Tharp's Thoughts Weekly Newsletter (View On-Line)
On the Importance of Saying "Thank You" by Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.
Just Announced! 2015 Workshop Schedule
The Science of Gratitude by D. R. Barton, Jr.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Van Tharp Institute
Thank you for being an important part of what we do. All of us at VTI are grateful to you for subscribing to this newsletter and for reading these articles. Our company’s mission is personal transformation through the trading metaphor. We want to transform the world one trader at a time and we will accomplish that through our loyal newsletter readers and clients.
—From Van and Kala Tharp and the VTI Staff, which includes:
Cathy Hasty, Revathi Ramaswami, RJ Hixson, Frank Eaves, Matt Fair, Jessie Whitman, Rebecca Price and Wayne Welsh.
This week we are sharing some "oldies-but-goodies" on gratitude
and saying thank you.
Note: Please be aware that due to the US Thanksgiving Holiday this week, the office will be running with a limited staff today and tomorrow. We will be closed on Thursday and Friday (27th-28th).
In the coming months, you might get some emails or web links from us that have a different look and feel than what you are used to seeing. We are experimenting with some new communication ideas so if you get an email from Van or the Van Tharp Institute that looks different, be aware that it could be just our new experimental format. If you ever have a doubt or question about the authenticity of a Van Tharp communication, please contact us to verify it. Thank you.
On the Importance of Saying "Thank You"
One of my Super Traders recently mentioned that he was doing the 28-day course by Rhonda Byrne from her newest book, The Magic. I was quite curious, what is this 28-day course? I was in Australia at the time and Byrne is Australian so I knew that I would be able to find the book in the local bookstores.
Once I found it, I photo-read the entire book in about 15 minutes and decided that I needed to buy it. I worked on the Magic program while I was conducting the Peak 202 workshop and then went on a five day vacation. The book turned out to be all about gratitude. I am very interested in gratitude because when I first became a Oneness Blessing Giver over five years ago, I was told that the fastest way to increase my level of consciousness was by increasing the amount of gratitude in my life.
When Peak 203 came around a week later, I decided to incorporate The Magic Program into the workshop follow-up program. In addition, my Internal Guidance told me to add an exercise to the course itself. That exercise became one of the most powerful I’ve ever given in terms of its impact.
Here’s the exercise, so that you might try it yourself: At lunch time today, go outside and say, “thank you” to at least 50 people in one hour. You must be able to give a different reason to thank each person so that the “thank you” is sincere. So, how do you feel at the thought of doing that exercise?
It’s not such a daunting task in Sydney when you consider that as soon as you go out into the streets, you can meet around 10-20 people each minute. All you have to do is pick one and say, “Thank you.” If you live in an area where there aren’t many people, you’ll have to say thank you to everyone.
When we debriefed the exercise after lunch, the feedback ranged from:
- “This was the most powerful exercise I’ve ever done.”
- “That was the most awesome hour of my entire life.”
That was the kind of impact it had. Here is a specific recount of the exercise that one of my Super Traders gave at his end of the week report to me:
One of the most uplifting experiences of my life happened today. Van changed the lunch time exercise to one where we had to go out and give 50 “thank you’s” to people. It could be for anything, but each one had to be for a different reason.
So anyway, for the FIRST time I decided to NOT do this alone, but to do it with a partner. I teamed up with D in the tunnel at Central Railway Station. D and I had bought four pieces of cardboard, and we were going to pin them to our front and back, when two other class participants turned up and asked for a piece of cardboard. The universe certainly provided, and was perfect (well, from their perspective I guess).
What followed I can only describe as pure magic. We stood as a group in the tunnel, and started thanking people. The goal was to get 50 each. We were able to thank over EIGHT HUNDRED people!!! But that wasn’t the point. A lady who was an opera singer, looking quite down with the world on her shoulders, just suddenly burst into song. There were people who were uplifted. People would walk up to us and give us hugs; we lost count of the number of high fives.
Words fail me, but I know the other guys were totally in agreement that — for that hour or so — magic truly happened. It was like the energy in the whole walkway where we stood was raised an entire level on the David Hawkins scale of consciousness.
What also makes this exercise particularly poignant for me is that it was almost two years ago to the day (actual date: 18th of March) that I approached Van about being a Super Trader. It was at Peak 203 in Sydney, March 2011. I remember it well, because when we had to do the exercise where we went out to get hugs. I was shaking, almost throwing up in the bin and paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t wait for it to end. D summed it up that day by saying that I looked like Mr. Burns out of the Simpsons, half dead.
Now here I am, two years later and experiencing something that was completely transformative, pure magic. If that’s the kind of Matrix I am creating now, then “I want more of that.”
