Interesting read (Brad Gareiess from FX360):
Trading psychology is the most important aspect of a trader's success. This may surprise some readers, specifically those that are new to trading. However, the psychological makeup of a trader is more important than market knowledge, market analysis, and even money management. The reason psychology is so important is that even the best information can be distorted by a poor mindset.
Most new traders think the key to profiting in trading is knowing more about the market. For instance, most new traders clog their screens with every indicator they can find, read up European GDP trends, and feel that pro traders have some sort of secret knowledge. However, this inevitably does not provide the lofty results the novice trader hopes to achieve.
After realizing that excessive market information doesn't help (and may hurt) results, the next moment of truth most traders have is money management. Instead to trading 1 lot every time, or even trading the maximum lots their account will allow, these traders realize losses will happen no matter what. When you realize that everyone loses on occassion, it is easy to see why money management is necessary. This is a big step, but does not ensure success.
Now, don't get me wrong, you need to have a form of analysis and a form of money management to profit in the long term. In other words, you need an edge that when applied with proper money management leads to positive returns over the course of many trades. Great money management with no edge will only mean you lose your money more slowly. A great strategy without money management will lead to an inevitable blow up. However, without the proper mindset, it is nearly impossible to continue to get good results in the long run.
The bottom line is that a poor mindset can sabotage even the best trading strategy or money management strategy. I could write about this at great length, but we will look at one key example for now. The biggest test in trading psychology occurs during a drawdown. This occurs when a trader gets in a "slump" and has bad results for a given period of time. Usually the most devastating drawdowns eliminate a significant amount of a hard earned profit.
Keep in mind, drawdowns are completely normal. Everyone has them on occasion. However, the key is reacting properly to drawdowns. This is why trading psychology is so important. The natural reaction during a drawdown is to change your strategy. Sometimes traders will even take trades for no reason at all except for a desperate chance at a profit. Assuming you believe your methodology is sound, there is no reason to change anything during a drawdown. In fact, that is the most important time to follow the basics. Think about a baseball hitter in a slump. Sometimes they will change their stance, but usually they keep the same basic stance and swing. Instead, they focus on the fundatmentals of keeping their head still, keeping their hands back, and so on. For some reason traders tend to panic in this situation and change everything up. This leads to a larger drawdown, which usually ends when the trader reverts back to their primary strategy.
As this is a key topic with many topics to discuss, we will come back and discuss another aspect of trading psychology soon.
Trading psychology is the most important aspect of a trader's success. I have made this statement before, but it is worth repeating. There are many factors that contribute to a trader's psychological makeup, and there is no easy way to attain a trader's mindset. However, there are certain factors that influence a trader's psychology that are important to be aware of. Several weeks ago we published a feature that covered how a trader should deal with a drawdown ( Trading Psychology- Dealing with a Drawdown ). That feature discussed the psychological implications of losing over a series of trades. Today's topic, accepting risk, pertains to individual trades rather than a long string of trades.
The best traders typically are the most consistent traders. In order to be a consistent trader, it is important to consistently apply one's methodology to the market and make as few errors as possible. A trading error is when a trader deviates from their methodology. Common errors include taking a bigger loss than planned, exiting a trade earlier than planned, taking a trade that does not fit the trader's usual criteria, or passing on a trade that fit the trader's usual criteria. These errors can be destructive to a trader's capital and sanity.
Trading errors are usually induced by emotions caused by previous trades. The most dangerous emotional catalyst (in my opinion) occurs when a trader loses a trade they felt was a certain winner. After losing this trade, a trader feels sad, angry, or even vengeful against the market. This causes a trader to enter a trade irrationally in order to win back what they felt they were cheated out of. Of course, this trade usually is a loser. If it wins, this can be even worse, because it encourages this type of decision making in the future, which could lead to even larger losses.
In my opinion, the reason the aforementioned scenario is common among traders is that they did not accept the risk when they placed the trade. They thought the trade was a sure winner, so it was miserable to take the trade as a loss. In fact, traders may even refuse to take their loss because they were so sure it was a winner, which can lead to devastating losses. This is why traders must accept the risk of each trade before they enter their position. In other words, a trader must view the amount of money they are risking as an expense to see if their trade idea will work. Once a trader accepts the risk, they will typically feel far less distress if the trade does indeed lose.
Accepting the risk of each trade is not easy, especially for inexperienced traders. Of course, there are some steps we can take to make it easier to accept the risk. First, it is very important to plan out each trade. This means we should know where we will enter the trade, place our stop, and place our take profit level(s). That way there are no decisions that need to be made once the position is entered. The human brain will view information differently once that position is entered and it thinks much more clearly before the position is entered. Additionally, if we know the distance between the entry and the stop, we know exactly how much capital we are risking. This is important because it is impossible to accept a risk when we do not know how large the risk is. After entering the pre-planned trade, emotion is inevitable, but at least it won't impact the result of the trade.
As we said earlier, a trader must view the amount of money they are risking as an expense to see if their trade idea will work. Every trader has losses. However, consistent traders view losses as business expenses. Losses are a necessary aspect of trading, and there is no way to know which trades will win or which will lose when the trade is entered. Therefore, if we can accept the risk of each trade before placing it, these losses can more easily be viewed as part of trading rather than a personal attack from the market. Once a trader learns to accept the risk on every trade and concede they don't know which trades will win, it will be much easier to control one's emotions and achieve consistent results.
"Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles. Know yourself but not your enemy, find level of loss and victory. Know neither your enemy or yourself, wallow in defeat every time." - Sun Tzu