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Market Wizards: Interviews with Top Traders by Jack D. Schwager

March 24th, 2009

Dr. Van K. Tharp – The Psychology of Trading

The characteristics of losing traders include someone who is high stressed and has little protection from stress, has a negative outlook on life and expects the worst, has a lot of conflict in his or her personality, and blames others when things go wrong.  These people dont’ have rules that guide their trading behavior and are likely to be a crowd follower.  They also tend to be disorganized and impatient.

Impediments to successful trading are that most people bring their personal problems with them to the market with them.  They tend to act out in their trading the same way they act out in the personal life.  Bringing negative emotions such as anger, desperation, or negative physical conditions such as stress, or fatigue to your trading day can also be disastrous.  Good traders need to be conscious of maintaining a positive disposition.

Also, poor traders tend not to cut losses short or let profits run.

Top traders generally believe the following.  These are the five most critical beliefs of good traders.  These beliefs make the inevitable setbacks easier to deal with.

  1. Money is NOT important
  2. It is OK to lose in the markets
  3. Trading is a game
  4. Mental rehearsal is important for success
  5. They’ve won the game before they start

Good traders DO NOT blame external forces for their losses.  No matter how blind sided a trader can get from government intervention, natural disasters, corrupt CEOs, or technical glitches, good traders take personal responsibility for their results.

When traders own their own problems, they discover that their results usually stem fromsome sort of mental state.  Common examples include:

  1. I’m too impatient with the markets
  2. I get angry at the markets
  3. I’m afraid at the wrong time
  4. I’m too optimistic about what will happen

One tactic Dr. Tharp suggests for how to control one’s mental state is to “step away from your desk (when you are trading poorly or are in a mental state you would like to change) and get up out of your chair.  Walk about four feet from where you were sitting and picture how you looked in that chair.  Notice your posture, your breathing, your facial expressions.  Then imagine how you would look if you had the positive mental state you would like.  When you can see that clearly, sit down in the chair and assume the position you just imagined.”


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