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Thank You, Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Essence of Sargent Shriver’s Call to ‘Break Mirrors’

Thank You, Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Essence of Sargent Shriver’s Call to ‘Break Mirrors’

  • I am heartened by simple reminders to extend one’s gaze beyond the confines of oneself. As a Hindu I appreciate this at a philosophical level, since this is ultimately what meditation, aka mindfulness, teaches.

Even more captivating than reading “Be Useful: Seven Tools For Life,” I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger narrate the audiobook on his tips to motivate yourself to a successful life, and in particular (spoiler alert) his last lesson, “Break Your Mirrors.”

At first, I failed to understand what he meant (especially with his delightful Austrian accent adding a unique charm to the word ‘mirror’) until he explained this phrase came from his father-in-law Sargent Shriver, when he spoke at my Yale Class of 1994 graduation. Immediately I remembered standing in that huge crowd on “Old Campus”, listening to Shriver’s unique and entertaining speech. 

His delivery was quite motivational, especially in that stunning environment on a bright sunny day in May in New Haven. I also remembered when he introduced his daughter, Maria, Arnold‘s ex-wife who at the time were a happily married couple. At this point, all of us graduates started chanting, “Arnold, Arnold, Arnold…” Little did I realize that our chant foreshadowed the return of Shriver’s message reincarnated 30 years later in the unmistakable voice of the Terminator himself.

For anyone seeking inspiration to lead a life of service, I encourage you to spend a few minutes researching the life of Sargent Shriver. In just three words spoken during his commencement speech, he encapsulated the essence of transcending self-interest and embracing the wider world: “Break your mirrors.” These words remind us to shatter the confines of self-absorption and look beyond a focus on oneself, allowing our gaze to extend beyond our own reflection to those in the distance whom we can impact and uplift.

Listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger–a person who has led an inspiring life overcoming many challenges to succeed at top levels in such diverse fields as world champion bodybuilder, leading action movie star, leader of national programs to promote fitness in America, and governor of a state with an economy larger than most nations in the world–share his motivational journey in his book, culminating with a tribute to Shriver’s poignant words from that May day in 1990, prompted me to reflect once more on their significance. 

Since first hearing these words as a young Ivy League graduate, I have come to realize their applicability even on the most simple level. In the New Haven spring of 1994 amidst a campus renowned for its inspiring architecture, Shriver‘s message seemed as lofty as the ivy-covered buildings surrounding me. Schwarzenneger helped me refocus that vision on a more tangible sight as he narrated the impact of this message in context with the rest of his tips for daily living, including reminders to remain curious, ask questions and learn from others. 

This mindset inevitably shifts the focal point of our work beyond the confines of our limited sphere, incorporating the thoughts and wishes of those around us. After all, in our daily conversations, how many times do we find ourselves preoccupied with thoughts coursing through our mind while we are listening to others, formulating responses before the act of listening is over, or entirely distracted by other concerns?

Even on the most basic level, many of us tend to gravitate towards speaking rather than questioning. In the midst of conversations or social gatherings, it’s all too common to find ourselves eager to share our own thoughts and experiences, rather than taking the time to genuinely inquire about others’ perspectives. When was the last time we paused to ask, “Tell me more about that,” or “How did that make you feel?” instead of immediately interjecting our own feelings, interpretations, and solutions?

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At the heart of cultivating a “we” rather than “me” focus lies the art of active listening. By truly engaging with others and demonstrating a genuine interest in their experiences, we not only enrich our connections but also create opportunities to be of service in the simplest of daily interactions. These seemingly small steps, taken consistently, pave the way toward the greater goal of being there for others in meaningful and impactful ways on a regular basis.

I am always heartened by such simple reminders to extend one’s gaze beyond the confines of oneself. Perhaps as a Hindu, I appreciate this at a philosophical level, since this is ultimately what meditation, aka mindfulness, teaches. In essence, self-awareness guides us towards a more expansive understanding of ourselves and our place within the world around us. By embracing this concept, we take a significant step towards transcending the limited worldview confined by the reflections in our mirrors. 

So, thank you, Arnold for helping me once again reflect upon the fundamental essence of Sargent’s directive to break my mirrors.

Dr. Rahul Pandit is an Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, Weill Cornell Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas. He has been practicing ophthalmology for over 20 years in Houston, TX. He was born in Kashmir, India and moved to the U.S. as a child. Views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect any of the institutions he may be associated with.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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