Athletes do it before the big game. Soldiers do it before stepping onto the battlefield. Visionary business leaders do it every day.

When we envision ourselves reaching goals of any kind, our brain starts finding ways to make it happen.

In no way do I mean to sound boastful, but in college when I tried out for the rugby team, I had a vision of being the team captain someday. I was elected captain both junior and senior years.

After college I left my finance job to join the Navy with a vision of becoming a SEAL. Against all odds a made it through training and joined SEAL Team 5.

When I later went to grad school, my business partner and I had a vision of building a great marketing agency. Our company has made the Inc. 500|5000 list the last four years in a row.

I had a vision of one day being a motivational speaker. Scary! Now I stand on stages in front of thousands of people.

When I met my wife for the first time at a wedding in Costa Rica, I told her two days later that we would get married.

OK, so that may have freaked her out a bit.

And executing that goal also took some groveling and a few shiny things, but nevertheless, we are happily married with three children! Vision!

Again, I say these things with great humility and only to illustrate the point.

There have been many mistakes and failures along the way.

Whether your goals are related to business, health and fitness, family, hobbies or anything else, having a very detailed mental picture of the ultimate win is imperative for success. Here's a mini-guide to making this work.

Select and prioritize your goals. Most of us have many goals we would like to achieve during various stages of our lives. Some are realized, and some are not. That's life. Prioritization and focus is critical for achieving goals.

Any business book will tell you not to have ten top goals each year. At most you want to have three or four major initiatives. Spreading yourself or your organization thin won't lead to success.

Gain and develop a mental picture. Develop a mental picture of what the win looks like and be able to articulate it well. If your goals is to compete in a triathlon, envision your training regimen. Envision yourself performing during the event. Envision what you want the outcome to be.

The best athletes in the world are experts at this.

If the goal is to build your company into the best place to work in your area, what does that look like? Who will be on the team? What will the culture feel like? What will competitors say about you? Develop the mental picture.

Work hard and persevere. As much as we may all like to believe it, achieving lofty goals takes a ton of hard work and perseverance. Having a vision is just the first step.

Success can be defined in many ways. But successful people have not been handed more opportunities than the rest of us.

Hard work breeds opportunity. And then even more hard work is required to turn that opportunity into something great.

Have vision, work hard and never be out of the fight.