Specialty Skills

Motivated to Trade: Love it Like a Child, Execute Like an Adult

Dr. Woody Johnson

As we move further into the New Year and you’re still saying Happy New Year to those you like but haven’t seen yet, you may still be riding a fresh wave of motivation around your New Year’s resolutions. But, have you thought about what it means to be truly motivated? When you are deeply motivated to accomplish tasks, objectives and goals you won’t let things get between you and that achievement. When you are motivated, you become fiercely focused on what you must do in order to get the results that you want. Deep motivation helps you to become single-minded in your pursuit of the prize. To be motivated means that you have an incentive and you are moved to take action. Motivation is at the crux of becoming a success in any endeavor, and especially trading. Motivation is energy and we know that energy can both provide life-support and it can take it away. How many times have you been motivated to move a stop, chase a trade or exit a trade prematurely? In each case you were motivated; it’s just that you were motivated towards the “wrong” aims based on limiting beliefs and errant emotions like fear and greed. So, when we talk about motivation or being motivated, we want to be motivated in the direction of success and getting the right results. You want to be motivated to do your best and be your best.

Doing and being your best in the trade means getting the trading results you want…consistently. The most powerful tool you have is in your head but you must learn how to release this enormous energy. To unlock this inner strength you must aim to be fully present as you trade. Being fully present is directly related to being in the NOW, in this moment, on task, on target and on purpose. To be in this space successfully you’ll want to also be aligned in body, mind and emotions so that you can go in the same direction and for the same goals. If your system is aligned, you are accessing and activating your internal resources to bear on the task at hand. But, how do you align your system and overcome all the noise of counterproductive thoughts stemming from limiting beliefs and erratic, unsupportive emotions that ultimately drive behaviors that lead to bone-head trades? One thing for sure is that you’ve got to engage your passion; you’ve got to identify what you are most jazzed about and connect that to your trade plans and keeping your commitments. When you are motivated by a deep seated inner desire, for instance the desire to be a “great” trader as opposed to a “mediocre” trader; you become driven by a fire-in-the-belly intensity to do only that which is in-line with consistent follow-through and an unwavering grasp on keeping all of your commitments. When you are intensely focused on raising the bar of your game, it becomes less about whether or not you made a profit in any particular trade and more about the excellence of your execution. A magnificent obsession is developed around the details of the play and being meticulous about your strategy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a magnificent obsession about doing everything that it takes to be consistently successful; where success in the trade is defined as how well you executed your strategy and followed your rules?

Let’s take a look at what happens in your brain when you are totally engaged in purposeful achievement. When you are passionate about the task at hand, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released, it sharpens focus and increases performance while creating a profound sense of well being. If you’ve ever learned to play a game or sport very well, then you have experienced the drive to be “better.” It really is about “how you play the game.” Vince Lombardi’s great Green Bay Packers pro-football team amassed an impressive number of championships over a relatively short period of time. He consistently reminded his players that, “winning is an all the time thing” and that “You don’t do things right once in a while … you do them right all the time.” Roy Campanella, the great Brooklyn Dodger said about baseball, “…you’ve got to love it like a boy and play it like a man.” He spoke about that level of childlike focus that is immersed in wanting to do it well so badly you are willing to be uncomfortable in the service of getting better…and love every minute of it. When you have a compelling reason (your purpose and passion) for what you are doing, you’ll practice for hours in the rain, cold and through pain because you want it that badly. Toddlers do this; they are so driven by the inner desire to learn to walk that when they struggle and fall they will get back up and do it over and over again, each time with renewed intensity. They are obsessed with imitating and learning. They make sounds and try to talk with a dogged determination. Babies are keyed into a passion that drives them to see, to listen, to imitate, and to learn. The passion that drove you as a baby is still inside you; it is a part of your humanity. Unfortunately, we are also taught to remove ourselves from the passion as we become socialized into “good citizens.” Socialization can stifle curiosity, creativity and that playful spirit that sees life as a series of games and puzzles to figure out. When this happens, or when we become “grown up,” that inner spark to explore the reasons why and to be wide-eyed at the wonders of life is often lost to the detriment of a rich and growth-oriented life. But, when rekindled, this passion galvanizes your energy, curiosity and trial-and-error courage.

Now let’s look at one of the most obvious motivators and, actually, it’s not really as strong as most people think; and that is money. Money is a type of “fool’s gold” with regard to motivation. It is short lived because money is transient and of itself has no substance; it is only good as a medium of exchange. You can’t eat it, drink it, live in it, drive it or wear it – at least not for very long. Many believe that they want money, but to be specific, what they really want is what money can buy. I would contend that if you had everything that you have ever desired, money would lose its appeal. The literature is replete with studies that support the notion that money is a poor motivator. One of the articles written about this subject was a Forbes.com missive by Charles S. Jacobs, March 6, 2009 entitled, “Why Money Isn’t A Motivator.” An out-of-proportion fixation on money in any particular trade can be a prescription for greed. Greed distorts reality into a phantom of itself, resulting in decisions based on conjured notions of what you “think” will happen, not what is taking place in the charts.

Then there is fear, an ever present aspect of the markets. You might find yourself saying, “If I don’t make a profit in this trade then I am screwed!” Fear, like greed, fragments, blurs and moves you to grasp for fading phantoms that leave you as bait in waters teeming with sharks eager to feed on your capital. I’m sure you’ve heard the adage: “Scared money does not win.” The only motivation that moves you to do what is required for consistent long-term results is tied to reasons like family security, a purposeful life, personal pride in doing a good job, and peer recognition.

Free WorkshopSo, rev up your internal engine around something that you’re jazzed about and connect it to your trading so you can love it like a child and trade it like an adult; where the child is magnificently obsessed with the joy of doing it masterfully and the adult is focused on what matters most – faultless execution. We teach a number of tools with a specific emphasis on how to engage your passion in the service of power trading in the Mastering the Mental Game Online and On-location courses. To find out more ask your Online Trading Academy representative. Also, get my book, “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader.”

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.