The Mental Aspects of Trading (Part 1)

02/25/2008 12:00 am EST

Focus:

Linda Raschke

President, LBRGroup, Inc.

Many traders quickly come to acknowledge that despite being familiar with winning strategies, systems, and money management techniques, trading success is dependent on your psychological state of mind. If you're a trader just starting out, where do you find the initial confidence to pull the trigger? How do you deal with the down times without digging yourself deeper into the hole? If you are in a hole, how do you work your way back out? How do experienced traders push through the ceiling of profitability that caps their initial trading years and make a truly fabulous living?

Trading is a performance-oriented discipline. Stress and mental pressures can affect your ability to function and impact your bottom line. Much of what has been learned about achieving peak performance in both business and sports can be applied to trading. But before looking at some of these factors, let's first examine the ways that trading differs from other businesses.

  1. Intellect has nothing to do with your ability as a trader. Success is not a function of how smart you are or how much you have applied yourself academically. This is hard to accept in a society that puts a premium on intellect.
  2. There is no customer or client goodwill built up each day in your business. Customer relationships, traditionally important in American businesses, have little to do with a trader's profitability. Each day is a clean slate.
  3. The traditionally 8-5 work ethic doesn't apply in this business! A trader could sit in front of a screen all day waiting for a recognizable pattern to occur and have nothing happen. There is a temptation to take marginal trades just so a trader can feel like he's doing something. There's also the dilemma of putting in constant hours of research, having nothing to show for it, and not getting paid for the work done. Yet if a trader works too hard, he risks burning out. And what about those months where 19 out of 20 days are profitable, but the trader gives it all back in one or two bad days? How can a trader account for his productivity in these situations?
  4. If you were to invest time, energy, and emotion into developing a business venture and backed out at the last minute, it would be considered a failure. However, you should be able to invest time and energy into researching a trading idea, and yet still be able to change your mind at the last minute. Market conditions change, and we cannot be expected to predict all the variables with foresight. Getting out of a bad trade with only a small loss should be considered a big success!
  5. What is the definition of a successful trader? He should feel good about himself and enjoy playing the game. You can make a few small trades a year as a hobby, generate some very modest profits, and be quite successful because you had fun. There are also aggressive traders who have had big years, but ultimately blow out, ruin their health, or lead miserable lives from all the stress they put themselves under.
Part 2 |  Part 3  |  Part 4

by Linda Bradford Raschke, LBRGroup.com

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