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Awareness is Vitally Important to Trading…But Why?

Dr. Woody Johnson

‘You can’t change what you can’t face, and you can’t face what you don’t know.’  This obscure but very important quote was coined by my friend, Jackie in a conversation we had some years ago.  We were discussing the challenges that all humans face with initiating and managing change.  Within this conversation we both agreed enthusiastically that, embodied in this simple yet deeply profound statement is a principled truth about how acutely and pervasively awareness plays into your ability to detect and repair issues.

The speed and effectiveness with which you become aware that you have initiated an error in the sequence of behaviors needed to secure an effective outcome to an endeavor…like trading… will determine whether you get stuck in a negative behavioral loop or proactively negotiate your way out of it. In other words, if you can’t identify your point-of-failure in a circumstance, that means that you don’t have the data to address it and initiate a course correction.  This being true, then you will continue to do the same thing and, yet, expect a different result.  This is a tenuous position because you can get caught in a loop of behaviors, either unwilling or unable to do something different.  But, how could you be expected to do something different if you aren’t aware of the offending variable?

How to rid yourself of negative thought patterns

A few years ago, I had some critters in my basement.  They were field mice that had come in through a hole in the wall.  After a number of them had found the hole, no doubt alerted to its existence by their cohorts, (they had become aware) the mice began to attack anything that remotely resembled food.  They ate through baseboards, got into the food cupboards and generally had a good time before I identified that 1) there was a problem, 2) that they were rodents and 3) what to do about them.  However, was this the end of the issue?  No, because I had yet to realize the breech and then find exactly where it was.  Until this additional data was available, for every mouse that was eliminated there were 2 or 3 more that gained entry.  It became like the game Whack-a-Mole; they just kept coming and the problem continued. Ah, but once that critical piece of data was uncovered (the location of the hole) the problem was effectively resolved…at least that one!  So, this notion of awareness is not only crucial for identifying where you’ve gone wrong, but also to discover what must be done to have a genuine resolution.

Another critical factor is that most experiences in mind, brain or body (95 – 97%) are out of awareness (unconscious).  Take a moment to consider the trillions of communications that go on in your brain, mind and body in each moment, down to the cellular level, and all but a few happen below the surface in the subconscious. This includes the higher functions of thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Now, let’s drill down a little deeper.  In the formula for getting results, you may remember that there are three variables that are always present in any outcome; and even though there may be other variables present from time to time, these three are vital and they always impact upon the result.  Those variables are, T + E + B = R where T = thought, E = emotion, B = behavior and, of course, R = results.

Free Trading WorkshopLargely, people erroneously believe that thoughts are mostly both conscious and rational.  Neither is true.  Thoughts are mostly unconscious and include mind movies, verbalizations, beliefs, biases, values and attitudes. All of these thoughts can be either supportive, or highly toxic.  Toxicity, unfortunately, is typical for many people across the planet due to political unrest, dire living conditions and violence.  From the earliest moments in life, negative experiences have led people to create meaning and beliefs about those experiences that are limiting, negative and irrational. These belief structures are deep in the unconscious and continue to negatively impact upon conscious thoughts; for example, I can’t do this; I’m no good at math; I’m stupid, you must be lucky to be a successful trader; and so on and so on.  Now, these conscious thoughts that are triggered by deep seated subconscious beliefs generate emotions like fear, greed, anger, anxiety and doubt, to name a few.  When these and similar emotions are activated they drive behaviors causing you to do the very thing that you promised you wouldn’t do, for instance moving a stop, chasing a trade, or premature exiting! Herein lay the financial death traps that will eventually blow up your portfolio.

So, what must you do to train your brain to monitor, and address negative subconscious thought/emotion issues before they become fiscally lethal? First, it’s imperative to become self-aware.  This means that you are periodically scanning your mental, physical and emotional location in space/time (this can be done by simply taking your attention into the breath).  When you locate your being in the present, you are effectively rooting yourself in the NOW. When you are in the NOW it is more likely that you can mesh mental and emotional parts (for example the inner child, the critical parent, the strong adult) in order to become aligned in body, mind and emotions to go in the same direction and for the same goals.

This position cannot be overstated.  If you are in the NOW you are less likely to become frustrated, frazzled and fragmented. In fact, if you do find that you have fallen prey to the three F’s, when you become focused in the NOW with all parts aligned you can and will shift from the 3 F’s to become centered, grounded and focused on what matters most.  When this happens, then you are on your way to deliberately designing how you want to respond to the issue at hand rather than default to an automatic reaction based in limiting beliefs and negative patterns of thinking, feeling and doing.  In this aligned position you are poised to deliberately identify any errant negative thought that won’t support your desired results and change it to a positive thought that is in-line with your purpose and goals. This position will also help you to become aware of other aspects of mind and body (delinquent memories, biases, urges, etc.) that can distort judgement and distract your focus.  As you increase the ability to scan, detect, address and resolve toxic variants, you will create consistency in executing your process, and you will also develop the capacity for emotional strength and endurance in the trade.

This is what we teach in 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.

Successful 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.