Thursday, May 09, 2019

Trading Psychology Techniques - 3: Managing Your Energy

In the first post in this series, we took a look at the do's and don'ts of creating an effective trading journal.  The second post examined the importance of testing our trading ideas and truly understanding our edge in markets.  When you are on a productive learning curve and when you trade with an edge you understand, you are able to trade with energy and enthusiasm.  Yes, it's important to manage our risk and it's important to manage positions.  In our personal lives, it's important to manage our time and manage our homes and our savings.  Few of these things, however, provide us with energy and inspiration.  It's surprising how few people have reliable processes for managing and growing their energy.

Why is this important?

Energy is one of four key components of positive emotional experience.  The other three are happiness (doing what we enjoy); fulfillment (doing what we find meaningful); and relationships (doing things that bond us to those we care about).  It is difficult to imagine experiencing well-being without a good measure of energy and enthusiasm.  Indeed, research suggests that we are most likely to succeed at work and experience good health if we enjoy a high degree of well-being.

Energy comes from multiple sources:  intellectual stimulation; physical exercise; optimism and inspiration; novel experience; and more.  In a very important sense, energy comes from those other dimensions of joy, fulfillment, and connectedness.  When we are energized, we are most alert, most mentally switched-on, and most able to process information broadly, quickly, and deeply.  It is very difficult to be at our cognitive peak if we are run-down, bored, or otherwise in low energy states.

Perhaps most important of all, it is when we are energized that we have greatest access to our strengths in all areas of life.  Can we truly expect to succeed at trading if we are operating in less than fully energized states?

And yet that is often what I observe:  Traders become so concerned about not losing money, about poor performance, and about trading mistakes that their self-talk becomes profoundly de-energizing.  Think about it:  how often does your trading journal inspire and energize you?  How often is your self-talk during trading breaks optimistic and enthusiastic?  How often are you trading in states of high mental energy (concentration, focus) and high physical energy (aerobic fitness)?  Many times we have processes that guide us in risk management and trade entries/exits, but not in processes that keep us in the right state for peak performance.

A process that manages and maximizes our energy would include at least five components:

*  Ways of taking breaks from trading that keep us alert and renewed;
*  Ways of preparing for trading that keep us positively and constructively focused;
*  Ways of interacting with other traders that keep us informed and inspired;
*  Ways of using our time outside trading to do things that excite and interest us;
*  Ways of using our time outside trading to stay physically fit and energized.

How many of these five cylinders are you firing on from day-to-day, week-to-week?

If re-reading your trading journals and re-viewing your trading day doesn't energize you, you know you're operating outside your peak performance zone.

Further Reading: