By: Van K. Tharp, Ph.D. On: September 26, 2017 In: Expert Advice, Most Popular, Trading Mindset Comments: 0

When I write these articles for Your Trading Edge magazine, my primary purpose is to give you a huge paradigm shift. Paradigm shifts usually come, however, from experiences — not just reading. You are more likely to get a major shift if after you read my suggestions, you actually apply them with actions. In this issue I’d like to talk about something that could make a huge difference for your trading: your awareness. In addition, I’ll give you four challenges so you can see just how aware you really are. Are you willing to take the challenge?

In my opinion, the spiritual process of ‘waking up’ is all about increasing awareness. How do you become more aware?  There are many, many ways.  For example, we play a trading simulation game in some of our workshops. Everyone gets the same trade results so the game is more about the position sizing strategies than figuring out what to buy or sell. The game helps people become aware of their thoughts and feelings because I designed it to generate emotions and press people’s buttons. What kinds of thoughts and feelings come up for the players? All sorts but more importantly, if those come up playing a simple simulation game, I can guarantee that those same thoughts and emotions also come up during their trading.

The game takes several hours over two days and the players get about 60 trades. They have a blank line on their scoresheet to write down their thoughts and feelings for each trade. A few people fill in every line but most people only write down their thoughts and feelings for about 10% of the trades. The rest of the time, they focus so much on what’s going on outside of themselves that they are not aware of what they are thinking or feeling on the inside. When they are unaware of what’s going on inside, they are actually projecting their thoughts and feelings onto the outside world and then believe those are happening in the world “out there”. Further, if someone has many non-useful beliefs and feelings floating around inside, then these could dramatically impair their trading.

Would you like to see how aware you are of what’s going on internally vs. externally?  We have a trading game online which you can play pretty much like our workshop attendees. So, my first challenge to you is to play the first two levels of the game (which are free) and write down your thoughts and feelings after each trade in the game. www.vantharp.com/game.asp. Just notice how aware you are of what you are thinking and feeling while you play the game.

If you have a low level of awareness generally in life, then you are controlled totally by your unconscious programming. In his book, Figuring Out People, Dr. L. Michael Hall lists 61 different metaprograms that people have. Your metaprograms totally control how you are in the world – but they operate nearly always at an unconscious level.

One simple metaprogram is if you tend to move towards what attracts you or whether you prefer to move away from negative things. To help you figure which one you use, ask yourself, “What did I look for when I bought my last car?” Write down a list of all the things you looked for before you continue reading.

For example, here is the list for my last car –

  • Lots of power…
  • A sexy car that is fun to drive.
  • Good fuel economy and not too polluting.

Usually, the first three criteria don’t go together but they did after I found out about the Tesla Model S.

  • I can drive it around the country once each year.
  • A very high-tech car.
  • A very reliable car.
  • A service department that I trust and close to my house.

The first four criteria were definitely things I wanted to move towards. The last two criteria are stated as move towards but they also have a move away from element. For example, my old Jaguar XK8 broke down at the US/Canadian border when I was driving it from Montreal to North Carolina a few years ago. I had to fly home and leave the car in Vermont for three weeks while it was being fixed. In addition, the dealer that worked on it at home always seemed to find some problem that they wanted to charge me at least $2500 to fix. I didn’t want that any more. Also, I have owned Acuras for 27 years and the Acura dealer has always treated me with a lot of respect. I have only bought one Jaguar ever and as it got older, the dealer seemed to respect me less and less. Avoiding a car that breaks down and avoiding a dealer that disrespects me and finds lots of repair work were all move away from criteria – but I tend to be a move toward person so I stated them as move toward criteria.