A common complaint of novice traders is that they can’t stick with their trading plan. They wonder why, and after they think about it long enough, they come up with fanciful explanations. For example, they start believing a motive to self-sabotage their efforts lies behind their failures. They may also start to think, “Maybe I secretly don’t deserve success.” Most traders, though, underestimate the power of the little things that get in the way.
Specifically, they underestimate how much psychological and physical energy it takes to trade, or they don’t appreciate how much practice it takes to follow a trading plan. And even though they think they are striving for modest goals, they stymie themselves by trying to reach unrealistic standards. For many novice traders, secret, unconscious motives are not at the root of the problem. They merely forget to appreciate how little things can get in the way.
When you can’t seem to follow your plan, try looking at the little things that may interfere. Perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep or maybe you are hungry. Don’t believe me? Try sleeping extra time just for a week. Decide to miss part of the trading day for a week, and see what a difference it makes. Extra sleep can increase your ability to stay alert and will give you the extra energy you need to focus on your plan. You may need to change your life around and get to sleep earlier so that your biological clock is in a different time zone. Get the sleep you need, no matter what it takes.
Trading is stressful, and coping with stress requires psychological energy, and psychological energy is more limited than most people think. Getting angry, frustrated, or even disappointed, saps up precious psychological energy. Don’t discount the impact of stress on the depletion of psychological energy.
After stress depletes psychological energy, you need to replenish it before you can once again concentrate fully. When you are tired, and the market seems to move against you, it’s hard not to want to just take a break. A tired, worn-out feeling often lies below the surface of your awareness. You may think you are rested and alert, but you are not. Get rested, and you will be able to focus on sticking with your plan.
Sticking with a trading plan takes practice. Does this seem like an exaggeration? It isn’t. Just like practising a tennis swing, you have to learn to concentrate. You must practice focusing on your ongoing experience and controlling your emotions, and this takes practice. It isn’t easy. Your money is on the line and a little bit of your ego, so you can’t expect to be able to stay calm, alert, and focused without a lot of practice.
So when you can’t believe you’ve abandoned your plan once again, don’t jump to the conclusion that a secret, unconscious motive for self-sabotage lies at the root of your problem. It may just be a matter of reducing stress levels, getting plenty of sleep, and allowing yourself to develop the ability to practice following a trading plan.