Thinking too much. It’s truly a form of mental ‘poison’ that if left unchecked, can consume you and drastically alter your thinking, behavior and even your personality. Needless to say, this negative habit can have disastrous consequences in any area of life: work, personal (relationships), school and especially in trading.
As with most things, a skilled trader is at his or her best when they are “in the moment” and not thinking too far ahead about all the possible outcomes of a particular trade. Trading is not a game of “chess” like so many people seem to think. It is not going to improve your odds of success by thinking more, researching more or being at your charts more, if it were that easy everyone would be doing it.
Trading success comes when a person has the proper tools to analyze and make sense of the market as well as the proper mindset that allows them to stay “in the flow” and not think too much or analyze too much.
What is “overthinking” in trading and how does it affect your performance?
Overthinking can seem like a broad and somewhat obscure topic so it’s important to define what it is so that you know when or if you are doing it so that you can being taking action to stop it.
We all know that if someone is “overthinking”, they are thinking too much about a topic, to the point where it negatively impacts them. But, the following points outline some specific examples and causes of overthinking in trading. Read along and see if these sound familiar to you:
- Recency Bias on recent trade outcomes
In a recent article I wrote on recency bias in trading, I discussed how traders become overly-influenced by the outcomes of their most recent trades. Essentially, they end up overthinking them and assigning too much weight to those recent trades outcomes.
For example, if you’re guilty of having recency bias, it means you are thinking and feeling like “this trade” will be a winner “because the last one was” or that “this trade will be a loser because the last one was”. Either way, you’re wrong lol. Your last trade has basically ZERO to do with your next trade. Each trade’s outcome is essentially random from the previous trade(s), so stop thinking about it too much and becoming overly-influenced by the previous trade(s) result. Traders can even start thinking of things like “well since the last 3 trades lost, this one is bound to win” this is another example of recency bias in action. But, this too is wrong and has zero meaning in the real-world. Remember: Your current trade has NOTHING to do with your last trade!
- General fear of losing money and of being wrong (bruised ego syndrome)
Many traders think so much about “losing money” and “being wrong” that they end up not taking perfectly good trades. This problem typically stems from the trader risking too much money or more than they are comfortable with losing on any one trade.
If you’re going to be a trader, you’re going to be dealing with risk so you have to accept that you can lose and instead of trying to avoid it, just try to manage your losses by managing your risk properly. It comes to down to not risking more per trade than you are comfortable with losing, this is an amount that when you have it at risk you should be able to easily fall asleep at night without worrying about the money or feeling a need to “check the trade real quick”.
- Not trusting your trading strategy
When traders overthink, they often start to doubt their trading strategy and they start thinking likes like “maybe my strategy doesn’t work” or “maybe I should add some trading indicators” etc, this type of self-doubt and overthinking can be very damaging.
Not trusting your trading strategy is a result of overthinking and not “trusting the process”. Just because you hit a losing trade or even a few in a row, does not mean you should abandon your trading strategy and look for a new one.
- The “Deer in the headlights” concept: Analysis Paralysis
The deer in the headlights “syndrome” is something that happens when traders (once again) overthink about the market and their trades. What happens is that a trader starts to overthink about all the possible scenarios of a trade’s outcome and they end up missing the trade altogether. They end up just staring at the trade take off without them, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. You have to be confident and decisive when executing your trades and you can’t allow yourself to get stuck in a cycle of “what ifs” / fear.
- The Hindsight Trap
The hindsight “trap” is something that happens when a trader becomes obsessed with trades after they play out. They torture themselves about missing a trade (deer in headlights) or about exiting a trade too early or a whole host of other things. The bottom-line is that living your trading life in a hindsight “haze” of “what could have been” is detrimental to your long-term trading success. You need to realize that sometimes you’ll miss trades, sometimes you won’t exit a trade exactly when you want to etc. but don’t waste your time thinking about those things too much or you will drive yourself crazy.