Trading can be a very challenging endeavor indeed; and one of the variables that makes trading so difficult are the emotions that become activated in the process. The reason why emotions become so involved is because with every tick of the market while you are in a trade, you are either gaining or losing “money.” It is the only venture where this takes place. Additionally, money or capital is a sociopolitical and economic driving force in our society. Power and influence are direct derivatives of capital. Due to the pervasive nature of economics, both in the media and in daily lives, from an early age, we form belief systems about money that become important aspects of our identity. For instance, if someone has significant capital, then there is a tendency to feel powerful, competent and smart. Conversely, if someone is financially challenged, the tendency is to feel impotent, inept, and stupid. So, when you are in a trade, every blemish, weakness, or character flaw in your personality is going to be challenged, which prompts emotions of fear, anxiety, anger, doubt, greed, impatience, frustration, and guilt…especially if you lose money.
Humans are emotional beings and emotions can’t be removed from the physical landscape. In fact, some people say that they need to become emotionless. However, you cannot take emotions out of the trading equation, nor do you want to. You wouldn’t want to because just like the negative emotions that distract your attention from what matters most, there are positive emotions that rivet your attention – for example, inspiration, determination, patience, passion, and curiosity. These emotions support behavior that is connected to your highest and best trader; that is, your “A” Game. Now, it is possible to gain a degree of distance between you and your distracting negative emotions, however. This happens through training and the formation of positive habits that help you to maintain a focus on what matters most in the trade – doing the right things habitually in order to get the right results habitually. Through training, you develop the capacity for emotional strength and endurance while in the trade. This is the same type of training that helps special agents, astronauts, world class athletes and physicians to remain focused despite being in a life and death situation. Do you remember Apollo 13? This was one of the earlier space projects that almost ended in disaster. They made a movie about it with a title of the same name. In the movie, Tom Hanks played the commander of the mission and he is heard to say, “Houston, we have a problem.” The problem was life-threatening and if a solution was not identified, they would have perished in space. So, it’s safe to say that they were quite afraid when the situation presented itself. What helped them to maintain a focus on what matters most is the fact that they had trained for years with protocols for every potentially problematic situation that might occur; and they trained over and over again until what to do was habituated and automatic – even in the face of death! They remained undistracted and in the now. They remained on purpose and on task. This is trading while in the moment.
Because trading can be so difficult, it is of utmost importance to remain “in the moment” during the process. While you are in the moment, you are more likely to have a higher percentage of your potential available to you. When you are distracted, the converse happens; you have a smaller percentage of your internal resources available to focus on the task at hand. When you are “in the moment,” you are more likely to be aligned in body, mind, and emotions as well. When you are aligned, there is less of a likelihood of the internal conflicts that make decisions and follow-through so difficult. In other words, when you are aligned in body, mind and emotions, you are going in the same direction and towards the same goal.
The point is to remain in a state of self-awareness, which helps you to be in the moment for the moment, fully available, fully present and in the now of the trade. Through self-awareness, internal resources, like the ability to remain focused with intention and attention on your trading process, and the ability to see both the big picture and the details with emotional tools at your disposal in the service of your “A” Game are at your fingertips. When you do this, you can resonate with the reality of the charts and the markets without succumbing to internal bias. You can develop a “positive trader trance” in order to be proactive in trading what you see and you’ll be less prone to being seduced by illusions brought on by what you’re making up about the market, the news or the charts.
Now, being fully available, fully present, in the moment, and in the now takes practice. The tendency for most people is to focus on the past or the future in a negatively obsessive rumination about past injustices and losses, or future angst ridden doom and gloom visions of how things will turn out badly. Your mind is always turned on and you must break the spell of the ego which makes you a slave of your rampant, unceasing, monkey-mind that is full of underlying subconscious limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, and painful emotions. Breaking the spell of the ego means in part that you must identify the gaps between the thoughts where you can return to just being and without judgment notice and become aware. The practice is necessary because it’s quite difficult to wrest yourself free of the barrage of thoughts and to allow yourself to focus on exactly what you are doing in “this” moment only, to find joy in being on purpose and on task with even the most seemingly mundane chores. Make a game of it and you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier to focus in the moment and bring yourself closer to a “flow” experience. The flow experience was coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” In it, he outlines his theory that people are most happy when they are in a state of flow or concentration – in complete absorption with the activity and situation at hand. Flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone. It is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake; the ego falls away and time flies. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost.
There are several tools that can help with being in the now and in the flow state. We teach a number of them in Mastering the Mental Game. Tools like Emotional Freedom Technique, Meditation and Self-hypnosis that can support a positive trader trance where you’re apt to develop a magnificent obsession with doing only what is in the best interest of your “A” Game and highest and best trader. For more information, ask your Online Trading Academy Education Counselor.
Additionally, my book, “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader,” is available on Amazon.
– Woody Johnson