Your Trading and Consciousness by, Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.

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Editors Note: This popular article was previously published in Tharp’s Thoughts Weekly Newsletter.

Many of our products and workshops are about helping people increase their level of consciousness. Why? Many people trade unconsciously, without knowing at even a shallow level what they are doing in the markets and why. This applies to the psychological parts of trading like beliefs, emotions, discipline, etc. as well as the “technical” aspects of trading (which I view as all psychological).

To begin the transformational process, simply become more aware, more conscious of what’s going on inside you. How do you find out about what’s going on inside? There are lots of books and courses available, but for big shifts, it requires action, not just reading. I have been evaluating self-development programs for many years to help me find the ones that work best. I became involved with Oneness because it has helped me and my Super Traders “wake up” — it is all about increasing awareness. You don’t have to get a Oneness blessing to become more conscious (but it really helps). There are many, many ways and I’ll give you a few in this article.

Notice Your Thoughts and Feelings

What are you thinking and feeling when you trade? You probably aren’t aware of these processes at all because they are totally unconscious — even though they run your entire life. You are programmed by your beliefs about your trading, the markets, the universe – but you probably have no idea of any of this. In some of our workshops, we play a trading simulation game where everyone gets the same trade results. The game strategy is all about position sizing your risk rather than figuring out what to buy or sell. I designed the games to “press emotional buttons” in order to help people become conscious of their thoughts and feelings while they trade. All sorts of thoughts and emotions come up but most importantly, I guarantee the game generates the same thoughts and emotions that also come up during your trading. Typically, these thoughts and emotions are not useful. In fact, they almost always impair your trading.

During the workshop games, I provide players with scoresheets that have blank spaces so they can record their thoughts and feelings for each trade. Even with constant encouragement from me, though, most people only write down something for about one out of every ten trades. Instead, they primarily focus on the action “outside” and they are not conscious of what’s going on “inside”. When people have this level of unconsciousness, they actually project their thoughts and feelings onto the world and believe all of that happens “out there.”

If you’d like to test your level of consciousness while simulating trading, click here to download the trading game. You can play the first three levels of the game for free. While you play, write down your thoughts and feelings for each trade. Just notice how conscious you are of what you are thinking and feeling while you play the game. Also, notice how much those thoughts and feelings match your experience of real trading.

Your Submodalities

Let’s look at another way that you are probably unconscious in an area that NLP calls submodalities. The way you make choices or judgments is through your submodalities. You are wired in a particular way to prefer certain sensory details over others and that’s how you make judgments. How conscious are you of that?

Want an example? Close your eyes and just think of a friendly dog for a moment before you read on. Now notice how you represent that dog to yourself in your mind. Did you see it? If so, was it in color or black and white? Was it right in front of you or was it some distance away? Or instead of seeing it, did you smell the dog, hear it, or feel its fur beneath your hand? Specifically, what did you see, hear, smell, or feel? Now close your eyes again and this time, think of a different dog — a dog of whom you are afraid. How did you represent the frightening dog in your mind? What were the differences between the way you imagined the friendly vs the scary dog? How conscious are you of those differences? If you’d like to see a great demonstration of how submodalities work, watch this 10-minute video.

You use your submodalities when you trade — but you probably have no idea about that. Here’s an example you might understand even if it does not apply to you. A lot of floor traders used the level of noise in the pit to monitor market action and to know if they should enter or exit positions. The noise level was an auditory input critical to their trading process. Many of them didn’t understand that, however, until they tried to trade from a computer monitor. Without any sound, they felt a little lost just using their visual sense to look at the screens. Making a trade was difficult based only on what they saw because their mental strategy for making trades required some kind of noise or sound before they would act. I used to recommend that my floor trader clients add some sort of sound signal to their trading platform to tell them when they were supposed to enter or exit a trade. That auditory input was very helpful for many of them.

Observe Your Thoughts For A Month

Here is another way you can determine your level of consciousness — observe your thoughts throughout the day. My Super Traders do this exercise all day, every day for 30 days. Here are the simple instructions.

  • Set a recurring alarm (through an app on your cellphone) to go off every 15 minutes.
  • Every time you hear the alarm, write down in a journal (or a spreadsheet) what you were thinking.

That’s it. It’s not that hard at all. The real challenge is continuing the practice every 15 minutes for a whole month.

Once you have done this for a month, look back through all of your recorded entries. Do you see thoughts or patterns that dominate your thoughts? If so, how dominant were they? How conscious are you of those? Are you consciously choosing or directing your thinking or does your unconscious programming dominate your thinking?

If you find that automatic programming dominates your day, do you think you might also have programming that impacts your trading results? Probably. What would happen if you became more conscious and focused more of your attention on useful thoughts and beliefs? How would that affect your trading and your life? It could transform them completely.

P.S. A note from Dr. Tharp: This coming Monday, November 2nd I will interview one of three presenters of my upcoming Spiritual Awakening Series which starts next week. This special event is part of the Super Trader Program 2020 Summit. However, I will open up a few seats for those who are not yet in the Super Trader program but have an interest in joining. If you then decide to join the ST program in the next two years you will get 100% credit for the amount you pay to attend this 5-day series. The item is not open for purchase yet, so register to attend this free webinar on Monday, November 2nd, 2020 and we’ll be sure to get more information to you following the webinar.

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