It may seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, but to truly be in control of your trading and your trading mindset, you must first learn to lose the need to control the market. Traders often try to control the market and they aren’t even aware they are doing it. If you don’t already know, you cannot control the market, at all. So, if you are trying to, not only are you probably hemorrhaging money, you’re probably extremely frustrated and desperate in regards to your trading. You need to first figure out if you are indeed attempting to control the market and then figure out what to do about it if you are (you probably are).
Once you understand that in life and in the markets there are certain things you can’t control and that will always be unpredictable to a certain degree, you will learn to focus your energy on what you CAN control. Much like a master of martial arts, you can learn every punch, kick and block, but ultimately there are aspects about your opponent you can never control. As traders, we ‘fight’ on a financial battlefield with many different opponents, and the best chance we have at success is preparing a good attack-plan, preparing a good defense, and having contingencies in place. We do our best to prepare and navigate the market’s battleground, but we can not control everything, we can only control ourselves, what we do and don’t do, and how we handle each circumstance and situation.
Self-control is often the determining factor in trading success, relationship success and life in general. Every good relationship book will tell you the only thing you can control is yourself. What other people do, how they act or think, is not in our control, no matter how it may seem. By working on ourselves, we can learn, adapt and succeed in relationships of all kinds, but first we need to let go, and be at peace with what we can’t control. This applies to trading exactly the same way.
For most traders, it takes them years or even decades to realize this same truth; that we can only control ourselves and not the market. This mistake costs a trader thousands of dollars along the way, along with countless late, frustrating, sleepless nights.
Where Do You Actually Fit in in the Overall Market Picture?
There are literally hundreds of thousands, probably millions of variables affecting a market at any given moment. From economic news releases to all the different traders and their opinions and feelings on the market, there is just no way any human could possibly “control” or even collect and comprehend that amount of data. The only way we have to truly make sense of it, is to learn to analyze the footprint of the market; price action.
You need to realize that you are simply a single participant in an enormous sea of competitors / enemies on the ‘battlefield’…all of whom are trying to take home the prize (i.e. money) from the market. The market, as well as the other competitors in it, cannot be controlled, they don’t know you, they don’t care about you and it’s futile to try and control it / them.
Our one single goal and mission is to successfully execute our plan and execute our trading edge with as much discipline as possible, protecting our ass through risk management in the process.
Remember: You are only responsible for and in control of YOU in the market. So, don’t waste your time on anything that isn’t controllable.
Our Innate Need to be “In Control” and How it Works Against Us
Traders often try to control everything in the market except the only thing they can control: Themselves.
Human beings, in general, are really, really bad at self-discipline and self-control, so what do they typically do? They try controlling other people to make themselves feel better (since controlling themselves is uncomfortable and difficult). In trading, people do the same thing, but they try to control the market instead of another person. However, the market is even LESS controllable than another person might be, and the consequences of trying to control it are disastrous.
Being “in control” is really all about fear. When we aren’t in control, we feel afraid. This is why some people are afraid of flying; because they don’t have control of what is happening, they are just passive passengers along for a ride, despite the fact that it’s the safest way to travel. Similarly, in trading, people give into their fear of losing and so they start trying to control the market by over-trading or by moving their stops and targets all around, risking too much, etc. Doing these things gives them a TEMPORARY feeling of control, but as soon as the market does something they weren’t wanting it to do, that feeling quickly turns into anger and even panic.
You can only gain control of the market by losing your need to control it. Read that last sentence again. You must be at peace with what you can’t control and simply give up the innate need and temptation to act in such a way as if you have control over the uncontrollable.