Trading Psychology, Discipline, and the Importance of Overall Balance

July 24, 2014

Oftentimes, the biggest hurdle any trader has in becoming successful at the pursuit is overcoming himself. The ability to manage one’s own mentality is instrumental in determining whether one can become successful over the long-run. You may have heard the assertion that trading is “1/3 strategy, 1/3 money management, and 1/3 psychology.” It gets the general point across that the ability to attain competency in those three aspects is essential in order to have trading success. But psychology is so often the part that plagues many traders. By this, I don’t mean having the raw intellectual talent, but instead the capacity to manage one’s emotions and general mental state and overall health. It can certainly stem from having issues in the other two, but trading starts with the individual.

1. Self-restraint and self-discipline are the key elements that befall many. Emotions run high after losses, trading decisions become sketchier, and eventually the individual is on a path that ruins their account.

2. But going off that primary point, understand that wiping out a trading account itself is often not what leads to so many traders failing. It is often possible to simply re-deposit the funds that were lost or save up the money to gear up for another go. But the issue is not necessarily the money lost, but the extreme drop in self-confidence that can accompany what happens when an account has been totally blanked. I know the feeling, as I was there multiple times before finally getting my ducks in a row. It’s a feeling where you doubt your ability to trade effectively at all and really question whether you’re truly cracked up for the whole trading thing.

But instead of inescapable self-doubt and vanquishing all hopes of believing I had what it takes, I considered it as a springboard to coming out of my delusion and understanding that I simply need to learn how markets actually work and learn how to trade them. In trading, you need to have a “short memory” of sorts. Forget past failures and focus on improving yourself for the sake of the present. Forgetting past successes is important as well. When I first started out, I recall that I got 11/16 ITM (11 wins, 5 losses) the first two days. Naturally, I thought I was pretty good. So I became greedy and overconfident, began increasing my trade sizes and within a day I was right back to where I started. The next day I ended up wiping out my account entirely.

These failures helped me to learn that I need to truly educate myself on what it takes to do well. But most importantly, it’s absolutely imperative to understand that these past failures do not represent your quality as a trader going forward. They can either bog you down permanently or help you realize that you need to improve and educate yourself in order to obtain the results you want. My blog is one such informational outlet that can help traders achieve this, by logging my trade results and explaining exactly what goes into each trade.

So it genuinely is not about financial ruin in the vast majority of cases, it is the associated psychological and emotional damage that transpires from the occurrence of poor trading results. And it is so mindful to always be aware of your mental and emotional state and how this is, or can be, affecting your performance.

3. If at all possible, try to trade at the same time each day. The human brain responds well to routine. In terms of having a trading schedule, I believe it’s important to have that period during the day when you can trade at a point in which you are focused and your mental energies are high. This, of course, takes self-discipline.

4. Having passion for the art of trading itself is imperative. Many people look toward financial trading as a means to attaining wealth. That is, in large part, the allure of financial markets. They represent the potential for upward mobility and the chance to create a better life for yourself. But you must certainly have a genuine passion for it, not simply an all-out money-seeking mindset.

If trading is an extremely distressful, nerve-wracking endeavor, then it’s probably not the best choice of a vocational pursuit. And that’s entirely okay. I know for a fact that I would be a “failure” at many other professions, but I find that with trading I have a passion for it – which develops a positive and diligent work ethic – so this is what I’ve chosen to do.

At first, going through the initial stretch of trading is rough because the learning curve can be very steep. It really can be disheartening. But it can also be very rewarding for those who put in the sheer amount of work required to be good at it, like any other pursuit in life.

5. Have a support network. It’s always nice to have people in your corner who support your ambitions and those you can listen to, learn from, bounce ideas off of, and discuss various facets of a particular subject. That is the nice thing about the Internet and sites such as – a resource for traders looking to improve at their craft and learn about the diversity of the trading profession and all that it entails.

It reminds us that we are not alone in this pursuit that very few other individuals may understand or be able to identify with. It’s always nice to realize that others share our particular passion in life and we can follow them on their trading journey and share our own in addition.

6. The easiest way to overcome emotional trading is to simply make trade investments that are small enough to obviate the potentiality of emotions running amok. This might not seem like an appetizing option considering that we trade to make money. But your trade sizes should be so small such that it does almost seem like a paltry amount. It helps to limit emotional trading decisions, and trading smaller can certainly help you to come out ahead in terms of profitability over time.

7. It is important to understand that trading will often represent a part of how you make a living and earn income. Even many if not most successful traders earn money from a type of job or undertaking that pays them a fixed salary for the stability that it brings to their life. I have confidence in my ability to trade well now and into the future, but even so I feel attracted to the idea of having a line of work that brings in an additional and stable source of income. It might even be trading related. I simply do not know at this point. But that is far and away the best route for most to take and also for me personally.

8. Understand the benefit of having other pursuits in life. Trading is like a hobby to me in that I enjoy doing it. But there are also other things that interest me outside of trading and I enjoy those as well. In many respects we trade not only because we enjoy it because it offers the potential to create a good life for ourselves. But if one’s eyes are glued to a screen all day watching prices move up and down all day, it is hard to enjoy other aspects of life, whether this mean friends, family, other hobbies, recreation, proper nutrition, exercise – whatever it may be.

Understanding the common psychological pitfalls in trading and the need for some semblance of balance in life outside of trading can greatly assist in attaining a more broad-perspectived nature of the profession and even manifest in greatly increased positive trading results as they did for me.