I’m always looking for ways to improve my trading and, in recent years, I’ve been reading more on applied sports psychology. The reason? The principles offered by many of those who study sports psychology can be applied directly to trading.
Dr. Bob Rotella is a famous sport psychologist for professional golfers (including Padraig Harrington). Recently he wrote an interesting article in Golf Digest offering 10 Rules to help golfers achieve better performance. The concepts outlined there are as helpful to a golfer looking to win as it is a trader looking to achieve peak performance in the market. To see what I mean - let’s review each of Bob’s 10 rules and my own interpretation of Bob’s comments as they relate directly to trading:
Rule 1: Believe you can win. If other traders can do well in the market, so can you. However, if you don’t have enough courage and confidence in yourself, you will never achieve success. The events over the past year have tested many people in this regard and some now think the game is rigged against them. Nothing could be farther from the truth as opportunities remain. Those who will win in the markets first start by believing they can do it. Then they back up that strong belief with serious hard-work and determination to find their trading edge. However, it starts with you first having faith in yourself.
Rule 2: Don’t be seduced by results. You must stay in the present and focused on executing each trade to the best of your ability. Don’t let yourself think about how much you’re going to win (or lose) in the market or how great of a trader you are or not, but instead focus on what matters most - each and every trade you make. Do that and the results will take care of themselves.
Rule 3: Sulking won’t get you anything. The worst thing you can do for your prospects of winning is to get down when things don’t go well. If you start feeling sorry for yourself or thinking the trading gods are conspiring against you, you’re not focused on the next trade. Good traders readily accept their mistakes and move on to the next trade. They don’t let one bad trade carry onto the next one.
Rule 4: Beat them with patience. Every time you have the urge to make an aggressive trade, go with the more conservative one. You’ll always be OK. The moment you get impatient, bad things happen. In tough markets, stay patient and let others beat themselves.
Rule 5: Ignore unsolicited advice. You’ll have lots of well-meaning friends and experts who want to give you advice. Don’t accept it. In fact, stop them before they can say a word. Their comments will creep into your mind when you are trading and conflict with your own strategy. If you’ve worked on your game, commit to the plan and stay confident with it.
Rule 6: Embrace your personality. The key is to find what works best for you. There are many approaches out there, but there is only one trading approach that will utilize your best skills and talent to create and sustain an edge. The worst mistake you can make is to simply embrace a strategy of someone else that doesn’t match your own personality and strengths.
Rule 7: Have a routine to lean on. Every trader should follow a mental routine on every trade. It keeps you focused on what you have to do, and when the pressure is on, it helps you manage your nerves. You may not have control over the market, but you have control on how you trade the market. Having a routine will inject consistency that will keep you calm under pressure.
Rule 8: Find peace in the market. The market has to be your sanctuary, the thing you love, and you can’t be afraid of making mistakes. Yes, you’ll experience both good and bad times, but you must enjoy and revel in the challenge.
Rule 9: Test yourself. Don’t look for easy trades and setups at all times. Test yourself by working hard trades and difficult markets in order to test and improve your skills. For example, if you’re uncomfortable with trading options, spend a month just trading options. If you’re uncomfortable with shorting stocks, spend a month shorting stocks. We only get better if we constantly test what we think is most difficult.
Rule 10: Find someone who believes in you. Having confidence in yourself is important, but it helps to have someone who believes in you, too, whether it’s a spouse, a friend, a teacher, or a mentor. No man’s success can be entirely attributed to his own actions. You must surround yourself with people who believe in you at all times.
This is a powerful set of trading rules that will serve you well.