Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Three Life Problems That Can Become Trading Problems

In my work with traders, I've found that life problems that spill over into trading mostly fall within three groups:

1) Mood Problems - This is where problems with anger, anxiety, depression, and other mood states interfere with aspects of life outside of trading, but also sometimes get in the way of trading decisions. Simply tweaking one's trading will not address the underlying problem if this is the case; profits in markets cannot be counted upon to compensate for negative feelings--or negative feelings about oneself. Often, professional help can be quite useful, particularly if self-help efforts fall short.

2) Problems With Addictive Behaviors - Here is where difficulties with gambling, drinking, and drug use can also manifest themselves in trading. A number of people with addictive problems also have mood problems and, in some cases, the addictive behaviors are an attempt to cope with disruptive moods. Similarly, traders can put on positions more to regulate their emotional states than to objectively capture supply and demand in the marketplace. This is another area where professional help can be essential.

3) Problems With Attention Span and Impulse Control - Sometimes people are prone to distractions across a variety of situations. That makes it difficult to plan actions and follow intentions. This can show up as getting behind in chores at home, being disorganized with time and responsibilities at work, and as impulsivity in decision making. Many traders who have trouble sticking to rules and plans experience similar lapses elsewhere in life. Biofeedback and medication help can be helpful when the problems reach levels where self-help efforts at time management and organization fall short.

In these situations, it makes sense for traders to not assume that reading books and chatting with coaches will solve their problems. Sometimes problems have biological and psychological roots that require more directed intervention. If self-help has failed, it may be because other forms of help are needed. I encourage traders to evaluate themselves as objectively as possible; great things are possible once you're freed up to simply trade markets as you see and understand them!