Change Your Habits

A couple of days ago I read a post that someone had recommended. It was to do with the sort of things you don’t do if you’re a focused individual and that focus leads to success and happiness. As I started to read it I was thinking that the author was making some excellent, but fairly obvious points. But as I reached the end of the post I felt a little bit cheated out of my time.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

As most of us read so many posts and articles online these days, what is it that we’re genuinely searching for? Well it certainly depends on what we’re reading. A broadening of knowledge is something we might seek for intellectual stimulation, intrigue and enlightenment for example. But in the arena of self-development, trading or otherwise, it’s likely to be somewhat more specific than this.

Thought provocation is one thing for sure – seeing things in a different way and what others are doing/saying/thinking can certainly stimulate new ideas from within. But I believe it’s simpler than this for most. I believe that most people read an article or post in order to directly learn something that they can take away and use to improve their quality of life and/or trading. So when I read something that says “well this is what the best do (/don’t do)” and doesn’t even mildly make any suggestions as to what you might try in order to replicate these people, it kinda irks me.

Furthermore, something strikes me about the post I read and many others on the net – we all known in our heart of hearts what we’re doing wrong. We’d love to change things, but we don’t know how. You might believe that you procrastinate for example. But telling yourself that you’re just going to get on with things is likely going to make the change a struggle and eventually you’ll probably lapse back into your natural state as a procrastinator. You’re basically relying on willpower to sustain change and willpower is probably something that has let you down before in what you’re trying to achieve.

AN EXPERT IN YOU

Even if you’re reading/listening to the definitive expert on a particular subject, there’s a chance that all it is likely to do is exacerbate your frustration. Not infrequently, a person who’s successful in their field masquerades as an expert educator. This is not necessarily their intention, as it feels natural to most that a person who has been successful should be able to help others to that same success. But the big difference is that although an expert knows what they’ve done to be a success, they often don’t know how they’ve done it and frequently they don’t remember the uncertainty of direction they faced as they look back on their journey. But this is about you and your journey. You have to walk the path and you take your own baggage with you. What might seem like a simple and straight forward principle to one person, could feel hazy and ambiguous to another.

Whatever you read or listen to, attend or get coached on, the question this all boils down to is are you able to see a better way of doing something and incorporate it into your life on a daily basis? Are you able to change your habits and sustain that change? With a few ideas borrowed from various sources, I believe you can. And perhaps you will start to take much more from the posts you read and indeed your own observations.

THE PROCESS

1) Recognize a problem – There are many issues out there and to some degree we have them all. But not everything is a major issue for you or me. So you have to figure out what your problems are and just how major or minor an impact they have. Engaging in a thorough self-appraisal helps to pinpoint what you might need to change and motivate you to take action.

2) Understand the problem – Recognizing the problem is only the first part of the process. If you want to create a successful plan to sustain change, you’re going to need to understand the problem on a deeper level. In analyzing why you procrastinate for example, you may well find a core belief that you’re not capable either of a particular task or in general. You might see that in general you don’t procrastinate at all, but when it comes to trading, it’s a major issue.

3) Create a routine – The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is an excellent and enlightening book with some actual techniques for creating change. I’m going to borrow the Habit Loop from the book. The Habit Loop is a simple description of why you tend to do a certain thing given a certain set of circumstances and how it feeds into itself. The Habit Loop looks like this: –

Cue-Routine-Reward

It’s simple but it does require some self-observation, thinking and ingenuity at times. It’s also as much about identifying current loops as it’s about creating new ones. If you don’t see the current loop which is probably fairly engrained by now, the chances are that it’ll derail your efforts to sustain new alternative loops down the line.

4) Simple changes – Life is about the sum of all of our personal experiences and these are vast in number regardless of how it feels. Small changes day by day can add up to immensely significant changes and lead you down entirely different life paths. Think of it in terms of trading. One homerun winning trade is great – but it’s also hard to make and can be potentially stressful along the way. However, the sum of all your small trades is likely to have a far more powerful effect on your account balance, your confidence and your ability to scale your trading business. Make no mistake – making small changes can make a huge difference and they are usually far easier to sustain.

5) Know where you’re going, know where you’ve been – If your goal to change is ambiguous, you don’t track your progress and you’re unable to see tangible improvements within a reasonable period of time, the chances are very high that you’ll simply drop what you’re doing in spite of the understanding that you need to act differently. Setting and tracking specific quantitative goals allows with a realistic timescale can play a huge role in sustaining change. By doing so, over time you’ll have the data to see whether you are sustaining the change and what the tangible benefits are. If you see that your expectancy is rising for example as you maintain a minimum amount of meditation every day, there’s a much greater chance that you’ll keep it up.

Trade well.

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