If we had a choice, we would all want to become an overnight success. But unless you win the lottery, it is unlikely that you will become wealthy that quickly. If you are like most traders, it will take much longer, and psychologically, you should be ready to put in the effort. Don’t get your hopes up. Many traders set themselves up for disappointment by setting unrealistic goals. They assume they can trade profitably in a matter of months, but seasoned traders emphasize that mastering the markets may take several years. If you are realistic about what you can actually achieve, you’ll stay optimistic and persist in a field where less than 5% survive the learning curve.


Success requires that you set specific goals. Many people make the mistake of setting vague, non-specific goals. It is useful to set modest and specific goals and reward yourself as you make progress. Goals don’t necessarily need to focus on profits. It may be more useful to set goals regarding the development of skills. For example, break down the larger goal into specific steps, or sub-goals, that is within your ability to achieve.

For example, a learning goal may be stating, “I’m going to study for 30 hours a week to learn a new trading technique.” You may also decide to study charts for three hours a day or read one new trading book a week. The specific goal will not immediately lead to the larger goal of meeting a specific profit objective per month, but it is easy to achieve. As you complete each sub-goal, you’ll naturally feel a sense of satisfaction after jumping each small hurdle.

As you develop your skills, you can gradually reach for higher and higher goals. Your progress may be slow at first, but over time, you’ll make significant progress. The key is to avoid trying to do too much. Take it slow. Work at your own speed and according to your own timeline. Don’t make it a race. The only person you need to please is you. If you set goals realistically and strive to achieve them with the resolution, you’ll master the markets, and achieve enduring financial success.

To many, this approach may seem counterintuitive. Don’t successful people think big? Big dreams can be a powerful motivator, but there’s a huge difference between lofty unrealistic dreams and specific ambitious goals that one strives to achieve with a methodical and detailed plan.

Big dreams are not always the best goals to set. Here’s why. You may not have the experience or skills to reach a goal that exceeds your abilities. For example, would you try to run a 20-mile marathon if you could not even run a mile? Of course not. So why make such high and lofty trading goals until you have the requisite knowledge and skills? Psychological studies show that it is the way one goes about achieving a high-level goal that matters.

When you set high goals that exceed your skills, you usually fail, feel discouraged, and feel like giving up. It’s useful to distinguish performance goals from learning goals. Setting realistic goals can make all the difference. When you set goals that are within your grasp, you’ll achieve them, feel good about your progress, and keep building up your trading skills. If you keep working, slowly but surely, you’ll be one of the few who eventually become a master trader.

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