Saturday, May 21, 2016

Leaving Your Comfort Zone and Entering the Performance Zone

We've all heard about performing "in the zone", that state of being in which we are so absorbed in our activity that we lose self-awareness and awareness of things around us.  This has been called the flow state, and it's been linked to creativity and emotional well-being.  When we perform in the zone, we operate in a different state of mind and body--an altered state of consciousness.  We enter that state as the result of intense, sustained concentration fueled by deep interest.

Therein lies the challenge for traders.  What we do to stay in our comfort zones keeps us out of the performance zone.  We cannot stay in our usual states of mind and hope to be unusually focused and in flow.  Our normal states of mind are not optimal states of mind:  we are too distracted, too self-focused, too broadly aware to be deeply aware.

To be sure, those normal states of mind are useful for normal living.  Broad awareness and high sensitivity to events around us can be useful when we're driving a car or navigating party conversations.  Normal life does not call for immersion and optimal performance, and normal life becomes our norm--what becomes our comfort zone.

We prepare for trading by studying market patterns, and we prepare for trading by writing in journals, creating our plans, and anticipating market scenarios.  Rarely, however, do we prepare for trading by preparing our state of awareness.  If we don't train ourselves to sustain flow states in our preparation, can we really expect to access them in the heat of market activity?

In coming weeks, I will be revisiting biofeedback as a training tool for preparing the day's trading.  The idea is to train ourselves to sustain focused awareness during our market preparation so that we are more likely to achieve that focus during the day's activity.  It may be the case that brain training is the best psychological training of all, enabling us to operate in the zone more consistently and for longer periods of time.  More to come re: this project.

Further Reading:  Three Uses for Biofeedback in Trading