By Rob Colville on May 29, 2015 in
I want to tell you about something that just happened and made me as angry as I’ve been all year…and how right now I’m putting myself through the paces to overcome the anger and self-doubt that this is now causing me.
As it turns out, I wasn’t even trading at the time, but I’ve felt this way before while I was—all traders have. You know, that sudden rush of anger, self-doubt, or negative emotion that happens following a losing or missed trade, after a false breakout or whipsaw takes you out, or sometimes right before the moment of execution?
It’s a difficult reminder that even while the trading process is a continual learning experience which we never truly master, the most formidable opponent we face as traders is ourselves and controlling our emotions. This is my experience in hope that it will help you with your own…
I was driving and about to turn into my destination when another driver inexplicably came zooming up behind, and in some reckless attempt to speed by—on the wrong side of the road, mind you—came screeching to a stop within inches of my driver-side door.
Puzzled and way beyond irritated by what in the world he was thinking, I continued safely on as he again squealed his tires and sped off. “So what now,” I thought? Should I commence yelling and swearing; wonder why I did everything right, but still was a victim; or, inspired by self-doubt, wonder if the whole thing was somehow my fault?
To be quite honest, each of those things—anger, antagonism, and self-doubt—cycled through my mind in the moment after it happened. So, does any of that sound familiar to you in your trading as well?
If you answered “yes” to any (or all of) the above, well, join the club! We’re all human afterall, and it’s only out of desire to be successful that we become angry whenever we perceive “failure,” i.e. a losing trade or unexpected outcome. It’s why we regret mistakes once it’s clear that we’ve made them, and it’s why we’re quick with self-doubt, not just after trades, but sometimes before and during the actual trading process!
Now I am a trained professional, and in part, that’s why I share this story. You see, I want to illustrate that no amount of skill or trading experience erases the natural instincts we all possess as humans. I get angry sometimes, and I may struggle with self-doubt from time to time as well, and not just in my trading, but in my life.
See related: Trading Hang-ups That Bug the Pros, too
Immune to it I’m not, but through awareness and proper recognition, I often address anger and self-doubt before they spiral out of control and cause problems in my trading…and you can do the same!
What happened is still so recent that as I’m writing this, I still haven’t told anyone about it. I’ve been alone ever since, but I’m not so on edge anymore, and I’m not letting this incident cast a dark shadow over me, the day that I’m having, or my life in general. And actually, I now feel a bit empowered for exercising awareness and self-control following an event that did elicit an extreme emotional response—much like some trades do.
Here’s what worked for me:
Accept What I Can’t Change: I’m still a bit upset and regretful that happened. It’s not what I wanted or intended at all, but nobody can take it back now, and that acceptance is a proper first step. I must say that having this outlet to memorialize it as part of the past, as well as learn from it, has helped, too, and maybe that’s another reason why logging every trade in a trade journal can be so helpful!
Take Solace That I Was Operating According to Plan: In this case, I wasn’t wrong in what I did or didn’t do, so it was easy to reflect on how I was driving safely and in compliance with my own accepted methods, and within the confines of the law. Sometimes the same can be true in trading, but if not, and your own faulty plan compliance is to blame, well then, see Step 1, Acceptance!
Reinforce That My Way Is Fine, too: Even more than my anger after the fact, the self-doubt was most troubling to me. Afterall, I may not drive (or trade) like everyone else, but I get there safely just the same, and I like my way, so why question it? When self-doubt creeps in like that, recognize that it’s often misplaced, and in trading, like in many facets of life, there are countless ways to reach a desired destination, none better than the others!
We simply can’t control outcomes, and sometimes, we can just be going along, minding our own business, and boom, something happens that rattles us right to the core. That’s what just happened to me, and it was scary, made me angry, and got me thinking bad thoughts, the worst of which was self-doubt, like it was my fault, or I’m incapable, or somehow doomed.
That negative train of thought gets going fast during and after trades, too, but hopefully this outside example will show the power of rational, more positive thinking, and how it can prevail. So the next time you get angry or the markets deal you a difficult blow—which unfortunately, will happen—think about this lesson and see if it helps you to reverse your thinking. It worked here for me!