Having had the privilege to coach hundreds if not thousands of traders in my roles as first a trading desk manager and then as a mental trading coach, I can promise you that not matter how much capital someone is trading – $10,000 or over a billion dollars – everyone regularly asks “why the H*() did I do /that/ again? Traders at all levels are often mystified at their behavior. More importantly, they are frustrated and often disappointed in themselves.
The solution to this isn’t to think harder, find another system or add something to a series of charts. The answer lies within each trader. It first demands understanding the basics of psychological capital – managing yourself with more care than you monitor your charts – but beyond that, the real way to reduce the number of times you have to ask yourself that “wtf” question is to understand the sequence and more importantly the unconscious meaning to your actions.
We all know that actions speak louder than words so it is possible to work backwards from what you do to what it means. Armed with what it means, you have the first step towards changing the behavior.
Now this culture is still under the spell of the superiority of the intellect (which by definition means the inferiority of non-cognitive dimensions like senses, feelings and emotions) but that is changing rapidly. Neuroscience now compels us to look at what is going on below the level of consciousness. There are literally hundreds of studies now showing the power of what we are NOT conscious of.
Now many people are afraid of knowing their unconscious. The good news about that is for anyone who is willing to get to know themselves and the meaning behind what they do, there is a built-in edge (that you can control) over every trader who won’t or can’t do that work.
The markets work in psyches as authority figures because indeed they are – no amount of arguing, imploring or pleading will change what they do. The are the ultimate implacable listener. This brings up many issues – need to be right, habit of rebelling, desire to be perfect and get “their” approval – all of which will coalesce into a pattern of behavior that will NEVER be changed by the intellect alone. It begins with simple fractals of experience from early in life and as adults, those simple fractals combine and recombine to create our perceptions, decisions, context of feelings and “baggage” that fuels that never-ending “Why did I do that ?”
Solving it is indeed possible. It just requires giving up the resistance to knowing the unconscious meanings – and being open to having and creating new emotional experiences. For each time you do it, it is a risk well-managed or a trade better executed. What will that do to your year-end results?