.

Think of autopilot on a plane.

It has a clear mission or identified outcome pre-programmed (the destination) and, once airborne and engaged, self-corrects when bumped off course due to things like wind and turbulence.

Like the Terminator described itself, your self-identity can be described as a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a skeleton.

Its mission is to protect you.

It uses a cybernetic process to keep you on the familiar track (behaviours/environment) to ensure it protects your identity. 

Why we resist change

Think about a time when you have felt uncomfortable.

Typically, it’s when you are trying something new or different.

Whenever you do something that is not familiar or aligned with your self-identity, your cybernetic system senses you are off course. You feel compelled to return to your familiar thinking, behaviour and/or environment.

Now here’s the punchline, just like John Connor programmed the Terminator, we programme our self-identity, either by proactive design aligned to the goals and life we want to live, or we run the default program.

We created the default programme too, but its design is based on reacting to other people’s priorities, goals, and opinions.

We correct our course to fit in with their mission, not our own.

Unless you proactively design your self-identity, you can say, “Hasta la vista, baby”, to your preferred ideal life.

Come with me if you want to live…your best life

You respond to the world not as it is, but how you interpret it.

You constantly create your own reality by interpreting what is happening based on your memories and imagination and not what’s actually happening.

Your subconscious brain is processing around 11 million bits of information every second.

This is way too much information for the conscious mind to handle.

The conscious brain can only process about 40 to 50 bits of this information per second.

The 11 million bits of information are filtered and prioritised by your self-identity, which is looking for patterns and references to your existing memories to maintain coherence.

Not convinced? Let me give you an example.

Picture this. You are taking a nice walk in the sunshine.

Your eyes briefly scan the path ahead, and you think you see a snake. Panic sets in.

You take a quick deep breath in, activating your sympathetic nervous system. Adrenalin is released as your limbic brain takes over and you enter survival mode. 

With a more detailed look, you realise the snake was just a branch. You breathe a sigh of relief, activating your parasympathetic nervous system to calm you down.

Your pre-frontal cortex takes over the processing and logically determines it’s not a threat. 

Although your eyes feed the raw, actual data (image) to your subconscious mind, when processing, it uses your memories to reference something shaped long and thin like this, in this kind of environment, and interpreted it as a snake. 

Here’s the point.

The interpretation process uses two main inputs, memory and imagination.

Your subconscious mind cannot distinguish between an actual event and one it has interpreted or imagined.

Based on your memories, you imagined you saw a snake, and your body responded accordingly.

It didn’t know it was just a branch. It dutifully did its part to protect you. 

Avoidance missions always fail

Most people know what they don’t want and typically focus on that outcome.

The problem with this thinking is that you are programming your self-identity with the identity you are attempting to avoid.

When you continually say, “I don’t want to be overweight”, you are programming your self-identity as an overweight person.

It’s the same with any avoidance, outcome-focused goals. “I don’t want to be broke”. “I don’t remember names”. “I’m quitting smoking”. 

By combining the mission you are constantly repeating with your thoughts and words with the 11 million bits of information your sub-conscious receives every second, your self-identity starts interpreting the data, while referencing your memories of being an “overweight smoker, who is broke and doesn’t remember names” and looks for common patterns.

This is filtered down to 50 bits of mission-aligned information your cybernetic system must execute.

This creates a reality your conscious mind can handle – I’m an overweight smoker, who is broke and doesn’t remember names.

Seeking missions always succeed

When you look at it logically, all missions are seeking.

You just need to be more skilled at clarifying and identifying what you truly want.

When you upskill your thinking by using more precise language and introduce proactive, vivid and compelling imagining, you can get outcomes that are more aligned to your ideal life.

Specifically, you use seeking missions and language rather than avoidance ones.

The seeking mission and language upgrade to the above example would be, “I am a fit and healthy, wealthy, non-smoker who remembers names”.

You then proactively imagine, as vividly as possible, what it would feel like to be a, “fit and healthy, wealthy, non-smoker, who remembers names”.

What do you look like, who do you hang out with, what do you say? As much detail as possible.

Then you do the work to remember times (even once) when you were fit and healthy, saved money, were a non-smoker, and when you remember names. 

Most importantly, like the Terminator, you must be self-aware and correct yourself whenever you use avoidance missions, goals, or language.

Replace it immediately with seeking missions, goals, or language. Frequency is also crucial here.

Let what you want be your dominant thought and not what you don’t want.

Focus on and feel your seeking mission as much as you can. 

It takes time and practise, however, by upgrading your thinking, focus and frequency, you can reprogram your self-identity and leverage your cybernetic system to work for you in attainment of your mission (ideal life) and protect you from settling and only fitting into other people’s mission.

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Shane Kempton

Shane Kempton is the CEO of Harcourts WA and the network high performance coach.