Behavioral Patterns That Sabotage Traders - Part I

Although I do not maintain a private practice of counseling/coaching for traders, it is perhaps inevitable that traders would contact me for assistance after reading my book on The Psychology of Trading. Once in a while I take on a project of working with a group of traders because of the opportunity to push the envelope and use psychology to improve their trading performance. In the past few years, I would guesstimate that I have gathered personality questionnaire data and assisted over one hundred traders.

That's a decent-sized sample, and provides me with worthwhile insights into the minds of traders and the problem patterns that interfere with their trading. Below I outline a few of the things I have learned from questionnaires and interviews with individuals who are trading for a living.

To be sure, there are problems other than ones related to performance fears that can interfere with trading. Many of these are described in my book. The unique thing about performance anxiety is that it can afflict highly successful traders every bit as much as rookies. This is because the root of much of the anxiety - perfectionism - tends to be present in the most achievement-oriented and successful individuals. It is truly a double-edged sword.

Somewhere between the extremes of performance pressure and complacent laziness is a happy medium where traders can focus on self-improvement without sabotaging their results. Trading is like dating: You want to keep initial expectations reasonable, enjoy it while it's happening, and learn from it once it's over. In the second and final article in this series, I will take a look at strategies traders can use to overcome performance pressures.

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