Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cross-Talk: Perfectionism and Trading

I've written on the topic of goal setting and what the research says works best when setting goals. Surprisingly, many traders go from day to day without structuring goals for their trading. They don't review what they've done, so they have no ongoing way of learning from their experience.

One powerful prod to development is turning setbacks into goals. Each time you trade poorly, you structure a learning experience that can move you forward in the future. By treating your mistakes as opportunities, you can sustain both learning and enthusiasm. "Each bad trade is here to teach me something," is a healthy attitude that accepts fallibility, while not settling for it.

Perhaps the greatest enemy of such an attitude is perfectionism. If traders hold themselves to perfectionistic standards, it is not acceptable to fall short. Shortcomings are treated as failure experiences, not learning ones. Few people appreciate that perfectionism is actually a channeling of anger: self-directed anger. Perfectionism is not directed toward constructive self-improvement. It is designed to yield self-beratement.

Traders can hardly be expected to sustain learning and enthusiasm while filling their heads and hearts with the message: "That's not good enough!"

Abnormal Returns has recently posted on the topic of perfectionism. The post makes clear that perfectionism pushes traders to be right, not necessarily to trade well. So much of traders' success comes from learning to lose money the right way. It is difficult to learn to take losses, however, if those losses are unacceptable.

In accepting that we are less than perfect, we open the door to becoming more than who we are.