Trading can be defined in a number of ways. For example, “A transfer of funds from those who do not know what they are doing and have little emotional management, to the accounts of those who do know what they are doing and are exercising strong emotional management.” Or “Trading is a journey in self discovery” and “Trading is an art and must be practiced like practicing the medical arts or practicing law or any other endeavor that requires a high level of proficiency.” Furthermore, like medicine and law, the attentive, attuned and serious trader understands that you must approach the markets from a position of continuous learning (both about the markets and more importantly about yourself). But, learning does not occur in any enduring fashion unless it is sparked by curiosity. When that spark is not present, people approach their training and education as a purely academic exercise without ardent application. In this scenario the training and education last for a while, but without commitment, the novice trader soon stops using the new tools and concepts. They gradually forget them, often beginning with the principles and concepts which made the training seem so worthwhile in the first place. You must approach your trading and education as the “leader” of yourself, as your own personal supervisor in the pursuit of success.
Learning is related to your personal purpose and vision. If you resonate with this concept then you will do whatever you can to keep learning alive (as in the use of feedback loops, documentation and measurement tools to track progress). This has to do with both mechanical data (the mechanics of trading in the markets), and as well internal data (thoughts, emotions and behaviors that drive trading results) in order to maintain the critical balance between the two as the trader moves forward and evolves. The curiosity driven pursuit of learning and skill-building which is tied to a personal purpose and vision is “intrinsic motivation.” This process of getting the results you want is not driven by money but by a desire to gain mastery over what it takes to be consistently successful…where success is defined as an unwavering commitment to and follow-through of trade planning and rule based protocols. This mastery is also akin to personal leadership of your own actions. In other words, you are guided by your purpose and goals in the pursuit of personal mastery ( a three-stage process designed by Robert Fritz for articulating a personal vision, seeing current reality clearly, and choosing to make a commitment to getting the results you want).
Firstly, personal mastery involves your personal vision, a clear conceptualization of yourself as the trader you most want to be and the clear picture of your current reality, i.e., your level of knowledge, situation and challenges. When you have identified the picture of where you want to be and the picture of where you are this is “creative tension.” Creative tension is the force that is generated by the gap between these two levels, and just like a gap in a chart, it seeks to fill or to gain resolution of the tension; also as in a stretched rubber band between the poles of the two pictures. Traders who have fully bought into their vision and see that they must change in order to manifest that vision, and who commit themselves to the results that they want despite the disparity between where they want to be vs. where they are, begin to feel “compelled” by the vision. In this way the passion of your purpose is providing direction to your personal leadership; because the vision is not just a conscious concept. Due to the fact that the vision resonates with what this trader passionately wants, there is an unconscious motivation which serves to drive behavior. There is a sense of patience that is derived in part from the fact that they are so focused on the vision, and they are so attentive to what will support that vision that they do not pay as much attention to distractions or external/internal noise. They become focused on what matters most (both in their lives and in the trade). When they are driven and focused by passion this process also generates energy, like a nuclear reactor burning deep inside, which fuels persistence and perseverance. Also, with each small private victory, that is, with each tangible positive result, they have proof and sustaining power to take another step. This is personal leadership in action; being your own coach if you will.
Secondly, the transformation in thinking necessary to change your frame of mind may not happen immediately; but, the disciplined pursuit of personal mastery through personal leadership suggests that you can cultivate a different mindset by monitoring your thinking moment-to-moment and connecting to your vision early and often in order to tap into the passionate energy. The more you monitor your thinking while keying into the vision, the more you will feel competent and confident and the more you will be aware of the tension which will move you forward if you cultivate it.
Thirdly, some traders will have limiting beliefs about their ability to achieve the vision. They may say to themselves consciously or unconsciously, “I’m not good enough to do this;” or “I’m not smart enough;” or “I don’t deserve it.” These are fear related “emotional tensions” that stem from those limiting beliefs. The important thing to do at this juncture is to confront rather than deny them. They are part of the current reality and therefore must be identified clearly in order to address them one limiting belief at a time. Personal mastery is about what the vision does, not so much what the vision is; even if it seems impossible but still conjures within you a deep desire to have it then your passion and your energy is in the service of driving you to the results you want. This also coincides with one of the definitions of leadership; that is, “Influencing others to their highest and their best.” It’s just that it is all related to yourself. Through your personal leadership you are influencing your own system to its highest and its best.
Finally, personal leadership that spawns personal mastery teaches you to choose. Choosing is a courageous act; it is about picking the results and actions which you form into your destiny. Personal mastery is like holding a conversation with you. One part speaks of the future you want; another talks about the realities of what is going on around you and a third says, “…I choose to be the trader I want to be and I choose to get the results I want to get and I accept what I must do to get it!” And, you’ll want all of these voices in the conversation, knowing that the power which pulls you toward your vision emerges from the relationship between them. This process is where your A-Game is forged and honed. The A-Game is not an accident. It must be nurtured, fed, embraced, trained and supported constantly by your ardent leadership. Mastering your mental game is about personal mastery through personal leadership and purposefully bringing your highest and best to the platform.