"The important thing with my job that I've had for the last seven years is, you have to have passion... You can't be afraid," he told the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
"You have to recognize very quickly that political risk-taking is not political suicide."
While he impressed many with his transformation into a liberal Republican and green champion who won reelection in 2006, his poll ratings slid in recent years, in line with California's dire economic fortunes.
A budget crisis in 2010 pushed California, which would have been the world's eighth largest economy if it were a country, to the brink of bankruptcy, sending its credit-rating plunging and forcing it to pay bills with IOUs.
But while commentators will pick over Schwarzenegger's political legacy here, many are watching closely to see what the 63-year-old will do next -- notably whether he will return to the movies.
"Will I still have the patience to sit on the set and to do a movie for three months or for six months, all of those things? I don't know," he tweeted in October.
In another interview with the LA Times last month, he acknowledged he has many other options, from writing his autobiography to the speech-making circuit, to business projects or even a behind-the-camera role in Hollywood.
"It's very clear there are a bunch of different options because of the different careers that I've had.
"From the health industry, to the environmental side, to the political stuff, to writing books, to giving speeches -- all of those kinds of things. There's a huge variety of different doors that can open."
It is all a long way from his humble beginnings in a small town near Graz in eastern Austria.
In 1968, after winning a string of bodybuilding contests, the penniless 21-year-old came to the United States to pursue his passion.
He earned a business and economics degree from the University of Wisconsin, became a millionaire while winning the Mr. Universe title four more times, and then shrugged off barbs about his thick accent as he turned to acting.
Joining Hollywood's royalty, his ominous "Terminator" catchphrases "I'll be back," and "Hasta la vista, baby" have now entered the English language -- and he still uses them frequently as a politician.
His star power would certainly help him pursue a political career -- there has even been talk about him joining the Obama administration in some environmental role.
He certainly doesn't need the money after making a fortune in Hollywood -- he was on a reported 30 million dollars a movie, and refused his salary as California governor -- not to mention his extensive business interests.
Schwarzenegger remained tightlipped about his options this weekend, but insisted that, whatever he does, it won't be for financial reasons.
"I'm financially protected for the rest of my life. But that makes it actually more fun to do things. Because I always believed, never do things just for the money; always do things because you're passionate about it."