Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Overcoming Stubbornness as a Trader

A reader notices that he has been fading strong moves, much to the detriment of his account. What can he do to stop himself from being stubborn?

Many times stubbornness comes from trying to be right: investing one's ego in catching market highs or lows. Sometimes that stubbornness comes from missing a market move and then fading that move just to be proven "right".

The opposite of stubbornness is accepting losses and the inevitability of losses. If you mentally prepare yourself for losing, you will be maximally flexible in exiting losing positions and getting into good ones.

You emotionally prepare yourself for losing by not just viewing stop loss points as price or time levels, but as concrete action plans. You want to mentally rehearse those plans--actually visualize yourself taking those losses if the stops are hit. If you make yourself familiar with a scenario and make yourself cope with it and accept it, it will lose much of its threat value.

It helps to view every trade idea as a hypothesis, not a fixed opinion or conclusion. If you frame a trade idea as a hypothesis, you immediately open yourself to the possibility of the hypothesis being wrong. That helps you plan "what-if" scenarios for how you would respond if the hypothesis is not supported. Similarly, the what-if scenarios can help you become more aggressive in trades that do find market support.

Developing traders should trade small enough that inevitable losses won't hurt the account too badly. If you make losing painful, you'll try to avoid losing...and that will keep you in bad trades well beyond any rational stop level.