While this article has little to do with trading, it has everything to do with being a happier person and raising your level of consciousness. So, if you want an experience with Magic, then go out and do it. And if you need to recruit a couple of friends to do it with you, be my guest.
Are You Ready to Take Your Trading to the Next Level?
In January, we will be presenting two of our Foundation Workshops at our offices in Cary, NC. Van calls these "Foundation" workshops because they provide certain core material that you must master to become a great trader.
During How to Develop a Winning Trading System That Fits You, We'll teach you one of the real secrets of success — how to use all the system building blocks to design a trading system in such a way that it fits your personality and style of trading or investing.
The Blueprint for Trading Success workshop is a complete structured program that will launch you to a more advanced skill level in your trading. You’ll learn strategic, focused steps that will serve you throughout your entire trading career.
To register, or to see our full workshop schedule, click here.
Combo Discounts available for all back-to-back workshops!
See our workshop page for details.
A Trader's Guide to the Science of Gratitude
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
--A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
***Warning – A personal challenge is about to be issued. That’s because there are traders and investors who read this weekly missive, study Van’s materials and STILL believe that the psychological part of trading isn’t that important.
Here’s my challenge – do the two exercises at the end of this article. If your trading and your experience of life (i.e. your happiness) aren’t significantly enhanced, I’ll personally donate $100 to the charity of your choice. If you knew the size of Van’s newsletter subscriber list, you’d understand how confident I have to be about the usefulness of the exercises! I make this challenge because I’d love to find a way to have a massively positive influence on everyone reading this newsletter as my Thanksgiving gift to you.
My Experience With Gratitude
Almost 22 years ago, I experienced a day of gratitude that was so special and affected me so deeply that it still is vividly etched in my memory. Our daughter Meg (our first born) was only a few months old, and she was being baptized at our church. We had invited friends and family, some traveling great distances. Our pastor graciously allowed me to deliver the message that day. I spoke about God’s love for each of us, a love so deep that it is pursuing us even before we are aware of it. (John Wesley called it God’s prevenient grace.)
Until that day I had experienced parenting at a perfunctory level — helping with chores like diapers and baths, etc. But it wasn’t until I explained what parenting meant to me - how I felt about parenting and how this little miracle of a girl had changed me and the very way I look at the world that I really understood what it meant to be a dad. And the gratitude that I felt for that experience – for my awakening to the joy of being a parent — was overwhelming.
So in the spirit of this season of gratitude and thanksgiving, I hope that you find some enjoyable and useful information here!
The Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. is coming fast upon us. There are many distractions that can keep us from being truly thankful: we could, for example argue over whether the first thanksgiving celebration was attended by pilgrims in Massachusetts, English settlers in Jamestown 15 years earlier, or Spanish explorers in Texas or Florida years before that. We could also worry about the perfect way to cook the turkey and gravy, whether or not our relatives and in-laws will behave themselves or if anyone over the age of 7 will watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. And last but not least, the NFL will give us three football games and (unlike last year) two of them are very interesting meetings between playoff relevant teams. I guess we won’t have to talk to our visiting relatives after all…
Yet I digress — Thanksgiving really does kick off the holiday season (although the fact that Christmas ads have already been running for four weeks might argue otherwise…) and sets our mind to one of the most useful of all human expressions — gratitude.
We All Know Gratitude Is a Good Thing but… Can We PROVE it?
Robert Emmons is perhaps the world’s most prominent researcher in the study of gratitude. From one of his early papers, he defines gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” Most discussions or articles on gratitude become, for me, an exercise in anecdotes and platitudes. Happy anecdotes and platitudes, mind you, but somehow unsatisfying. We all seem to know intuitively that what our grandmas told us is true: Saying, “Thank you” is a good thing.
And thanks to Dr. Emmons and his contemporaries, we now have a sound scientific footing that proves the usefulness of showing gratitude. The early studies from Emmons (and his various co-authors) showed that people who are consistently grateful are happier, more hopeful and more energetic. In addition, they are less likely to be neurotic, lonely anxious or depressed. But these early studies did not conclusively show causality. However – subsequent studies have done just that.
In a study designed to get at causality, a group did an exercise similar to the one outlined below. Results showed significant improvements versus the control group in both outlook (feelings of happiness, optimism and satisfaction) and physical health (reduced incidences of everything from acne to headaches). The same exercise was given to both young and older people with chronic illnesses. Similar results were achieved for the “gratitude group” including getting more hours of quality sleep.
Okay – The Psychologist Proved Grandma Was Right. How Does This Help Traders?
Digging deeper into the work on gratitude, Dr. Sonya Lyubomirsky summarizes eight reasons that practicing gratitude is useful. I’ve added commentary to each on how they are applicable to us as traders and investors:
- Grateful thinking helps us savor positive life experiences.
