When I began to trade I put very little thought into what was going on in my head. I embraced the notion that all I needed was that indicator or that support/resistance strategy – you know, the secret one – and I would rake in the dough. Now, you’re probably thinking; what…you’re a mental health professional and you didn’t realize the importance of trading psychology? Well, you’re correct, I thought – and erroneously so – that trading was easy. I thought that if I just followed the colors, or the numbers within those “internet” trading schemes I bought into; then everything would fall into place. Yeah, everything fell alright, my account dropped like a hot potato till there was no more. Then it dawned on me that I was not asking the right questions. I was caught up in all the external noise and wasn’t paying attention to my internal data. At that point, I had to go back to the fundamentals of the internal path of the game and retool myself with self-discipline to approach it as the marathon that it is … not the sprint that I had hoped it would be. In that process of appreciative inquiry, I began to use the tools that I had before in other endeavors in order to climb the mountain of trading success; one step at a time. I reacquainted myself with the power of questions rather than only focusing on statements.
Statements are powerful. They hold intentions, biases and meanings to name a few. Statements are the physical and auditory manifestations of thoughts as in a statement of fact, declaration or financial report. Statements can be used to focus your attention in order to remain on task and on purpose. Another word for a powerful and positive statement is “affirmation” as in a statement of truth or assertion that you would like to be true. However, did you know that as powerful as statements or affirmations are, to ask the right question can be even more intense and impactful? Try this, say out loud the affirmation, “I am a flawless trader.” What happened? Did you hear in your head a voice that said, “Yeah, right!?” Affirmations are an excellent way to hone your mind and address underlying negative statements about you and your trading that distract your attention and distort your judgment; and as such help you to create and maintain self-statements that are proactive. But, affirmations alone can sometimes fall short when you are using them to directly deal with “limiting beliefs.”
You see, your mind is constantly asking and seeking answers to questions. Consider an event (anything that gets your attention – like a failed price pattern). When your attention has been engaged you will ask yourself three questions, which most times will be out of your awareness. Those questions are: What is it? What does it mean to me? And, what am I going to do about it? These questions form a thought – feeling – behavior dynamic that will eventually lead to results…any and all results are built from this first. Humans are wired to continually assess their environments…what is there, who is there, what is going to happen, and how should I respond, to name a few. What if you were asked, “Why does the market discount all news?” your mind would begin to search for the answer, rarely stopping to determine the veracity of the underlying premise. Going further, if you are always asking and searching for the answers to questions, why not engage this process to ask yourself empowering questions that will force you to change your thought patterns from negative to positive in order to answer them? Take the statement “I am a flawless trader” to which the mind replies “yeah, right!” and change it to an empowering question, such as, “Why am I a flawless trader.” Try it, ask out loud, “Why am I a flawless trader?” Immediately, your brain begins to search for an answer to that question.
What is important to understand is that you create your reality in two ways; one is by the statements you make, and the other is by the questions you ask. Noah St. John writes about this process in his book, “The Secret Code of Success: 7 Hidden Steps to More Wealth and Happiness.” Let’s explore the process:
1. Identify what you want in your trading.
You can use your current trading issues to determine this. An example would be to take your last most troubled trade where you have again violated a rule; as in, “I moved my stop.” Then envision the goal of how you want to trade without this issue; as in, “I want to plan all my trades and trade all my plans.”
2. Form a question which assumes that what you want is already true.
For example, “Why am I so good at planning all my trades and trading all my plans?” Your life is a reflection of the subconscious assumptions you make. When you ask the question you are changing your communication with your inner self and bypassing structures of limiting beliefs that would hamper an affirmation. Try it. Did you notice that there is no, “Yeah, right!”; that is because your brain bypassed the trigger that would have been associated with a “true/false” statement. You in effect have unleashed your mind to seek an answer to a question, rather than dispute a statement.
3. Embrace the question.
The process is built more on asking better questions rather than necessarily “finding the answer.” By asking better questions your mind is focused on your “assets” rather than your deficits; that is, what you have rather than what you don’t have. As a result of your mind bypassing the structure of your limiting beliefs and negative assumptions, you can begin to do things differently because you are “activating what you have” as your mind connects to the inherent positive assumption in the question, “Why am I so good at planning all my trades and trading all my plans?”
4. Take new actions based on your new positive assumptions about yourself.
You will begin to “look” at your trading from a new set of mental models and lenses based upon your new positive assumptions. You can begin to activate your internal resources and think in ways that are focused on the actualization of your question. Rather than being focused on “not moving stops” and trying to use will-power to keep your rules, you can remain focused on planning, patience and follow-through with greater confidence. As you take action based upon what you have as opposed to what you lack, you can remain intentional about getting consistent results.
Affirmations are potent and can be used as a strong tool to maintain your focus on what matters most. Additionally, it is important to understand and employ powerful questions as well, especially when you have identified a limiting belief about you or your trading. Trading is arguably the most challenging business venture on the planet and when you are in the trader trenches you’ll want all of your tools to master your mental game, keeping it handy and honed. Your A-Game, not your B or C game, is the only one that you want to trade with. These and other tools, techniques and concepts are 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.”
Dr. Woody Johnson