Specialty Skills

Are You Trading With a Lion Heart or Chicken Guts?

Dr. Woody Johnson

Now that I have your attention, the point is not so much whether you are trading as a lion or a chicken; it has more to do with how you are describing your trading. The question posed in this title is of course a metaphor. Metaphors are replete in the speech patterns of virtually every language on the planet. Metaphors embody the gist of a statement through symbols and/or images which for most people help them to understand the concept; and they are very powerful. In fact, metaphors are used so much that many of them are not immediately identified as metaphors. Consider these metaphors: her ace in the hole, his Achilles heel, get back in the saddle, the ball’s in your court or to turn the corner. These are just a few of the thousands of metaphors that are used every day in common language that most everyone understands immediately to the point of not even recognizing that a metaphor has been used.

Free Trading WorkshopSo, what do metaphors have to do with your trading? Well, as it turns out…lots. Metaphors can be quite supportive, inspiring and motivating or they can be disturbing, unnerving and destructive to your performance. As symbols, they stem from deep mental models about self, life, good, bad, gain and loss, to name a few. Consider the phrase, “The market is against me.” This phrase can poison your perception of the market and, more importantly, phrases like this can negatively impact how you react to situations. For example, when someone says, “The market’s out to get me,” they are setting themselves up for failure by accepting a notion that they have little power to perform. What you tell yourself determines how you feel and how you feel drives what you do. When you use a powerful image rich phrase that is connected to your inner most limiting beliefs about your ability or “inability” to succeed, you are creating a barrier between you and the results that you want.

In order to create substantive change it’s important to identify and reconstruct the underlying metaphors that drive your stories about you, your abilities and the markets. For example if you said, “I am an idiot because I lost on this trade,” what emotions might you feel? Arguably, you might feel anger and frustration. Negative emotions like these don’t promote positive actions. They rob you of stamina and the ability to follow through with your rules while focusing on what matters most in the trade, meaning that they rob you of getting the results that you want. On the other hand, if you use positive metaphors that are motivating they will help to establish rock-solid responses to trading situations through uplifting images and symbols that are connected to core beliefs.

What about the metaphor, “I trade with the heart of a lion?” As you say this metaphor consider how you feel. Your emotions are probably much different from saying the phrase, “I am an idiot because I lost on this trade.” This is how you ratchet up your ability to create changes in your thinking. By uncovering negative metaphors and changing them you put yourself on a fast-track of doing things differently and therefore getting different results.

When trading in the trenches it’s important to use any and all resources to give yourself an edge. You must think differently in order to do differently. This means becoming aware of the language that you use to describe yourself and your process, which includes metaphors. Becoming self-aware is critical to your development as a trader and ensuring that you are trading with your highest and best trader and in your highest and best interests. This is what we teach in the “Mastering the Mental Game” Online and on-location courses. Ask your Online Trading Academy representative for more information. Also, get my book “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader.”

Happy Trading

Dr. Woody Johnson


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.