Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pre-game rituals and visualizations

Trading is a performance field, and unlike sports, it's nearly 100% mental.  After doing pretty well so far this week, I had a situation today where I entered a setup that I now realize was sub-par.  It was a momentary lapse of focus -- after seeing many less than perfect setups I deliberately passed that eventually became successful, I let down my guard, just a little. 

It was a mental slip.  A brain fart.  It stank.  And I paid the price.

After Flowtastical tweeted prior to the market open that for today's trading -- he was visualizing passing on the bad setups and taking the good setups aggressively -- I realized I didn't have a good pre-market ritual.  At least nothing that I have instituted on a regular and routine basis. 

When I first heard of pre-game rituals and routines, I immediately thought sports.  Here's a humorous perspective on how some elite athletes perform their rituals.  Funny as some of these rituals may be, it works for them -- they're some of the best around.


So being such an obvious factor in sports, it wasn't very difficult to find a lot of great articles regarding how to setup your own pre-game type ritual.  And these rituals can easily cross over to trading.  Here's a link to a good article on how to design your own pre-performance type ritual. 


In summary, the article explains that there are two types of rituals:
  • Associative - "you enjoy focusing specifically on the upcoming event and organizing details, thinking about it, imagining yourself performing well and can see yourself completing the event successfully."
  • Disassociative -"you'd rather not focus on what is about to happen, and instead prefer to distract yourself by listening to music, reading, viewing television"
It's obvious that the associative ritual is the way for me.  I don't have decades of experience of what works that's burned into my brain so that I can operate instinctively.  I'm at the stage where I need constant reminders and visualizations of how a good quality trade should look and feel -- before, during and after the trade.

As a start, I'm going start building my pre-market ritual with these items:
  • Review my trading plan, and then mentally visualize myself trading the plan
  • Flip through my "setup charts" that shows how my screen appears right before a specific setup triggers.  Example of BRKR - pb2rz setup
  • Review key goals for the week, and then mentally visualize myself achieving the goals
This is still a rough draft and I'll need to build upon this and refine it.  I might also need to come up with a ritual during the day, so that I can re-focus and re-energize as necessary.  But as they say, some plan is better than no plan.  I'll start executing this pre-market ritual beginning tomorrow morning.


Flowtastical said...

I'll share with you what I shared with a fellow trader. These passages are taken from "Psychology of risk" by Ari Kiev.

"The lesson then is to commit to a vision of the future in terms of your trading activities and then each day begin to take risks necessary to express that vision in the moments before you. As you succeed in doing this, you will find it valuable to raise the stakes by taking on more risk to increase the level of the challenge and bring more of your hidden potential into play."

"..trading through the lens of a vision of the future does not occur simply because you verbally commit to it, nor will it be a matter of more effort. To trade in terms of your vision requires a radical decision to produce specific results consistent with the vision and then take on the result like your life depended on it..."

Grove Under said...

Great quotes!

When I read "like your life depended on it", it reminded me of those Super G (super giant slalom) skiers, who mentally visualize going down the mountain prior to their run. It looks like they're doing some strange dance in a trance.

But as strang as it looks, in their case, at the speeds they're going down the mountain, their life really does depend on making sure both their mind and body know exactly what it needs to do!

I agree that you can't really just go through the motion with visualization--you really have to feel it. And every day, you have to keep pushing yourself. Otherwise, don't even bother.