One of the most important variables in your trading is becoming aware of things about yourself that affect follow-through and focus. Some of those things involve the quality of your thoughts, your ability to prepare, analyze data and process information, and to keep your commitments. These are some of the elements of having good discipline. But it is very difficult to have stable discipline when you don’t know what is throwing you off target. Additionally, you can’t change things about your trading process that are stuck in out-of-awareness patterns of thinking, feeling and doing.
I know a trader, let’s call him Leon. He day-trades Futures. He has been actively trading for several years. His profits are erratic and undependable, often going dramatically up and down in the same session. When Leon is making money his confidence soars and he feels like he is a power trader. On the other hand, when he loses money, which is more times than he cares to admit, he feels like a failure, a loser and stupid. For quite some time Leon has wondered why he can’t be consistently successful, and why his drawdowns tend to be much larger than his profits. He wonders this even though he has no Trade Plan, doesn’t consistently document his trades and despite having numerous rules, tends to violate them regularly. Leon doesn’t have a clue and wonders why he can’t get different results even though he continues with this pattern of behavior. Leon is out of control and unless he changes he is headed for a financial ice-cold shower. Are you Leon?
If you want to change your behavior, you must first change your thinking and since much of your thinking is driven by your unconscious, you must become aware of your underlying self-sabotaging beliefs that drive thinking, emotions and behavior. Trading is arguably the most difficult venture on the planet; why? Because we are talking about money, and with every tick while in a trade you are either gaining or losing money. But, it goes beyond that. Money is not only the cornerstone of our society, it is tied up in your identity. If you are winning it, you often feel powerful, competent, or intelligent. If you are losing you may feel impotent, incompetent, or stupid. The fact of the matter is that when you go to the market you invariably are expressing yourself; whether you want to, try to or feel a need to, it doesn’t matter; you will express yourself. And, when expressing yourself your behavior is tied much of the time to unconscious beliefs. Actually, when you are in the markets, every blemish, weakness and character flaw in your personality will be challenged, called out and tested. Now, that doesn’t mean that the markets are doing that to you. On the contrary, the markets have no intention for you – even though you may have often wondered how the markets knew that you just placed a long trade and how they chose that exact moment to reverse! Also, there are no rewards, punishments, pain or risk in the markets, only consequences. You provide all the rest. And, with changing yourself, you must provide all the ingredients for that as well.
You can’t change what you can’t face and you can’t face what you don’t know. Awareness is key. The more aware you are of your underlying self-sabotaging beliefs the more you can position yourself to begin to address these issues – one at a time. Now, you might be asking; how do I do that? How do I become more aware if these unconscious limiting beliefs? Good question! You become aware by simply asking questions of yourself, and by introspection and more importantly by personal observation as you are going through market observation. By checking yourself and checking the market you’ll begin to gain an awareness of why you have no Trade Plan or failing to follow the one you have. Why you have no Trade Journal, or failing to document in it. Why you are continuing to do things that you say you must stop doing; and why you are failing to do those very things that you say you must do. Once you identify the underlying self-sabotaging data, you can begin to deal with them…one issue at a time.
So, trading is a journey in self-discovery, and you must begin to pull back the layers of your unconscious onion, one at a time to begin to realize and recognize what is motivating you to behavior that is producing results that you don’t want. There are essentially two kinds of data with respect to trading. Many traders miss this fact and therefore miss a very important set of variables that impact heavily upon their trading. One type of data is mechanical data, which are everything that have to do with the markets; that being, news, technical analysis, instruments, indicators, etc.. This data is external to you. The next type of data is internal data, which are everything that have to do with your thoughts, emotions and behavior; in other words the T+E+B=R equation which impacts upon every outcome that you get. You must manage this equation in order to manage your results.
Trading is a 100% mental and emotional game. Either you are preparing, analyzing, processing or executing while trading; all of which require mental and emotional tools. If you don’t have mental and emotional tools that’s like driving without a steering wheel; and you will not only lose your way but you will crash and burn without it. And, you can’t steer if you are driving blindfolded. You must become aware of what is between you and keeping commitments with consistent follow-through. In “Mastering the Mental Game” Online and On-location courses we teach you tools and techniques to put the steering into your trading while helping you to remove the blindfolds as well in order for your journey to be a joyful and self-fulfilling one. Remember, you can’t change what you can’t face, and you can’t face what you don’t know. For more information ask your Online Trading Academy representative. Also, get my book: “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader.
Dr. Woody Johnson