Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Perfection Trap

I'm reading an excellent book on improving trader mental states at the moment. Thus far the biggest impact on my state of mind is what the author Adrienne Toghraie calls "The Perfection Trap." This is what happens when you grow up in a highly critical environment where nothing you do is the best and no praise is bestowed on your actions as a child. No action goes un-analysed. You are critical others and they are critical of you. In the best case scenario, this creates highly creative and hard working young adults, in the worst case it creates neurotic children who resent their upbringing.

The first time I noticed this as a liability in my trading was when I began to have problems honoring my predetermined stops. It was as if the market moving against was a personal affront to my entire being. Just a single trade in a series of hundreds had become my defining moment as a trader, and consequently a human. How absurd when I look back on it, but it continues to haunt me when I introduce trading to a new person interested in the markets. The idea that I allow them to watch me trade and have that trade turn into a loss is somehow humiliating. I am a trader and yet I cannot make money with this person watching me? I become a fool watching them watching me.

VS Naipaul has a line in one of his old books which basically says something along the lines that a ruined North African trader was a fatally flawed businessman because he was so in love with selling his goods at a price which represented beauty in math. As his business began to sour it was obvious to those around him that he loved the precision of numbers more than earning a profit.

That in itself is an enormous lesson to take away and apply to the forex markets. No system works as a perfect  entity in the present or even the future. In the past, for sure, this is how we create systems to begin with. We look for patterns which repeat as often and as precise as possible. But the market doesn't care. And if we think about it for a moment, neither does mathematics. We are still discovering new possibilities in number theory. This is only possible because previous notions are in fact wrong.

A profitable trader is lucky though, if they can overcome the Perfection Trap, they can succeed where the mathematician will fail. Somehow I feel fortunate to have chosen this path as I can measure my success with the most linear of numbers: my profit.

Here are a few questions to consider from Trading on Target and decide if you should address this as a weakness in your mental trading arsenal.

How long have you been in the perfection trap?

What is the origin of the need to have perfection in your life?

How do you apply perfection to yourself and in your trading? Do you also apply the same standard of perfection to others in your life?

What are you trying to accomplish in your quest for perfection? What is the ultimate payoff? Is there a need for a sense of control? Of being more worthy of love and admiration? of reducing fear of loss and pain?

These are just some of the relevant questions I asked myself. Now that I am vigilant in my desire to create profits over personal emotional needs while I am in a trade, these deep emotional issues are no longer sabotaging my trading as they once did. This is not to say I have beaten my demons dead, far from it. But by being aware of this weakness within, I am a better trader.

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