The markets are our testing ground, and trading is the vehicle through which can clearly see the results of our work, our discipline (or lack thereof) and our concentration. It is through these two (the markets and trading) we have the live opportunity to see habitual patterns that either help us move forward, or hold us back from achieving our goals and trading profitably day in day out.
Because this process is so informative, the fertile experience is rich with information about whether our compass is on the right course, or pointing south when we want to go north. Whether we avail ourselves of this information and mine it like a precious resource is up to nobody but you. As traders, we have to constantly be on the prowl, and asking questions at key moments, such as;
-How did we react mentally or emotionally when we experienced a series of losses?
-The same has to be asked when we have a long run of winners or bump into our Equity Threshold?
-What happens after we've been unprofitable for so long, that after trying a new system, we start to make some solid gains?
-How do we react when being told or asked to fill in the trading journal?
-Do we use proper money-management, or do we step outside the mathematics and do what we 'feel' like?
-What happens when we encounter a 'big' loss?
-What do we do to prepare for the trading day?
-How do we train and learn from our experiences?
All of these questions and experiences are beacons in the fog of confusion as to where we are in our process. They are part of a feedback loop we are either aware of or not.
One of the most common responses to;
a) why we do not prepare for our trading day
b) why we did not take the trade that met all our rules
c) why we took a big loss
d) why we do not fill out our trading journal
e) why we did not use proper money-management comes in the form of excuses.
It does not matter if you are strongly motivated to become a profitable trader. To want to be successful as a trader, to make loads of money, to work from home is not enough. That is just desire and you following a puppet master.
What happens during the small moments where you make excuses (perhaps for the situations mentioned above) is what will define your path and trading experience. This is why it is critical to be aware of the moments when you do make excuses, so you can change course immediately.
Excuses are essentially negative habits that start off as an undertow, and eventually become the current if left unchecked or not dealt with. They start off as whispers, but without applying awareness and action to them, eventually become equal to your driving thoughts in critical moments of your trading.
Perhaps you have said the following to yourself in certain moments of your trading day;
"I don't want to fill out my trading journal right now, i'm busy trading"
"I'll use proper money-management later, this is a cherry of a trade here"
"This trade meets all my rules, but i'm not certain about it so i'll wait for the next one"
"I don't need to prepare mentally and physically for trading, a cup of coffee will get me going"
"I don't have to review my trading performance, my balance will tell me if I am trading well or improperly"
Convincing yourself to put things off is to lose the opportunity to move forward by falling victim to excuses. It will seduce you into an un-empowered trading experience.
Perhaps you think of 'discipline' as something negative, like being disciplined by some 5th grade teacher you hated. Having negative views to being disciplined in your life merely bonds your ideas and energy around discipline to this negative view. It saps you of your ability to break through the obstacles to your trading growth and success while climbing the Pyramid of Trading. It hides your best qualities and that which would take your trading to the next level.
These negative views and excuses will lead to weaving a tapestry of explanations and justifications for why you are not making money trading. It will be the same reasons why you did not fill out your journal, or hesitate on that trade which would have made you money, or prepare yourself for the day, or use proper money-management. If acted upon enough, this becomes a pattern of thinking for you. When it does, it manifests as a wall or obstacle to you trading successfully and begins to imprison you.
Ask yourself if you feel like time is being wasted, or trading opportunities (ones that your system generated) are passing you by? I'm not talking about things outside of your trading plan and rule-based systems, but one's that you had in your crosshairs and let go by.
If you feel like this, and have witnessed many times how you should have been in a trade, but were paralyzed by your thoughts/emotions, then you need to make changes now. If you feel sub-consciously you 'should' be reviewing your trade performance, or filling out your trade journal, or using proper money-management, but are not - then it is critical you take action now. The longer you wait, the more corrosive these excuses to inaction become. They eat at and diminish your initial commitment, excitement and enthusiasm to become a successful trader which reduces inspiration and drive when you need it.
Remember the clock is marching on whether you want it to or not, and there is no extra time to be bought by excuses. Your time spent postponing things is the noose which separates you from trading success or failure. Postponing things and excuses become the barriers which imprison us. They slowly close the doors to inspiration and our natural intelligence.
