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Relieve the Pressure

Relieve the Pressure

Jack feels overwhelmed. He's been looking at his account balance and he is disappointed by how low it is. He hasn't been making enough winning trades, and he feels the pressure to perform. He decides that the only way he can make enough profit to achieve a satisfying balance is to make five trades a day. Unfortunately, his long-term plan now makes him feel emotionally overwhelmed. He frantically thinks, "How can I make five winning trades today? I don't have that many new ideas." Jack's problem is that he feels he absolutely MUST perform today. He MUST make five winning trades. He MUST increase his account balance. All these MUST statements are undermining his motivation, however. Rather than enthusiastically thinking, "I can't wait to start trading," he dreads facing the markets because there's no way that he can meet his high standards. When you are avoiding the trading day, rather than embracing it, it's time to ease up, lower your standards a little, and regain your enthusiasm.

When it comes to motivating yourself to face the trading day with enthusiasm, it's useful to consider the "paradox of control." When you set high standards and start to think that you absolutely must reach them, you start to erroneously believe that you can control the events around you, and that you can overly control your actions. But you know deep down that you can't, and it gets to you. When you put extreme pressure on yourself to perform, your mind is consumed with living up to unrealistic standards. Suddenly, all you think about is winning and avoiding a mistake. You are no longer free to think creatively. MUST statements stifle you. You don't seek out risk, but run from it. You shrink away from a challenge rather than face it head on. The funny thing is, if you were to just nonchalantly think, "I don't care if I win or lose; I'll just try to have a good time trading," you would actually enjoy what you were doing, and creative solutions would come your way with little effort. You would trade in the "zone." In his book, "The Psychology of Risk," Dr. Ari Kiev (2002) describes trading in the zone as, "a mindset of total action, focusing on the present moment, without concern for your emotions or past mistakes."

To enter the zone, you need to feel free, and you can't do that if you feel overwhelmed because you are trying to reach extremely high performance standards. Rather than feel stuck, it's better to aim a little lower. The irony is that if you aim lower, you'll feel at ease and you will embrace risk, rather than fear it. You'll focus on your ongoing experience, and suddenly, you will actually achieve a higher level of performance. If you feel stuck, make a few small practice trades, just to get your mind engaged with the markets. Soon, you'll be entrenched with the markets. Your thoughts will flow with the markets and you'll start to see trading opportunities, and enthusiastically trade them.

So if you find yourself putting extreme pressure on yourself, back off. Trading is hard enough. You don't need to put extra pressure on yourself to make it harder. By modestly trying to do what you can do at the moment, you'll feel more relaxed and increase your odds of trading profitably.