For almost a decade now I’ve been co-teaching workshops alongside Van. I’ve witnessed many traders who came into a workshop with a belief or strategy that had been holding them back. Most of the time, they had little if any awareness of it until a workshop exercise caused an eye-opening revelation or paradigm shift. Then they were able to leave the workshop with a new understanding about themselves. Those transformations are fulfilling and inspiring — to the other participants in the workshops as well as the instructors. Those transformations are also why we hear that Van’s material not only enhances trading but also improves life in general.
I’d like to illustrate some examples of useful questions you might ask yourself even if you have no intention to ever attend a Peak 101 workshop. Many people are unable to attend a workshop and part of this newsletter’s purpose is to act as an inbox mentor for our readers.
I’ll describe some of the specific experiential exercises from Van’s foundation course “Peak 101”. As you read, you can compare your beliefs with ones Van teaches and you can ask yourself some questions relating to your life and trading. No, it’s not the same as being in a workshop but it’s useful material in a newsletter that you can use to work on yourself.
Mental State Control
Have you ever traded when you were angry? When you were scared? When you were bored? If you haven’t done any of those, you haven’t traded very much yet. Trading from a mental state of anger, fear, or boredom — or other non-useful emotional states, happens for less-experienced traders and these conditions invite mistakes — conditions where you don’t follow your rules. More often than not, you lose money when you don’t follow your rules. So what do you do? You change your mental state. But how do you do that?
One way to change your mental state would be to finish trading for the day and come back tomorrow morning. While probably pretty effective, that may not be very useful. As a trader, you want methods with effectiveness — and speed. Of the almost two dozen ways we teach to manage your mental state, one surprisingly simple technique is to pay attention to your breath. It can be as effortless as closing your eyes and consciously breathing in slowly and breathing out slowly for a minute or two. Notice what you are feeling right now, close your eyes and pay attention to breathing slowly, and check how you are feeling after a minute or two. What tends to surprise workshop participants is just how simple and easy mental state management can become once you are familiar with a few good techniques.
Useful Belief — When I am aware of a mental state that is not useful for a task, I can change it.
Question — If you notice yourself in a mental state unconducive to trading well, what could you do to change your mental state? Make a few notes and keep that handy for quick reference by your trading screens for the next time it happens.
Dominant or Overwhelming Feelings
Do you know anyone with a feeling or emotion that seems to rule their life? Do you have such a feeling or emotion? Trying to trade effectively with this can be challenging if not outright self-sabotage. If it’s not you, consider someone who is continually anxious, angry, fearful, or sad and imagine how that emotion could cloud their ability to perceive price action, make good decisions (like entries & exits), and react well to adversity in the markets. Rather than trading with clarity, decisiveness, and focus, they would experience any number of other emotions through the process of trading.
In Peak 101, Van details the evolution of feeling release techniques he has learned about, used, and discarded over the last twenty-five years. The method he teaches now is quite effective and fast. I have seen participants release feelings in a matter of minutes that have been just an irritant or which have been a dominating life factor for many years. This process is always inspiring and uplifting.
Useful Belief — Even if an emotion seems to dominate my life, there are ways to release it.
Questions — Do you notice if you have a dominating feeling in your life? If so, what is it and what effects does it have? What useful information might there be in that emotion? Could you acknowledge and even welcome the emotion — if not for a long period, just for a short period?
Have you ever thought or said something to the effect, “On one hand, I . . . while on the other hand, I . . .”? Has that kind of thinking ever affected your trading? If so (and it’s likely so), you have an experience of some internal conflict — which is entirely human. Different parts of you want different things and when two parts see something differently — as they often do — you wind up in conflict. Most typically, your logical mind or “captain” takes control and makes a decision to resolve the situation. If over time, however, one of the parts is consistently denied expression or is minimized, that part will act through your subconscious to gain expression. That shows up when you do something you don’t understand and causes you to ask “Now why did I do that?” There are different ways to handle these situations but Van has found the most effective and helpful way is to negotiate with the parts. After people learn about some of their parts and the resolution process, many are very surprised how easily they can find a solution they had not considered which can satisfy the parts and allow them to go forward — without conflict in that area again.
Useful Belief — Internal conflicts are resolvable – even if they have existed for a long time.
Questions — Where do you experience internal conflict? What competing motivations or intentions do you experience with these conflicts? If you were to get creative, what could you do that would address the differing motivations and still solve the conflict.
Working at the Van Tharp Institute and seeing the personal transformations that traders make at our workshops never ceases to amaze me. I graduated from Van’s Super Trader Program and had these experiences myself so working with others on their transformations allows me to share my learnings. I also get to watch colleagues like Gabriel, Ken, Chuck, Kirk, and Kim who have applied Tharp Think in their trading pass on many valuable lessons through their own teaching.
I just wanted to share a few perspectives of someone who teaches in this interactive environment and to express my gratitude to the people who have come to VTI for a workshop. You not only receive lifelong, positive, impacts on your life but you also contribute to your fellow students and your teachers.
Even if you cannot join a workshop, you can still work to understand some of these concepts and improve your awareness of your internal thoughts and feelings that are impacting your trading results. These are solvable issues and awareness is the first step.
I wish you much success.