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The Truth About Willpower Revealed *Hint- Alone It Won’t Make You A Profitable Trader*

The Truth About Willpower Revealed

Let’s say you enter a trade, and minutes later, your stop-loss is close to being triggered.

There are many things happening in your mind at that moment.

Part of you knows you shouldn’t remove the stop-loss. That’s the more rational part of your mind.

But there’s another part urging you to remove it – A.K.A the impulsive part of your mind.

The reason you end up removing the stop-loss is that you’re relying on willpower to save your butt.

But as you’ll see in this post, this doesn’t work so well.

There are all kinds of studies on willpower coming out nowadays. One of them, for instance, shows that we’re fighting urges every second of every moment.

And approximately half of the time we’re losing the battle.

Thoughts flash through our minds very quickly and we’re not even consciously aware of them. But next thing you know, we are clicking and removing that stop-loss, we’re grabbing that bag of Doritos, skipping gym…

You can’t rely on willpower to do what needs to be done in the markets.

Our willpower fluctuates all the time. That’s a fact. Did you get enough sleep? Are you hungry? Are you sad? Sick? All these things, and many others, affect your willpower in ways you can’t even begin to suspect.

Willpower also depletes through use. You might successfully fight the urge to remove a stop-loss, but by the time you have to take another trade, you won’t have the energy to win the next battle against your temptations – whatever that might be.

So, you can’t rely on willpower to do what needs to be done in the markets. It is not a successful strategy no matter how strong of a willpower you have.

You need something else.

Out of sight, out of mind.

The first and most energy-efficient way to avoid using willpower is to make your urges impossible to fulfill.

Let me explain…

That bag of Doritos lying on your desk is much harder to resist than a bag of Doritos that is still at the store.

It is easier to fight the urge to remove a stop-loss if you place said stop loss and other contingent orders, turn off your computer, and go do something else.

As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.

That’s one.

Routines can be a powerful thing that’ll let you minimize your willpower usage.

Second, think of your mind as a child that constantly needs assistance. And since you’re living with it every day, you need to come up with shortcuts to make things easier for it.

For instance, working out is a no-brainer if the gym is across the street. Similarly, trading becomes easier if your position size is light and your charts uncluttered by indicators.

You get the point: If you work on making things easier for you every day, you’ll improve the quality of your conscious and unconscious decisions, and you’ll have a better time achieving the goals that are important to you.

That’s why setting up easy routines can be a powerful thing that’ll let you minimize your willpower usage, thus conserving it for later *and more important* decisions.

Through repeated practice [of self-awareness], unwholesome thoughts can come to rest, and then your behavior can start to change naturally.

Third (and final), work on becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings that arise as a result of what is perceived through your senses.

What works is becoming aware of them before they trigger the need to stop and get the bag of chips, or, in the case of trading, the need to remove the stop-loss.

It’s been my experience that as long as those kinds of thoughts remain unconscious, they will eventually dictate behavior.

By being aware of those thoughts and feelings (simply being aware), before they gain momentum and capture you completely, you can practice wise discernment — just mindfully witnessing and letting go.

Through repeated practice, unwholesome thoughts can come to rest, and then your behavior can start to change naturally.

And we’re not trying to force ourselves to stop… we’re not using willpower. What we’re doing is just observing, and through observation, we just stop, simply because we are aware and not lost in the thoughts.

As you become aware of thoughts as they arise, you can begin to let them be as they are so that they naturally relax and fall away. And then you can bring attention to your body so that you can feel and release those bodily sensations that underlie those thoughts.

Self-control — delaying short-term emotional gratification and stifling impulsiveness — underlies accomplishment of every sort.

To conclude, through a clear process of minimizing emotions, you can be supported in your capacity to make decisions rationally (for the sake of your longer-term goals) and not impulsively (short-sightedly) so that you can achieve the goals that are important to you, while not relying on willpower alone.

In some sense, self-control — delaying short-term emotional gratification and stifling impulsiveness — underlies accomplishment of every sort.

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Sources for the research studies mentioned:
* Hofmann et al. 2012: Everyday temptations: An experience sampling study of desire, conflict, and self-control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
* Hofmann et al. 2012: What People Desire, Feel Conflicted About, and Try to Resist in Everyday Life. Psychological Science.
* De Ridder et al. 2012: Taking Stock of Self-Control: A Meta-Analysis of How Trait Self-Control Relates to a Wide Range of BehaviorsPersonality and Social Psychology Review.

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I've been trading for a living since 2006. By merging mindfulness (an in-depth study of the mind and its tendencies in the present moment), a good trading process, and an efficient business practice, I went from being a losing trader to a consistently profitable one. Through my work here at Trading Composure, I aim at helping you do the same.
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  • RAJ

    I fully endorse your view on how to avoid tinkering with your stop loss. The way I do it is by moving off the trading screen once the stop loss has been put. I get a beep sound in case the trade gets executed. Else I just view the screen once in a while. That is just to see if the trade has triggered, but not to take a decision on stop loss. Secondly, I have found that affirmations is a good way of managing our conscious mind. Take up an appropriate affirmation and keep repeating it when the trade is on to beat your conscious mind or to keep it at bay.
    Yvan, may I request you to throw some light on how to stick to the trading system, especially when there is a series of loss trades. How to develop resilience and continue with the methodology.

    • Hey Raj,

      thanks for sharing. I have equally found affirmations to be very useful.

      Strings of losses don’t bother me anymore Raj. Somehow I have total trust in the process of trading. I know my probabilities in the long run. Short-term fluctuations in my account don’t bother me anymore because I know they’re just noise. So, when I trade, I do not look to make money immediately; I do what is right and leave it at that. I know that over time, I’ll eventually make money.

      So confidence is first.

      Second, my meditation practice helps tremendously. I won’t go around in circles, I’m sure you know a lot about that.

      Third, what helps me go through drawdowns with stability of mind are my different streams of income. My books, my courses, my occasional speaking gigs, all these things generate revenues for me — revenues that are not contingent upon market fluctuation. So no matter what happens in the markets, every month I’m still making money.

      I can’t even begin to express how much these three things (confidence, meditation, different other incomes) have freed my capacity to trade free of afflictive emotions. My experience of trading is fluid and effortless, no matter what happens.

      I hope I have answered your question 🙂



      • RAJ

        Thanks Yvan,

        Your insights are really helpful.

      • Sunil

        Yvan, what I genuinely like about you is your transparency. You are the only trader-educator I have found who confidently says that your trading education business earns more than actual trading. And I love that honesty.
        A happy customer,
        Sunil Manohar.

        • Hi Sunil,

          Thanks for reading. And thanks for getting the course. Yes, depending on the current market conditions (and how my systems are responding to that), sometimes the trading education part of my business makes much more money than the actual trading. But other times, the trading side will make more money. This has been the case for the past 2 years. My trading performance has been outstanding because the market has been very giving. SO I hope you get the idea: diversification is super important. You need to organise things so that a stream of income is always coming your way. 🙂

          Best wishes,


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  • EdN618

    Your idea that unconscious thoughts will eventually drive behavior is very interesting. It reminded me of Denise Shull’s theory that if you speak these thoughts out loud (uncomfortable thoughts of doubt and worry and impulse etc… while you’re trading), even if you’re alone, you remove or at least lessen their power to drive your actions.

    • Thanks for reading. And thanks for sharing. Very interesting…