Your Beliefs About Trading

By Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.

You do not trade the markets—no one does. Now that might sound surprising to many of you. But what you really trade are your beliefs about the market. Furthermore, your ability to do so is tempered by your beliefs about yourself.

I’d like you to write down your beliefs about yourself. These beliefs will typically start with words like

  • I am
  • I feel
  • I experience myself as

Now if this sort of exercise is new to you, hen you first do it, you’ll probably write down a bunch of your positive attributes. Furthermore, you’ll probably have trouble writing down more than twenty or thirty such beliefs. But you probably have hundreds.

However, start your list. Let’s say you think for about five minutes and you come up with the following items:

  • I am a fairly good trader.
  • I feel positive about my potential.
  • I like myself.
  • I am fairly astute in thinking about the markets.
  • I am intelligent.
  • I am creative.

You know there are a lot more, but after 15-20 minutes of thought, that’s all you can come up with. Okay, that’s a start. But now I’d like you to continue the exercise each time you make a trade, either opening the position or closing it.

Let’s say it’s Monday morning and you open positions in the market. After doing so you continue to assess yourself and you notice two things:

  • I’m feeling really excited.
  • I like fast moving stocks.

Okay, you’ve gained some insight about yourself.

By mid-afternoon the market is in a steep decline and three of your stocks are down $500 on the day. Now you start thinking to yourself:

  • I feel angry about that position. I just got in and it’s going against me.
  • I’m not going to let them take advantage of me this time. I’ll hang on until it comes back.

Notice that you’ve just gathered some more insights about yourself. Keep this up until you’ve written down 100 or more statements that reflect you and your feelings. When you do, you’ll have a lot more insight into how you produce your trading results. And you will be starting on your way to becoming a peak performance trader.