Monday, June 17, 2019

Trading Psychology Techniques - 9: Conquering Negativity

The past three posts in this series have dealt with building self-awareness; facing trading fears and anxieties; and overcoming frustration and anger.  In this post, we will tackle negative thinking patterns and how these can be turned around.

The first principle and most important practice is to live a positive life outside of your trading.  It is impossible to sustain an optimistic and constructive mindset during trading if what you are reinforcing during your other hours is negative.  If you take a look at the recent Forbes posting, you'll notice a non-traditional take on the recent Father's Day holiday.  The idea is to turn the holiday into a positive emotional experience by widening its meaning.  This is something that can be done in many areas of life.  Spending time with friends, relationship partners, family, and colleagues is great, but how can we make this time truly fun, inspiring, and meaningful?  As I point out in the book that I am currently writing (due out during the summer), the key is avoiding routine and seeking experiences that are special.

How can we possibly turn our thoughts and behaviors around if we are stuck in a life of routine?

The cognitive approach to conquering negativity is especially powerful.  That requires building the self-awareness to recognize when you are talking to yourself in ways that are not helpful and constructive.  As I've mentioned in my books, a great way to reinforce that self-awareness is to regularly ask yourself, "Would I be talking to someone else I cared about who is in my situation the same way that I'm talking to myself?"  This is helpful, because it reframes our thought patterns as conversations.  Very often, if we view our thoughts as ways that we're talking to ourselves, we can see that the conversations are negative and serve no constructive function.

Once we can recognize the negative thinking patterns, we want to tune into their destructive consequences.  By reminding ourselves that this kind of thinking robs us of energy, takes away our focus, and causes us to be less productive and creative in generating ideas, we gain the ability to become angry at our own negativity.  This is a very important principle.  We are most likely to change a pattern when we view it as an adversary: as something that stands in the way of our happiness and success.  Reminding ourselves of the consequences of our negative self-talk helps us marshal the energy to engage in a much more helpful processing of our situation.

That sequence--recognize negativity, challenge negativity, replace negativity with more constructive self-talk--can become a positive habit pattern if repeated multiple times per day for many days.  Yes, of course, negative thoughts will pop into your head, but you'll be able to quickly smack them down if you immediate recognize their consequences and generate more helpful ways to view the situation.  In my own trading, I turn negative thoughts into learning thoughts.  If each of my losses and mistakes can teach me something--something about me, something about markets--then I can actually value my mistakes and stay positive in the face of temporary drawdown.

Negative things always happen in life.  The resilient person doesn't internalize those setbacks.  Setbacks exist for a reason, and we can turn them into fuel for our personal development and the development of our trading.