Friday, April 30, 2010

Core Ideas in Trading Psychology: Solution-Focused Change

One of the key themes running through the TraderFeed blog, as well as the books that I've written on trading psychology, is that effective change comes from building on positive patterns of thoughts and behavior. We can think of these as "solution patterns", as opposed to the "problem patterns" that typically become the focus of coaching and counseling efforts.

The essence of the solution-focused approach is that we can often find the answers to our problems by looking at instances in which those problems are not occurring. For instance, if a trader who is troubled by a problem of overtrading exercises good restraint on a particular day, we would try to find out how he accomplished that. We would examine his preparation for the market day, his efforts to guide his decision-making with rules, his thought process while positions were on, etc. Out of this examination, we can figure out what he did right: what works for him. By crystallizing those positive actions into solution patterns, we can do more of what works and begin to build new, positive habit patterns.

The value of the solution focused method is that it does not impose answers from the outside: it builds upon the existing strengths of the trader. The key idea is that, in some ways, at some times, we trade well: we do not fall into problem patterns and instead enact the skills that define who we are when we are at our best. This requires a major mind shift for many traders: they are so focused on their problem patterns that they never note their strengths. And if they aren't aware of what they are doing right and how they're doing it, how can they hope to build on those competencies?

This is why it is valuable, in keeping trading journals, to identify clearly what you are doing well as well as what you need to improve. By turning positive trading behaviors into forward-looking goals, we build on strengths and move ourselves closer to our ideals.

For more on solution-focused methods, check out The Daily Trading Coach and the posts on Focusing on Trading Solutions and this post (and its links) on Becoming Solution Focused.