Flexibility — Why Traders Need It And How To Develop It

"Only when you can be extremely pliable and soft can you be extremely hard and strong." — Zen Proverb

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Flexibility (pliability or openness) helps us deal with everything the market likes to throw our way — uncertainty, losses, change,…

To be a flexible trader is to not be stuck in your ways and to be open to change. This allows you to take on challenges with a smile.

Therefore, flexibility is a quality that invites peace. You can see it as an art, and like all arts, with practice, you can become exceptionally good at it.

Between us, I’m not always a flexible trader, you know?

Of course, that’s what I strive for, and it’s always a work in progress. But when I’m not being flexible, I can feel it: I feel frustrated, disappointed, irritated; my mind starts to feel rigid. I do not want things to be the way they are. I want them to be my way.

This is mainly because I’m being caught up in whatever story I’m telling myself at the moment.

If you notice what happens when you’re telling yourself a story about what’s happening, you’ll see that you are at the center of it all.

You’re telling yourself how so-and-so happened, how it should have been, and so on… and how all of this is affecting you. You are at the center of this movie playing in your mind.

It’s natural to think this way, it’s natural to be like that, but many of our difficulties as traders arise from this self-centered mode of perception and being.

When we are constantly interpreting things through this self-referencing lens, by extension we are stuck in a dualistic worldview that isn’t always helpful.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you place a trade.

The market goes up and nearly hits your target.

“Amazing… keep going,” you say.

Then, out of the blue, the market heads right back down and hits your stop-loss.

With the ‘Me show’ airing in your mind, the response is frustration, despair, disbelief, anger… quite possibly disgust.

There’s you here at the center of it all and there’s the market there, and you’re here perceiving every action or reaction as good or bad based on how they relate to you.

So, when something “bad” happens, you automatically feel the need to defend yourself. Because you’re here, and the market is right there and it’s making a direct attack on you.

That’s what you think, consciously or unconsciously. You’re not being a flexible trader.

And it’s not just in the market, we actually interpret everything else in those terms.

But what if we were to remove ourselves from the picture?

Well, it’s very simple: Our minds naturally want to interpret things, place them in little boxes and categorize them: “This is good for me”; “This is bad.”

But when we drop that habit of judging, categorizing, and putting ourselves at the center, what we notice is freedom.

When you’re just going with the flow of things and not thinking about yourself constantly, possibilities open up.

So, how to be a flexible trader?

Well, as said earlier, my own flexibility is a work in progress. So I can’t say I’m an expert yet. If anything, I’m adequate. So I can only write here what’s working for me at the moment, in all good faith, based on my best knowledge and experience at the time of this writing.

First, to become a flexible trader, you need to work on becoming more aware of the stories you tell yourself in the moment.

This is a very important step.

Next, start noticing how you are constantly putting yourself at the center.

Then see if you can remove yourself from the center of the story.

What would the story be without you in it?

Let’s say I reap a trading loss.

For me, that story becomes something like this:

“How interesting!”

“What can be learned from that?”

“What can be understood about the way things are?”

And if there is still difficulty and rigidity in my mind, I ask

“How does it feel?”

“How I can relax into it.”

I observe the tightness. If I notice frustration and tightness arising, I immediately bring my attention to that.

The tightness comes from the stories that naturally arise. I observe that too and I continually relax and loosen my grip.

I stay with my feelings and just observe them. While the story may still arise, I don’t keep feeding them. And as the feelings linger, I see them as ‘things’ that are arising in my awareness – like clouds passing across the sky. I explore that with curiosity.

I give my feelings the space to do their thing and to just be. 

That’s right… it’s all about acceptance. It’s OK to feel whatever I’m feeling! Acceptance is peace.


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