Existential psychotherapists point out that people experience fear and anxiety when they think about, and regret, their past mistakes, or when they worry about an uncertain future. The antidote: Experience the moment. Focus on the process of living in the here-and-now. Seasoned traders describe a similar experience when they enter “the zone.” There’s a point where a trader isn’t worried about past mistakes or future profits.
All one’s attention and energy are focused on the current trade. When they are in this optimal mental state, they achieve a higher level of existence. They are more in touch with their instincts. They see the markets and their trades more clearly and are intensely aware of their feelings, sensibilities, and judgments. They can review a multitude of details, and can effortlessly identify the key factors that are likely to drive market action. Moving into this higher level of awareness during a trade can greatly increase one’s chances of success. It’s useful to learn how to move into this peak performance state.
How does one live in the moment? Perhaps the first step is just intellectually considering the existentialists’ proposition that anxiety is sometimes a matter of focusing on, and mulling over, the past, or worrying about the future. When you consider it, it seems reasonable to think that if one could just forget about the past and avoid thinking about the future, one will live in the present. It seems unrealistic and perhaps a little reckless, however, since it is often prudent to both learn from past mistakes and to make sure you avoid potential adverse events. But again, when you do so, it takes you out of the moment.
You start to analyze and remove yourself from the ongoing experience rather than enjoying it. In contrast, trying to stay in the moment will keep you focused on the trade. And by focusing all your energy on the trade of the moment, you will reach that higher level of awareness where you’ll see the market more clearly and be able to run through all possibilities at lightning speed.
These concepts sound good in theory, but how does one put these ideas into practice? Well, first it may all depend on how many past conflicts you have in the back of your mind and your self-esteem. If you are unsure of your abilities, it’s hard not to worry about the future, especially when you are facing extreme pressure in the midst of a trade. If you are easily shaken by uncertainty and stress, your mind will tend to wander toward your past mistakes and regrets and you’ll tend to question your ability to control your destiny. But, if on the other hand, you are especially confident, you are not likely to be troubled by your past, and can more easily live in the moment.
That said, it may be extremely difficult for some people to live in the moment for very long, or to stay there and completely cast aside all past regrets or worries about the future. One can strive to reach this state of existence for a short time, however, at least long enough to evaluate a trade and take decisive action. The first step is to monitor one’s thoughts and identify instances where one is mulling over the past. The second step is to actively try to push such thoughts out of one’s awareness. For example, one may think, “I wish I didn’t lose so much money on my last trade,” or “I’m frustrated that I’ve had so many losing trades.” One may think these thoughts throughout the day and it’s difficult to just shut them out.
But it is definitely possible to put them aside for about an hour, while you monitor trade and decide what action to take next. One may similarly worry about the future: “I wonder if I will keep losing or will I finally make huge gains?” After one is aware of the kinds of thoughts that indicate one is mulling over the past or worrying about the future, such thoughts can be pushed aside temporarily. It may be necessary to yell “stop” or think, “Don’t think about that right now; I can consider these issues later after I’m done evaluating my trade.” Now, using these strategies won’t put you in that ideal mental state where you are completely in the moment, but it will help you get to a mental state that is close to the ideal. It may take some practice, but you can eventually reach this mental state (and if you have some difficulty, always consider the possibility of seeking out some professional help from a trading coach).
The best traders are not self-conscious about their mistakes. They don’t regret past mistakes or worry about the future. They live in the moment. You can also live in the moment if you practice cultivating the proper mindset. When you reach this peak level of experience, you’ll not only be more profitable, you will enjoy trading, and find it to be fulfilling in its own right.