- I’ve known too many traders who beat themselves up over losses or bad trades and then could never stop to appreciate a well-executed trade. Such imbalance actually pushes us toward bad trading behavior just so we can feel something. Enjoying the process of trading, “the game” as it were, is a key to longevity in the business.
- Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem.
- During tough periods traders can go into a downward spiral where their confidence plummets. It’s almost impossible to trade well when confidence is shot.
- Gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma.
- Traders are certainly exposed to stressful situations more than most. Anything that can be done to cope better with the stress and uncertainty of the markets should be embraced!
- Expressing gratitude promotes moral behavior.
- Here, the researchers translate gratitude to mean kindness, helping others etc. In a business that is the ultimate meritocracy, thinking outside of one’s self is a good thing.
- Gratitude can help build social bonds (don’t use people as means to an end)
- Trading can be a singularly lonely endeavor. Building a social network, especially with other traders and investors, is useful for breaking out of the “me against the world” mentality. That’s one of the most under-appreciated aspects of attending seminars! Also, combining #4 with #5, trading is a cut and dried win or lose proposition. It’s easy in such an environment to see people as a means to an end. Do you have useful information for me? If not, then away with you! Practicing gratitude helps us to see every person we meet as a unique and valuable creation instead of as a binary entity – useful/not useful.
- Expressing gratitude tends to subdue individual comparisons with others.
- If you go around comparing yourself to Soros’ 40% annual compounding for decades, or to Paulson’s or Seykota’s records, you’ll have a long tough go of it.
- Practicing gratitude diminishes negative emotions (anger, bitterness, etc.).
- It’s plain tough to do any cognitive processing while harboring negative emotions.
- Gratitude helps thwart hedonic adaptation (just wait, it’s better than it sounds).
- Here’s a quick summary of hedonic adaptation: in simple terms, humans act with an emotional thermostat, returning to a near baseline state after an outside change. So when we get a bad news, we are able to make the mental adjustments to adapt and carry on instead of feeling low or being out of commission for long periods. That’s a good thing in most cases. Unfortunately, the same thermostat is at work in our reaction to positive events. When something good happens, this mechanism guides us over time back down to near our “happiness set point” that we had before the event. In short – gratitude helps us keep that positive (and usually more productive) mental state for a longer time. (This concept is so interesting we’ll revisit it in a future article.)
And Now for the Challenge
So the evidence is clear that giving thanks or being grateful is not just a good idea, it’s a way to live a fuller life. Does the science also give us ways to grow our “gratitude muscle”? Thankfully, the answer is yes.
So here’s my challenge: complete both of these projects, and you will get two benefits. First, you’ll find yourself in a happier more productive state more of the time than before. And secondly, your trading will improve (largely because of the previous benefit and the eight listed above).
If you earnestly follow both parts of the challenge and don’t receive any benefit, I’ll gladly donate $100 to the charity of your choice.
Project Number 1: Weekly gratitude list.
- Every Sunday night, for the next 10 weeks, follow this simple exercise (from Dr. Lyubomirsky):
- “There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the events of the past week and write down on the lines below up to 5 things that happened for which you are grateful or thankful:
- Note: It’s important that you only do this once per week! Research shows that more frequent repetition diminishes the effect. The researchers believe that a more frequent requirement turns the project into a “chore”. Instead this should be a weekly “mini-celebration” of grateful moments from the past week. Allow yourself to feel (once again) the positive emotions associated with those moments of gratitude. Doing this only once per week allows the exercise to remain fresh and meaningful.
Project Number 2: Express gratitude directly to another.
- Think of someone in the field of trading or investing for whom you are grateful. Perhaps a mentor, thought leader, coach, model trader, researcher, system designer, etc. If this is someone you know, great. For some it may be someone you know only through their work or reputation. This works equally as well.
- Write this person a letter of gratitude telling them what exactly they have done that has impacted you in a positive way. Also write the specific change it has made for you.
- If possible, deliver the letter in person. If not, mail or email will work as well.
- Do this within the next seven days.
- Don’t be shy about asking your gratitude recipient for a response. This will complete the gratitude circle and add to the experience.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone would not receive a positive experience from these two activities. I hope that you’ll take the challenge and reap the benefits.
May you and your family enjoy a Thanksgiving full of gratitude, love and joy. If you’re not in the U.S., spend a few moments next Thursday flexing your gratitude muscles right along with us anyway!
As you can tell, I really admire researchers who give us applied psychology tools (Van’s been doing it for decades).
I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback – just send an email to drbarton “at” vantharp.com. Until next time…
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