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The Self Control Experiment


The Self Control Experiment


Are you having trouble sticking with your trading plans? It's a common ailment among novice traders. There are a variety of reasons for abandoning a trading plan. Newbie traders, for example, may not trust their trading plans, and understandably, they may abandon them out of fear or because of a wavering sense of confidence. But for some traders, self-discipline may reflect a lack of mental, self-control stamina. Self-control is similar to a muscle. It's necessary to build up your self-control "muscles" so as to gain complete mastery over your thoughts. Here's a way to "work out" and build up your self-control stamina.

Have you ever been trapped in a situation where all you could do is wait patiently? Perhaps you were squeezed into the middle seat of a jet airliner, and all you could do was wait for the plane to land. Maybe you were in a hot, stuffy conference room and couldn't leave because your boss was sitting next to you as you were supposed to listen attentively. When you are forced to control your impulses, you often find that you can perform heroically. (And if you can't, even when social pressure dictates that you do, you may have major problems learning how to maintain discipline.)

One of the easiest ways to learn about controlling your impulses is to take a meditation class or to work out with a physical trainer. In a meditation class, the instructor will require you to repeat a mantra, or a word or phrase, to focus your attention. When you first try this exercise, you may have a strong tendency to want to stop, get up and walk around. Or you may want to let your mind think about more interesting thoughts instead of focusing on your mantra and your bodily sensations. But the atmosphere of the class will help you practice controlling your thought processes and focus on your present experience. Another way to practice discipline is with a personal trainer. As you exercise, the trainer will require you to concentrate on your ongoing experience; you'll be encouraged to stay focused on the task at hand and concentrate. Over time, you will see what it is like to concentrate intensely. You will use "muscles" in your mind that have atrophied. Soon, you will be able to concentrate and focus, and these mental skills will transfer into the trading arena.

Most of the time, no one is forcing us to stick with a trading plan. But it may be useful to hire a trading coach to help you. Perhaps you can ask a friend to sit with you and remind you to stick with your plan. At first glance, the idea may sound a little silly, but many novice traders have trouble following even a well-detailed training plan, even when a trading coach is sitting beside them. You might want to try it and see if it helps.

Don't underestimate the difficulty of maintaining discipline. It's a skill that few can master. Trading instructors have noted that some of the best traders are former athletes and pilots. Why? It's because people in these professions had to follow a game plan or a set of standard operating procedures to do their job. Following a plan takes discipline, and such discipline is not developed over night. It takes time, effort, and practice. If you have trouble with discipline, don't beat yourself up, or label yourself as "hopelessly impulsive." Self-discipline can be learned. If you put in the effort to learn how to control your impulses, you'll trade like a winner.