Yet we all subconsciously feel how we can be more empowered by doing all the things we need to trade successfully. Only until we make a commitment to moving forward in our trading, followed up by action, will we cease to cover up our natural strengths and intelligence. Time to stop sacrificing your vision, goals and inspiration on the altar of excuses.
If you find yourself hesitating when your system gives you a trade setup, or using improper money-management, or making excuses for filling out your trade journal, or over-reacting to a large loss (or a series of wins), the remedy out of this is a simple two-fold process of;
1) applying awareness, and
2) taking action
Both of which I am going to give some steps to help you with during trading.
As many of you who have read my bio know, I have been practicing yoga/meditation now for over 11 years. I have been long wanting to share the practices which I use everyday to build focus, concentration and awareness for my day (especially trading). They are tools, like the stone which sharpens the blade to cut with greater and greater precision, and they have been invaluable for my trading.
I am going to give one simple technique all of you can apply either before your trading day begins (ideal) or when you are in the more challenging moments during trading where your mind seems to fail you.
Oftentimes, energy can become constricted in your dome (head) if we focus our energy too tightly. Perhaps you have felt it, but when it occurs, it is like having blinders on. In these moments our awareness is dull and often foggy at best. Even sounds become less vivid as we listen too much on the 'sounds in our head'. We are cut off from our natural intelligence in these moments so it is important to apply a remedy.
Either before your trading day (not too long before the start, but after you have showered and perhaps eaten), or in the middle of your trading day, relax your eyes and focus them on the space in front of you. NOT the objects in front of you, but the space in front of you (different quality). Breath through your nose only and begin to slow your breath. While keeping your head stationary, slowly, gently and with little effort, move your eyes slowly up and down, and side to side. Relax your effort to focus the eyes allowing the movement to be slow and gentle. Do this for about 30 seconds to a minute without any thoughts about what its doing or whether you are doing it right.
Then, begin to bring a gentle awareness to your throat to where the awareness of your throat and breath begin to merge. It will almost seem like you are breathing directly into your throat. As you do, feel a sense of light building there. Do this for a few minutes till you feel the area relax a bit. As this builds, visualize it expanding down into your heart and upward into your brain. You will likely feel this relaxing both areas as you do this, keeping your breath calm and steady. Lastly, as these areas begin to relax, let the awareness in your heart settle down into your belly, while the awareness in your head/brain move towards the space between your eyes. Be gentle with your awareness and breath as you do this, again, not worrying if you are doing it correctly. You can do this for about 5-10 minutes each day, either before you start trading or when your mind feels constricted.
What Does This Do For You?
More than anything trading is done mostly with our mind/brain and it is very easy during all the analysis and thinking we do, for the energy to become constricted. By doing this exercise, relaxing your breath helps to calm your mind and actually shift your brainwaves to a more relaxed state. This opens the doors for awareness to come into our thinking. It is where we begin to notice the emotions, thoughts and excuses which cause us to hesitate, to not fill out our journal, or do the things we know will help us move forward.
We then shift the awareness to our throats, because it is the gateway between our heart and mind. This helps us balance the energy between the two, which in turn allows our goals, intention and vision to manifest in our actions. It connects our intelligence with our intention, and short-circuits any excuses or hesitation from coming into play.
By expanding this to our gut, this allows us to connect with our intuition (ever heard the phrase, 'I felt it in my gut'?). This helps us spot opportunities we may normally miss while strengthening all the patterns and time we have spent studying the charts.
And lastly, by extending this to the spot between our eyes, we sharpen our concentration and bring a more lively awareness to our trading. It gives us a more refined sense of what is happening in the charts as we are reading the price action. It allows us to see not just a pattern, but what is behind that which is creating the pattern. It allows us to reflect the price action in market naturally without any bias or thought of profit, thus seeing it clearly, allowing us to spot the opportunities and making good trades.
This is part one of a series on awareness, breaking through negative habits and developing concentration in your trading.
I thank you for reading this article and welcome your comments and feedback.