Saturday, October 12, 2019

Our Experience Is Who We Become

Riding on the plane on the way to Las Vegas and the Traders4ACause gathering, I had an interesting thought that I quickly tweeted:  What if all our usual assumptions about coaching, counseling, therapy, and psychology miss something essential?  What if the most important thing is not to use our thoughts, actions, and insights to change how we feel?  Rather, what if emotion itself is our gateway to change?  What if our feeling states are what we internalize over time?  

A lot of things begin to make sense if this is the case.  It's why psychological change has been linked to "corrective emotional experiences", for example, and why traumas can be so life changing.  We internalize our experience, which explains why the quality of home life is so important in a child's development.  

In the most recent Forbes article, I review fascinating new research in what is called "prospection":  our ability to connect our present selves with our futures.  It turns out that some of us are relatively "farsighted":  we are able to live our present lives in ways that connect deeply to our future.  Others are more "nearsighted", making short-term decisions that never build their desired future.  As the article explains, it's our emotional connection to the future that enables us to operate in farsighted ways.

So let's put these two ideas together:  1) we become our experience; and 2) our connection to the future enables us to achieve it.  I suspect it's a bit of what Ayn Rand had in mind when she noted that anyone who fights for the future lives in it today.  To achieve a positive, successful, fulfilling future, we must experience those things today--and each day.  The future is like a beautiful building:  once it is visioned, it is assembled stone by stone, wall by wall.  Too often, we fail to build our future because we're not spending our days laying bricks.

If this is correct, much of traditional trading psychology is wrongfooted.  It's not simply the negative emotions we tend to emphasize--fear, greed, and frustration--that undermine performance.  Rather, it's psychological nearsightedness.  In focusing on processes, discipline, and short-term performance, we fail to emotionally connect to our futures.  Take a look at your trading journals; take a look at your conversations about your trading and about markets:  How much fulfillment is expressed?  How much accomplishment?  How much excitement and enthusiasm over learning and discovery?

Identify all your communications about your trading:  from your self-talk to your journals to your conversations with others.  The emotional tone of those communications is what you are in the process of becoming.  Each piece of self-talk, each journal entry, each conversation is a brick you're laying in the structure that is tomorrow.  Can we truly expect to internalize success and satisfaction if those aren't daily parts of our experience?  How ironic it is that we spend our time worrying about "missing out" on trades when that is precisely the kind of preoccupation that misses out on our future.

Further Reading: