Specialty Skills

Develop the Habits to Drive Your Trading Success

Dr. Woody Johnson

Has this happened to you as it did to Harvey? His eyes were at half-mast as he could barely focus on the chart staring back at him from the computer screen. He felt very tired like he had weights on his arms, and his mind was foggy. But, what was quite clear is that he had lost again.  Harvey’s anger began to rise through the fog as he asked the question, which fell like a dead weight on the silence around him; “…Why do I always lose in the morning?  It’s as if the markets were looking over my shoulder and they just wait till I enter then go in the other direction.”  So, here he was again, as he started his day out as he had many times before.  He would hit the snooze button a few times, then stumble out of bed and head for the coffeemaker.  Afterwards, he would stagger straight for his computer to turn on his trading platform.  Oh, he would take a quick look at the market news as well, after turning on his T.V.  Of course, he did attempt to look over his watch list and bring up a few charts before deciding on what he would play.  But so often, his choice of set-up came not from his homework, but from something he had heard in one of the chat-rooms or had seen from one of the news show talking heads.  Harvey’s body was reeling, his head was beginning to hurt and in addition to his anger, he felt completely out of sorts.

“Why is this continuing to happen?” he thought.  How do I turn this craziness around?

Harvey had habits, but they were not habits that served him.  He needed to bring his “A” Game to the platform in order to access and activate his internal resources.  For example, he needed a clear mind supported by an appropriate blood sugar level, a hydrated body so that his internal physiological system communicated cellular information efficiently, a focused intention that came from being centered and grounded and an emotionally stable demeanor that was connected to confidence.  Additionally, he needed to be aligned in body, mind, and emotions in order to ward off the conflicts that could and would enter into his system.  It was important for him to form a powerful morning routine that was designed to support his “internal data” meaning his thinking, emotions and behavior; and a routine that was also designed to support his “mechanical data” that is, the market information, news, charts, and indicators.  Yes, Harvey was out-of-control, but he would go a long way to getting back in control if he created a routine that he could follow, which would after a short while habituate and set the stage for building his skill levels.

Routines are powerful habit formers and if you identify a routine for the beginning of your trading session, you will create a support mechanism for optimal ability to “see” the reality of the price action and the order flow.  Of course, some of you might say, “I’m not willing to do all that. I’m ready to trade.”  Well, my question to you would be, how important is your trading?  Is it only for excitement and entertainment?  Or, are you serious about being successful?  That doesn’t mean that you don’t or cannot enjoy the art of trading; it just means that in large measure your enjoyment comes from trading masterfully and going as far as you can with all the tools and expertise that you’ve got.

Here is a powerful regimen that will benefit your entire system (mind, body and spirit) greatly.  And, anything that supports your entire system will support your capacity and ability to accurately read what the markets are saying.

  • At the beginning of your day, drink a large glass (8 – 16 ounces) of water in order to hydrate your system.  Humans are 95% water and your cells require water in order to communicate effectively and maintain electrolyte, neurotransmitter, hormone and other electro-magnetic and electro-chemical balance in your body.
  • Start your day with exercise. Energize your system, oxygenate your bloodstream and get the cobwebs out of your brain and body. This does not have to be strenuous and in fact it can be just 10 to 20 minutes of calisthenics and stretching.  Truly, if you haven’t experienced the natural high that comes from a consistent period of first-thing-in-the-morning bodywork, then you’re in for a treat.  It is a thriving and revitalizing experience that leaves you glowing and confident for the day, ready to take on the challenges that await you.
  • Try a meditative session to ground you in a relaxed and aligned state in order to be available, patient and focused with intention.  By sitting still and focusing on your breath, you can ease any residual tension and center your system by focusing on being proactive, resolute and attentive to what matters most.
  • Eat a light nutritious breakfast, and drink juices and/or herbal tea to maintain focus and mental strength.  Eating is very important to incorporate and maintain proper minerals, vitamins and nutrients in the bloodstream for sugar balance, and brain function.  Your energy level needs to be high for prolonged and intense mental work, whether for an hour or several hours of market participation.
  • Review your Plan and Trading Rules to keep them fresh in your mind.  Keep hard copies of them on your desk for easy reference while in the trading trenches.  It is vital that you are familiar with your trading plan and rules intimately.  You can’t follow a rule you have forgotten.
  • Do your homework, whatever supports your style and trading strategy.  The point is to “do it.”
  • Go through your daily trading strategy “out loud.”  This has a way of flushing out distortions.  Look at the charts you are planning to use.  Identify the play you are going to make, and describe the rationale with entry, target, time frame and exit.  You will be surprised at how the trade “sounds,” and in fact, new perceptions of the trade may present themselves to either clarify and strengthen your confidence or shake you out of the dream that caused you to see something that wasn’t really there.
  • Then take a deep breath and enjoy becoming one with the price action and order flow.  Remember, patience is a key ingredient to both seeing things as they are and waiting until the trade comes to you; don’t chase the trades.

The example routine in the above is a powerful prototype for addressing both your “mechanical data” and your “internal data.”  It’s not enough to prepare only for the mechanical data (the market information, the news, the charts and/or the technical data associated with the movement of price).  You must also prepare your internal data (thinking, emotional stability and behavioral follow-through) if you want to have any chance of bringing your “A” Game to your platform.  Make sure that when you turn on your computer and pull up your trading screen, you are ready and prepared to access and activate all of your internal and external resources to bear on what you are doing.  Trading is arguably the single most difficult venture on the planet and whether you think you are or not, you will express yourself when in the markets.  Every blemish, character flaw and or weakness in your personality will be challenged, called out and severely tested when you put yourself at risk in the markets.   So, trade by design not by default by learning and using mental and emotional tools to consistently trade “as” a winner.  In the Extended Learning Track Mastering the Mental Game, we show you how to prepare your “A” Game for the markets and to maintain and sustain it while you are trading.  Also, ask your Online Trading Academy Educational Counselor for more information about the Online Mastering the Mental Game Course.  And, you may want to read my book; “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader” as well.

Happy Trading.

This newsletter is written for educational purposes only. By no means do any of its contents recommend, advocate or urge the buying, selling or holding of any financial instrument whatsoever. Trading and Investing involves high levels of risk. The author expresses personal opinions and will not assume any responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the reader. The author may or may not have positions in Financial Instruments discussed in this newsletter. Future results can be dramatically different from the opinions expressed herein. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Reprints allowed for private reading only, for all else, please obtain permission.