No discussion about trading, or the consideration to begin trading, can be done without a harsh realization – the vast majority of all traders lose.
It is said that the reason that most traders lose is because they are not psychologically prepared to trade, that is they are not prepared to accept financial risk for something of which they have no control over the outcome. Trading is much more of a psychological problem then a methodological one, only the traders who have first accepted this have a chance of being consistently successful traders. Without an understanding of trading psychology and the various issues that circumvent method, there will be virtually no chance to overcome the fear, confusion, and despair that can be inherent in trading. Ultimately, after a series of consecutive losses, method becomes replaced with a feeling that it is impossible to do anything right; if for no other reason than this situation, trading psychology is more critical than trading method.
The Trading Psychology Plan
What should be very apparent from this scenario is that the trader never traded their paper trading method plan after transitioning to real money trading. Unfortunately, the trader is unable to realize what they have done, instead their emotions first place blame on the method thinking that it really doesn’t work, and then on themselves for being “such a pathetic loser”. The final result being that the trader quits trading, and if the real underlying reasons for what has happened aren’t accepted and changed, this trader will never be able to trade real money even if their paper trading results become 100% winners, which of course is not going to happen.
The trader had a trading method plan, but they did not have a trading psychology plan. They did not have a way to make the transition from fear and emotion directed trading to actually trading the method as designed. They did not have a plan to objectively access and understand their given non-method actions, and then define a ‘setup’ for replacing them.
The trading psychology plan must begin with an honest assessment and acceptance for what really happened: the trader never traded their method plan; there is no other blame to be placed, or excuses to be made. There is nothing wrong with the trading plan, and regardless, the trader has not traded it in order to be able to make that evaluation. As well, traders cannot internalize trade loses where they lead to their viewpoint of themselves – you are not a loser because your trade is a loser.
Trading Psychology Plan Components
Remember about the factors I mentioned in previous article on Tailspin:
- Accept that losing will be a normal part of trading.
- Replace the focus of winning and losing with the objective of following your plan.
- Remain neutral and non-judgmental towards yourself. If profitable trading is ever going to be possible, this is mandatory.
- Eliminating your emotions is not the objective;
- Accept that emotions are a part of life
- Start slowly – this may be the most important component of your plan. For instance, begin trading real money for an hour at a time, and then assess what you have done, always asking yourself the question: did I follow my plan, or did I take non-method trades.
Granted, you will not be able to approximate your paper trading results as the expectancy of that plan was achieved by averaging 5 trades per day. However, not only will this help further to shift the focus from how much money did I make to did I follow my plan, it will also allow you to acclimate to the logistics of real time-real money execution, and the related initial emotions, where all of a sudden the market feels like it is moving considerably faster. By doing this you will ‘build-up’ to trading your full plan at a pace that won’t cause you to become so overwhelmed by the process, and immediately cause you to avoid what you had intended to do as fear and emotion becomes too strong.
You have a great trading method and trading plan. You have profitably paper traded, and you ARE now ready to start trading real money – just be sure that you have a trading psychology plan that is as good as your trading method plan, and that you realize that neither will be of any use to you without the other.