Here are some lessons learned from trading that you can implement to take yourself to higher levels of prosperity in the year ahead:
1. Trading is a mirror of other elements of my life. If I am behaving in an undisciplined way outside of trading, my trading shows undisciplined behavior like not following stops. If I feel depressed about something in my personal life, my trading observations will not pick up as many opportunities as I cannot see the possibilities that I see when I am in a positive frame of mind. Use a journal to diagram issues in your trading that can allow you to not only be a more effective trader but also experience personal growth.
2. Treat every trade as both a potential loser and a potential winner. Know how to tell the difference when you're in it.
3. Think positively. Have confidence in yourself. If you don't feel good about what you're doing, change it immediately.
4. Never make a trade on a market that just completed a major move if the only reason for making the trade is that you just saw a major move and missed it. (Warning-Those most susceptible to this are the ones who did expect the move but made the trade earlier.)
5. Winning traders and losing traders experience the trading environment differently. It makes them feel different and as a result their actions consistently vary. In psychological terms, they interpret the market differently because they have a separate belief system in the way that they see themselves relative to the stock market. Change your belief system from the reactionary emotional beliefs of most losing traders to a more proactive unemotional approach.
6. Know when not to trade. This skill is just as important as knowing when to pull the trigger. Part of being a great trader is being a keen observer of what a stock is telling you. By committing to observe objectively, you give yourself permission not to trade until the conditions are right.
7. Don't trade for excitement or entertainment. Avoid the highs that come from quick profits or the lows that can appear after losses. If you have a sound system, it does not matter whether any particular trade makes a profit or a loss. What matters is that the probabilities over time are in your favor. You must remember that no system is perfect, and prepare for losses along the way. You should measure yourself on whether you followed your rules and executed your system, for both winning and losing trades. The process of trading is much easier when you focus on execution of a system rather than on whether each individual trade was right or not, because you take your ego out of the process. This makes you more rational and less emotional, which leads to better investment performance.
8. It is critically important to protect your psychological capital by not overtrading or playing for excitement instead of profits. This can cause you to be emotionally "drawn down", and then sit out, usually as a move just begins that could have been a big opportunity. Yet you miss the new big trend because you were financially and emotionally exhausted by overtrading in a tough market. As a result, you can't see through the negative emotions because you feel beat up by the markets. Managing your internal psychological state of mind is equally important as managing your financial position.
9. Be careful not to overreact to intraday news. It seems to me like every year, there are more whipsaws where the opening occurred in one direction but was then reversed with a close in the opposite direction. I like to do my preparation for each day's trading in advance after the previous day's close, so I know what the market structure looks like heading into the next day's trading. This allows me to move from a reactionary state to a more proactive posture. This helps position your mindset to capitalize on news-driven intraday volatility.
10. Accept total responsibility for the results of your trading. Remember that losers always look for somebody else to blame. Winners look to themselves particularly if they have to take a loss on some trades, as is inevitable for all traders and all systems. When you accept total responsibility, you commit that in any market environment you will find the way to win.
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