Did you ever stop and notice what goes on in your mind when you’re trading – the kind of thoughts and feelings that arise?
For a lot of you, it might look like that:
•⁃ Right in the middle of a profitable trade, you are often worried about giving back some precious unrealized gains.
•⁃ Winning trades make you overly optimistic. They give you a buzz, put a shiny glow on how you perceive things, and you feel like a warrior.
•⁃ Losing trades have the exact opposite effect on you. (No surprise there)
•⁃ After a string of losses, you’re desperate. Your rules go to the back of your mind and you begin thinking about upping your risk… you know, just to get even.
•⁃ You need to pay the bills, and the money you don’t have (and need) makes you anxious.
•⁃ You imagine your wife, family, friends, and you worry about how they might be perceiving you. You want them to think that you are getting somewhere with this crazy dream of trading for a living.
And the list goes on.
If you are thinking without knowing that you’re thinking, you are a slave to your thoughts.
Most of you are only half conscious of the way thoughts direct your life — and to some degree or another, your trading performance.
The fact is, we, as a species, spend our lives lost in thought.
This is the natural tendency of the human mind. It ruminates; it jumps from thought to thought incessantly, from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed at night, thus giving us no rest for a moment.
Most of these thoughts are not exactly invited — they just appear out of nowhere, occupy our attention for a while, and then disappear, making place for others.
And it doesn’t matter if your mind is wandering over why the market did what it did; the latest celebrity gossips, or what you had for lunch today, if you are thinking without knowing that you’re thinking, you are a slave to your thoughts.
A good portion of our thinking is what you could call trickery, or delusion – it’s projections, conjectures, assumptions, false memories, fictions…
Don’t get me wrong, thoughts are important. They are part and parcel of our human condition. Our ability to think is at the very core of our evolution as a species.
Our thoughts gave birth to arts, literature, science, philosophy…
So clearly, the problem is not thought itself but the state of thinking without being fully aware that you are thinking.
It’s believing all of our thoughts indiscriminately as if they were all fact and equal in value.
The reality is that a good portion (I’d say 80%, if not more) of our thinking is, what you could call, trickery, or delusion – it’s projections, conjectures, assumptions, false memories, fictions…
And since thoughts drive emotions, behaviors, and the subsequent sets of thoughts, it becomes clear that thought determines how we experience the markets and, on a broader level, our lives.
British Philosopher Alan Watts once said:
The future and the past are concepts. They don’t exist.
There is no such thing as yesterday; there is no such thing as tomorrow.
Time is always now… That’s one of the things we discover when we stop talking to ourselves and stop thinking. We find there is only present, only an eternal now.
Now, this is far from being a mere opinion, it’s a glimpse of the reality that’s there and that we’re oblivious to most of the time. Because we’re so lost in our own thinking.
Why is it important to contemplate this truth?
To meditate on this is liberating because it implies that what we are personally living inside our heads is not real.
We are aware of our thoughts, so in that sense they are real. But our thoughts don’t exist outside of our awareness.
There is nowhere else where the thought that is appearing to you at this moment is actually occurring.
And where, how and if your thought even exists within your body is not clear.
Contemplate that for a second…
That thoughts appear to us as if on a projection screen to which we are the only audience is all we know.
What makes thoughts feel real is the kind of attention we bring to their content.
Here’s an example to better illustrate this:
Let’s say you’re having a thought about a trade – you’re doubting an entry.
Very common, right?
If you don’t engage that thought – if you don’t judge it, consider it, and act it out — it literally doesn’t exist in the outer physical world.
That thought (of doubting) appears to and within your awareness (out of intricate impersonal conditions), without your ever choosing it or asking it to show up.
You’re the only one experiencing it.
It’s not appearing in the world.
It’s certainly not appearing in my mind.
It’s in yours. Only yours. And if that thought is not fuelled with your attention, it will already have disappeared!
In other words, what makes thoughts feel real is the kind of attention we bring to their content.
We make our thoughts real by relating to them as if they’re events happening in the world.
But they’re not!
Instead of letting them [thoughts] afflict you, you could just use them as information to help steer you in the right direction, as opposed to having you react blindly or even curl up in a ball.
Recall the thoughts I’ve listed at the beginning of this article, and now imagine how it would be like if you could operate in the markets free of these afflictions.
[Free as in letting them appear and not being bothered by them].
How freeing it is to know that if we do not attend to the contents of our thoughts, identify with them, answer them, change them, cling to them, avert them, they literally cease to exist.
If we let a thought be nothing, then that’s what it will be: nothing.
Now of course, these thoughts are appearing for a reason. They’re there to alert you.
But instead of letting them afflict you, you could just use them as information to help steer you in the right direction, as opposed to having you react blindly or even curl up in a ball.
When you change how you relate to your thoughts and your emotions, your experience of trading (and living) changes.