Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Positivity and Creating the Right Life Mirrors

In my recent post on quality of life and the pursuit of trading excellence, I suggested that the quality of our downtime--our time away from markets--is a key component of trading performance.  The example I used was creativity:  a process which blends the immersion in analysis with the mind-broadening of synthesis.  It turns out, by the way, that positive emotional experience enhances creativity--and creativity leads to further positive experience.  The quality of our time away from work is an important contributor to the quality of our work.

Responding to that recent post, Bella from SMB posted an important query of traders:  What would you like to spend more time doing?  He offers his own list, including meaningful social experiences, reading stimulating books and articles, and fitness activities.  The common thread is that each of these is an activity that gives energy.  Sometimes that is raw physical energy, as in getting pumped up during a workout.  Other times it is emotional energy, as in connecting with loved ones.  Low quality activities either take energy or fail to renew our vitality.  We may feel like couch potatoes after a hard day at work and plop down in front of the TV, but rarely is that going to tap us into fresh energy stores.

One of my most important blog posts made the point that we are what we eat--and we are always "eating" life experience.  Our daily experiences are what we consume moment to moment.  Sometimes we have a nutritious meal of experience, inspiring us, challenging us, extending what we thought possible.  Other times, our experience is a kind of junk food.  Jotting down your activities each hour of each day and rating them for their quality is a great way to ascertain the value of your time at work and away from work.  The right activities will generate positive experience--indeed, they are positive ways of experiencing yourself differently.  The wrong activities--being with the wrong people, engaging in meaningless routines--are poor fuel for the soul and ultimately fail to catalyze our best life efforts.

A personal tradition is to start each morning with meaningful experiences as a way of setting the tone for the entire day.  Today I woke up around 3:30 AM--not an atypical start.  How did I start the day?  Not with looking at or trading markets, not with checking my mail, not with glancing at overnight news.  Eventually I get to all of those things.  But I started today by saying good morning to my four cats, who wake up with me.  They hang out together in our great room (see above) and each morning I pet them, greet them, feed them, fetch them fresh water, and clean their litter.  It is my way of welcoming the day by making an emotional connection and by tapping into a bit of servant leadership.  It is difficult to feel too important or too full of yourself when you are serving animals and cleaning their litter boxes.  But it's precisely connectedness and leading-by-serving that make me who I am as a psychologist and trading coach.  That gets me up and going early in the morning, fueling the day ahead; not any alarm clock.

Everything in life is a mirror:  a way of experiencing ourselves.  Some experiences reflect the best within us; others fail to connect.  Our work time is a key component of life success.  What fuels work time, however, are the mirroring experiences that remind us of who we are and what we're capable of becoming.

Further Reading:  How to Change Yourself