Making profits is often a matter of thinking and feeling like a winner. In their book, “The Mental Edge,” Kenneth Baum and Richard Trubo (1999) argue that tapping into your history of success can put you in a winning mindset.

When trying to maximize your performance, it’s useful to set your sights high. “The more you expect from yourself, the more you will achieve. Modest expectations produce modest results,” according to Baum and Trubo. The images that come into your mind dictate your expectations. A baseball player who tries for a home run is more likely to do better than a player hoping to merely hit the ball to first base.

Similarly, if you don’t expect to see a profitable opportunity during the trading day, you won’t. On the other hand, if you think optimistically, you’ll reach your potential: “If I study the markets carefully enough, I’ll find at least one way to make a profit today.” As a trader, your goal should always be to reach your potential. That isn’t the same thing as unrealistically thinking you’ll make a 500% return on your money on any given day if you are a novice trader, but achieving your peak performance, whatever it is, each and every day.

Not everyone has the same abilities. It doesn’t make sense for an amateur golfer to think that he or she can play like Tiger Woods. And it isn’t realistic to think that an average trader can approach the success of a “Market Wizard.” But whatever your skill level is, you should try to maximize it. For some, that may just mean putting on a few small trades a day to develop an intuitive feel for the markets. For others, it may mean making $1,000 a day. The main point is to maximize your performance. Try to achieve a level of performance that exemplifies the best that you can be.

When you strive to be your best, your confidence increases. Suddenly, you’re enthusiastic and ready to achieve success. Baum and Trubo suggest using positive mental imagery to put you in the proper, optimal mood. They call this mental imagery task the “Success History Search.” Here’s how it works: Close your eyes. Let yourself relax. Now think of a recent time when you’ve accomplished something important, a task you’re proud of. It could be a recent winning trade. Or it could be an athletic event you won recently.

Perhaps it’s a big business deal you closed, or even an A+ you received on a test in college. It could have happened yesterday or 10 years ago. The main issue, however, is that the event you remember should provide a clear image that inspires you, an event that makes you feel good about yourself, and makes you feel that you can do anything. Focus on the image. Try to remember the positive, optimistic thoughts that were running through your mind. Allow yourself to feel good about the experience. Remember how it felt like to win. Soon, you’ll find that you become optimistic, focused, and ready for action.

Use the Success History Search before you start the trading day or when you are about to execute a trade. If you find that replaying just one winning accomplishment isn’t enough, replay two or three until you cultivate a winning attitude. Images are powerful. By remembering vivid images of past successes, you’ll feel optimistic and ready to master the markets.

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