Monday, March 08, 2021

Should High Achieving Traders Try To Live A Balanced Life?

A developing trader with a real passion for markets recently asked me about the psychological benefits of a "balanced life".  I'm sure he noticed, as I have, that many of the most successful traders put an unusual amount of time and effort into their work.  Is that setting them up for burnout, however, or undue stress during periods of drawdown?

It's an issue that I am intimately familiar with, as I typically wake up quite early in the morning and often work into the evening, including on weekends.  I have multiple work responsibilities--teaching in a medical school, working with traders from different firms, and helping college students who are doing overseas internships--and I have a wonderful family to keep up with.  On top of that, I'm taking several courses and writing a book.  Time is tight.  Sometimes too tight!

Do I have a balanced life?  In one sense, no, if we measure balance in terms of hours per week.  In another sense, my time spent with family, in my marriage, in learning, and at work provide real variety.  Per the quote above, I seek a balance among my passions; I don't balance time.

A large body of research in the field of positive psychology finds that we perform best, feel best, and are physically healthiest when we maximize our well-being.  Psychological well-being comes from doing things that make us happy; doing things that are meaningful to us; doing things that give us energy; and doing things that bring us closer to those that we care about.

We want to be firing on all four of those cylinders frequently every week, preferably every single day.  If we balance our passions in that way, we're most likely to broaden our sources of well-being and make ourselves as fulfilled and productive as possible.  If you're looking to balance your work life, the best place to start is maximizing non-work passions.

I've often pointed out that trading has to fit into our lives; our time can't be hostage to markets.  If all we have in life is trading, we will feel empty, stressed, and depressed when trading isn't paying off.  When we cultivate multiple passions, we always have things in our lives that keep us energized and engaged.  

What in your life sustains you outside of markets?

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