Visualization is a motivational talent that’s easier said than done, unless you use the troubleshooting playbook below that’ll make sure you’re always heading towards your goal.

One of the best tools you can use in your training, as well as other areas of your life for that matter, is visualization. It is extremely powerful, yet far too many people fail hopelessly at harnessing its full potential because they can’t get their head into the right space for success. Fortunately, by being aware of these shortcomings, you can correct your mistakes and force this mental exercise to work during physical training. Here’s how to play the best kind of mind games

Don’t Think Big – think Biggest

For visualization to be effective you need to be as free, yet as detailed as possible with not only the end goal, but also the journey it takes to get there. This means you should dream big, so that you completely allow your imagination to take over just like it did when you were a kid. By making it fun and creating a mental scene within your mind, you are removing any stresses from the process.

As a competitive bodybuilder, I knew I had to own the look I envisioned for myself, so I created an image in my head of my dream physique and locked it down. This image was based on my own shape and muscle bellies, which I combined with a few looks I admired. By being consistent with this vision day in and day out, I was able to knock out any doubt and program myself to believe that this is the look I not only will achieve, but one I have already achieved.

To see how it works, let’s use a chest-training day as an example, as that was a weak area for me. I would take 20 seconds to close my eyes and imagine what the perfect chest would look like. I would see the shape, the lines, the fullness, contracted and not contracted. Then I would run through the perfect set, as I would see myself moving the weight with a full range of motion, the swelling of the pump, the feel of each rep. Every fiber moving every rep in which I was connected to and I could do as many as I wanted to with little or no effort no matter what the weight I was holding. I would then open my eyes and just go. The perfect set had already been created and all I had to do was perform it. My chest became a strong point on my physique over the years and I attribute that to using this technique. This does not have to be done every single set, unless you choose to, but knowing where you want to go as well as the process of getting there will greatly improve your chances of eliminating any weak areas.

Block Out Distractions

You have goals for a specific reason – they are the things that move you to action. When it comes to distractions, don’t think about naysayers or social media trolls, because you are he biggest distraction. Let’s say you’re driving to the mall, and there is a car accident. It’s very rare anyone would then just go to the beach instead because the car accident gets in your way on the way to the mall. You will simply reroute and find another way to the mall.

The same strategy should apply to your physique, you have a vision set in place and if something doesn’t go your way – such as a small injury, sickness or you miss a meal – you don’t need to change your mind and think about taking up golf. You just simply reroute and adjust the plan, but never the goal. With this in mind, it’s important not to let the mirror mess with your head. This means that since you have such a clear vision of yourself, maybe you should stay away from the mirror for a month. Seeing yourself too often may be a distraction on your path to your goal. Give it some space and you will be pleasantly surprised as to how far you have come rather than how far you have to go.

Get On A Roll

Self-belief goes hand in hand with visualization. You must know you are capable of what you want and desire. As results start to show, your confidence goes up and it will produce the greatest force on earth: momentum. Positive momentum is truly amazing and if you have never been what you may consider a strong person in this aspect or if you have been and have trouble getting it back on a consistent basis then this is the best place to begin.

Let’s start by deciding what it is you want, and remember it needs to be thought of in detail. It can be applied to any aspect of your life, but lets focus on fitness. Do you want to lose weight, or do you want to drop 10lbs, be at 10% body fat or gain ¼ inch to your arms and be able to perform a high intensity cardio routine for 20min four times a week within the next eight weeks. See the difference? This goal needs to be put to paper. Make it real, and tell someone because the more you put it out there the more accountable you will be.

Put an eight-week plan in place to achieve this and break it down week by week. Each week is a victory and one week closer to this new version of yourself. Think of it as an artist who paints a landscape picture by starting with the basic background, each addition makes the painting come to life a little more until it’s complete. How will you feel about yourself in eight weeks when this goal is reached? Imprint it in your mind that in eight weeks this is how you will look and feel. If you had a time machine you can visit yourself and see how you look. Would you let your future-self down? No, you would not. And remember this is the look you already have, so putting in the work, diet and training now is just a way of making sure that you are ready for it when the future arrives.

EXPERT: Chris Baran is a former competitive bodybuilder with 22 years of sales experience in the fitness equipment sector