Thursday, August 20, 2020

What We Do Shapes How We Feel


The Rabbi makes a profound point:  Our joy supports our thinking.  When we are downhearted, can we really focus on opportunity?  When we are joyful, will we really become wrapped up in short-term P/L and missed trades?  We tend to think that trading well will make us happy.  But what if happiness helps us trade well?

A fascinating study finds that even just simulating the act of smiling leads us to feel happier.  What our muscles do, our minds process.  "When your muscles say you're happy, you're more likely to see the world around you in a positive way," the study author reports.  There are houses of worship where prayer is interwoven with dancing, singing, and clapping of hands.  We see the same thing during weddings.  Could it be that the physical acts of celebration help us internalize a celebratory frame of mind?

We know from psychological research that positive emotional experience helps us process information more broadly and more effectively.  Research also finds that positive experience also helps us be more productive and is associated with enhanced physical health.  What if active expressions of joy, fulfillment, love, and energy actually contribute to our positivity?

This has important implications for trading psychology.  What we express with our bodies may shape the quality of our mindsets and experience.  Think of what you're expressing during your trading, during your meetings with peers, and during your reviews.  Perhaps you're not expressing very much at all in your body language, your tone of voice, etc.  How might such a lack of expression impact your experience?  Perhaps it's not a coincidence that the interns I see learning so well at SMB are so physically expressive in their enthusiasm.

What our bodies do may shape what we experience--and that can either strengthen our common sense or disrupt it.  Cognitive psychology emphasizes that our viewing impacts our doing:  how we process events shapes how we experience and respond to them.  But perhaps it's equally true that our doing shapes our viewing:  what our bodies do shapes our feelings and thoughts.  Could a restricted range of physical activity and expression create limitations in our states of awareness?  

Think about team meetings in most workplaces.  Think about the environment on most trading floors.  Think about how much energy, joy, and satisfaction you give visible expression to during your trading.  Too often, our image of behavior that is "professional" does not permit such expressions.  Could it be, that in our pursuit of the professional, we never find the common sense that is strengthened by joy?

Further Reading:  Radical Renewal