Dr. M. Woodruff Johnson, aka, Dr. Woody, shared his psychology knowledge with the employees of OTA at a recent Lunch & Learn. His topic: Mindfulness.
Dr. Woody is not only an Associate Professor of Psychology, he has also actively and successfully traded stock options, forex and futures since 2000. In 2008, however, he was hit hard by the mortgage meltdown.
“I lost just about everything,” says Dr. Woody. “In addition to losing real estate and other investments, I let fear creep in, and as a result, began trading recklessly.”
But through all of the difficulties, he did not lose himself. In fact, after some soul searching, and with his family and five grandchildren in mind, he was able to regroup and get back on his feet.
“My grandchildren were really instrumental in providing me the motivation and continue to motivate me still to this day,” Dr. Woody asserts.
In response to what he learned about emotions and trading, Dr. Woody wrote a book, From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader. Soon after, he began teaching classes at OTA sharing his secret sauce. His experience combined with his knowledge in both trading and psychology has provided him with an advantageous perspective for helping people improve their trading skills.
“I understand what people are working with and how they're dealing with some of their challenges. To be able to support them is really special and is something that I fully embrace. I feel very good about that,” says Dr. Woody.
Dr. Woody’s approach to trading is the same approach he uses in life. He embraces life from a standpoint of adventure and mindfulness.
“I enjoy where I am, I enjoy this moment, and I am using what I've learned from the past to build a platform to go further in the future. Because that's the only thing that matters,” says Dr. Woody.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and sensations.
“Mindfulness is often called a journey without a destination,” says Dr. Woody. By being mindful, we are not focused on the outcome. We are present in the now. We are aware of our surroundings. We simply notice rather than trying to control, avoid, or fill our emptiness with stuff or substances.
“People want to say happiness is having money. Happiness is having stuff. Happiness is having the latest bling, the latest clothes, and the adulation. But in reality, happiness is just being, and enjoying the challenges, and realizing that discomfort is something that's part of life.”
“Life is a bowl of cherries,” says Dr. Woody, “but cherries have pits. If you believe that there shouldn't be any pits, that's when you’re going to run into issues.” This belief sets people up for increased anxiety, and increased anxiety can lead to depression, and other mental health problems.
“Then you're off to the races and before you know it, you're feeling helpless, hopeless, and sailing without a rudder,” Dr. Woody explains. When you can stay in the moment, however, and are mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and body, you will have the wherewithal to better steer your life in the direction you want to go.
Here are some ideas suggested by Dr. Woody on how to be more mindful:
- Be in the moment. Smell a flower
- Notice feeling state changes
- See more clearly, free of desire - aversion & delusion
- The observing part of mind, thought = patterns of neuron firing and with repetition
- Competence – Bringing the A-Game
Practice Mindful Meditation
- Get into a comfortable position. If you are sitting at your desk, feet on the ground
- Close your eyes
- Focus your attention on an external or internal point
- Don’t to try to concentrate energy—that’s doing—focus the attention and let the mind be free.
- Allow the thoughts to come and go… be unattached.
- The breath is especially helpful
- When thoughts, cares or issues surface, acknowledge it and take attention back to the breath, allow it to be there without judgment.
This may be difficult at first, but keep the intention strong and, with time, you will sit in stillness. After enough practice, you will not only be better able to accept the pits in life, you will have found your rudder.