You are at your trading platform and as a trader you have visualized the trade over and over. You saw yourself sitting in front of your computer screen, cool, calm and collected. Your back is straight, your brow smooth, and your heart is beating evenly as you simply hold the mouse without squeezing it with dry palms. Now, notice that you are saying to yourself, “Take a deep breath and feel the patience; I’m all about patience.” You are allowing your trade to progress according to plan, with stops in place and remaining in place while letting the market prove the plan wrong or right. You’ve done this same exercise many times in your demo account to create the neural (brain) pathway and networks associated with creating the behavior in just the way that you want. These brain networks include everything that you see, hear, feel, smell and taste associated with this trading event. You know that every time you do this you are mentally rehearsing (training yourself) through this series of behaviors. Just like a professional ball player who practices through mental rehearsal in his mind first then does everything just has he had visualized it in order to “train” his mind and his muscles to do the right thing habitually so that he gets the right results habitually; you are training your mind and muscles to follow through in the trade. When you complete the trade, you celebrate your success with the realization that success is defined as executing the trade in exactly the way it was planned and following all of your rules…explicitly. You acknowledge that you have learned and now are demonstrating that neurons which fire together wire together. In other words, when you think, feel or do; brain cells fire/release neurotransmitters, neurochemicals and other messenger molecules that create pathways in your brain creating a “memory pathway” of how to do this behavior optimally; and when it happens habitually those pathways become hard wired and fire together automatically in the same situation. You were not only mentally rehearsing and practicing peak performance; you were creating an “effective routine.”
Mental rehearsal is a powerful tool that is used by all manner of peak performers and high achievers across the board; from elite surgeons, to high powered trial attorneys, to world class athletes because they have come to understand the power of imagination. They also understand that it is not enough to simply sit and visualize, you must demonstrate the ability in real time by “practicing” the art and using your muscles in the process. Demonstration is the crucial final step from mental rehearsal to personal evolution. As you practice the desired behavioral strategy (a high level multi-step plan for getting a result) the more that you “go through the exact motions” associated with the desired result you are slowly changing “explicit memory” (memory of how to do things that you can think about and declare like stating your name or your address or gender) to “implicit memory” (procedural memory that is unconscious; that is, behavior that you don’t have to think about as in typing, brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, riding a bike, and playing a musical instrument).
Another way to think of it is to look at how you learned to drive a stick shift. You learned each behavior that was necessary individually and then grasped through instruction or watching a model, the whole “behavioral strategy” associated with the desired result of effortless driving. You then practiced … you Tested (tried the particular behavior like pushing in the clutch) then through feedback from the car you knew if it was done correctly – usually a surge forward followed by an immediate stall meant that you needed to do it again – you Operated (looked at the model or reviewed the correct way to push in the clutch), then Tested again (engaged that particular behavior again, in this instance practicing on the clutch); and you tested – operated – tested until at some point you got it and “exited” this process. All the while you had to think about each and every behavioral point in the strategy and you were using “explicit or episodic memory.” You did this until you could flawlessly execute the entire stick shift driving strategy. Of course, fifteen years after you “learned” this strategy you may have found yourself driving 65 miles an hour down the freeway while negotiating a cup of coffee, with a burger in one hand, a cell phone in the other still “feeling” capable of manipulating the clutch and stick if necessary. This behavior had then dropped into “implicit memory”, in other words you became unconsciously competent with regard to driving a stick shift car.
Effective routines that are designed around a protocol (a sequentially ordered series of steps toward an aim or goal) or strategy, which then are “tested” using a feedback system that documents and/or verifies that the protocol/strategy is credible that are then done over and over and over again to form a habit are the makings of “skill building.” If you do this process enough the explicitly based memories associated with having to consciously think about everything that you are doing will drop into your unconscious and become implicitly based memories of “how” to get the same successful results; that is planning your trade and trading your plan while following “all” of your rules. When you do this you have “programmed” your system to act and respond in a deliberate fashion, you are then designing the way that you interact with the markets and your general environment.
Your state of mind (a neural network of all that you saw, heard, felt, smelled and tasted associated with a pleasurable or painful experience – that is most often connected to several/many other similar networks throughout your brain) has everything to do with your outcomes in trading and life. Humans have all manner of states and these states dictate behavior. For instance, states of depression, anxiety, fear, self-doubt, anger and greed, all have the power to influence your thoughts in very negative ways leading almost invariably to self-sabotage. On the other hand, states of confidence, curiosity, awe, satisfaction, happiness, and optimism can activate your internal resources and align your system to move in the same direction and for the same goals. You can design your states by identifying the behavioral protocols/strategies that will get you the consistent results that you want, visualizing yourself doing those behaviors successfully, and then practicing this process in real time using a demo account in order to test – operate – test – exit the process. At this point you have established an effective routine that is connected to the protocol/strategy and by doing that over and over and over you go from thinking to doing to “being” the trader that you know is inside of you. The establishment of an A-Game is not an accident. Just like world class peak performers in other disciplines, trading requires preparation, training, mental programming, practice, follow through, vigilance and diligence in order to trade successfully in the trenches. Trading is world class also; you are competing against millions of other traders out there; many of whom are ready for you…are you ready for them? So, reach inside you and bring out the trader you aspire to be.
Written by Dr. Woody Johnson, Online Trading Academy Instructor. Dr. M. Woodruff Johnson has actively and successfully traded stock options, forex and futures since 2000. He is the former Executive Director of the Kaiser Permanente, Watts Counseling and Learning Center. He holds certifications in Accelerated Learning, Neurosensory Development and hypnotherapy, and he is a Certified NLP Master Practitioner. Dr. Woody is also an Associate Professor and teaches graduate psychology courses at Pacific Oaks College and Ryokan College. He has provided clinical staff services in hospitals and community clinics as well. He has a passion for helping others to achieve their goals and get the results in trading and life that they desire. Dr. Woody has been using mind/body healing techniques both professionally and personally with much success for many years. He is the author of “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader.”