Self-discipline - what's that?

Whilst I am on a roll, I'm pushing out loads of questions and thoughts that have occupied me for the last two years. All this is well 'Beyond Technical Analysis'!

In too many trading/training videos out there, I've heard the words 'discipline' and 'self-discipline'. These are so commonly used words that many take their meaning for granted, or as something very elementary. I know - because I was one of those people who thought I knew what the words meant.

However, there is also a thing called self-deception which works against self-discipline. Self-deception at its heart, is the ability of the mind to justify anything! Quite simply - it's dangerous.

The Collins Dictionary defines self-discipline as, "controlling of oneself or one's desires, actions, habits... .. the act of disciplining or power to discipline one's own feelings, desires... with the intention of improving oneself." It's easier now to see how this connects to trading environments.

A sound trader needs a lot of personal self-control over actions, habits, feelings and desires. I add 'thinking processes'. Certainly there must be a routine that improves one abilities, as the markets are not static. Their behaviour changes so one needs to improve to match those changes.

The obvious question for many (especially new traders) is, "How do I become more disciplined?" I'm afraid there is no magic formula that I can prescribe. I can only share a few personal experiences that drove me to become more disciplined.

It's like a weird sandwich:

  • A firm and unshakeable desire to make myself consistently profitable.
  • Pain i.e. painful mistakes.
  • Non-acceptance that if others could do it, I couldn't.

Pain drives people - let's not debate that. By pain I include from the worse kinds of suffering to the more subtle kinds. One can include things like frustration, anger and disappointment. Pain stood like a distasteful filling between the two sides of my sandwich. I just couldn't ignore it. If I wanted to make this thing right I had to fix the pain; all sources of it.

I was/am my own pain. My enemies arise from within me to cause me pain. My mind plays tricks on me in trading environments. To deal with the sources of pain I had to deal with my own mind, else just give up. I'm no quitter! So whilst I do not claim near-perfect discipline now, I have been addressing the trickery of my own mind - those inner enemies - that thwart my thinking processes. After all, if I don't the whole sandwich (three bullet points above) become nothing - and I'd have to join the 90-odd percent of people who give up on trading in the first couple years.

Am I saying that pain is a necessary ingredient for everybody to reach a greater self-disciplined state? Well yes I am! In every walk of life people have to suffer some sort of discomfort in achieving their goals. If you wanted to become a top-rated lawyer, you would have to suffer the 'pain' of years of study, and the trauma of being beaten in court rooms. If you want to get to the North Pole on foot, that involves pain and personal sacrifice. But nobody gets to the North Pole alive, with poor discipline. I shan't go on to mention other areas where people suffer extreme discomfort in order to achieve their goals.

If there are take away points to consider, traders should to find out what they are about and anchor themselves on what they want and what they won't have. Then, systematically whittle away at all obstacles by robust self-refection. It takes time - and bargain for pain! Do the time - take the pain. Don't blow up a live account.
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