Saturday, July 08, 2017

Beyond Coping: The Inspiration Mindset

Let's consider a key distinction:  Being in a coping mindset versus being in an inspiration mindset.

The coping mindset is problem focused.  It means tackling a difficult, stressful, and/or unpleasant situation and getting through to completion.  The focus of a coping mindset is getting past a negative; getting through a disagreeable challenge.  Coping mindset is what we experience during a subway delay or during an interminable contentious business meeting.  Coping mindset is also what we experience when we have chores to tackle at home, responsibilities with family, and a backlog of demands from work.  

The inspiration mindset is different.  Whereas coping takes energy, inspiration gives energy.  Inspiration is value focused.  It follows from engaging in a meaningful activity, immersing ourselves in a greater vision or purpose.  The focus of an inspiration mindset is appreciating a positive, finding affirmation through our actions and/or experiences.  Inspiration is what we experience when we encounter a breathtaking vista or when we achieve a meaningful goal.  The inspiration mindset is also what we experience when we find closeness in our relationships and a sense of purpose in our work.

Very often the same activities can be undertaken in a coping mindset or in an inspiration mindset.  Performing physical exercise could be experienced as coping with an unpleasant, demanding routine or as a valued development of your capabilities.  Going to work or tackling your trading could be an exercise in coping with threats and frustrations or it could be an opportunity to make a meaningful difference and achieve new and better things.  A marriage can be something we cope with to avoid conflicts, or it could reflect a deep emotional, spiritual, and physical fulfillment.

During periods of flat performance or drawdown in markets, trading can feel like an exercise in coping.  I recognize this when I speak with traders and hear nothing of the excitement, challenge, discovery, and growth that initially attracted them to markets.  It is like speaking to a person who was once in love and now copes with a relationship that has lost its romantic spark.  The trader may choose to work on problem A, B, or C, but it's all just different deck chairs on the Titanic.  The problem is not A,B,or C, but the devolution to the coping level.  The problem is the absence of inspiration:  the way in which trading has become divorced from value, meaning, and purpose.

Traders who sustain an inspiration mindset find value and meaning in markets above and beyond recent performance.  They discover new opportunities through research; they learn new things in their professional networks; they benefit from developing teams and mentoring up and coming talent; they use their trading as a way to develop themselves as people.  To sustain an inspiration mindset means figuring out how to make negative P/L days winning days in process terms.  

Coping and inspiration mindsets are self-reinforcing.  Others respond to the energy we project.  If we come across as inspired, others are attracted to the meaning and fulfillment we radiate.  If we are absorbed in coping, our negative vibe will attract a very different tribe.

What will inspire your day today?  Your week?  Coping is far better than not coping, but there is much more to life than getting through tasks and burdens.  You know you're on the right path when you find meaningful, energizing ways of tackling unpleasant responsibilities and challenges.