Consistently profitable trading comes down to just three simple things. The three are the trading psychology, the system, and the risk and money management. Trading psychology means the big 3: discipline, confidence and consistency.
The trading psychology takes precedence because it is needed to make sure that the other two are followed. When they are not followed, a good system and sound risk and money management rules are of limited value. When you have trading psychology that is not achieved through sheer will, you can have the discipline, confidence and consistency that make the most of your rules and system.
Sticking to your system for any length of time is nearly impossible without having confidence in your system. A trader may be able to focus intently on their discipline, and may even be able to stick to it for a time, but often the first handful of losing trades will kill that confidence and with it goes the discipline.
When the sting of a string of losses comes along, especially for a trader that has not established a solid confidence in their system, the temptation to deviate from the system, to second-guess it, is very strong. The natural impulse to avoid the pain is great and only grows with each subsequent loss. Faith in the system drops each time another loss occurs, even if the loss came to be from the deviation from the system. In these circumstances, doubts, fear and anxiety usually run high.
So what is a trader to do to avoid this situation, or to remedy it if this situation has already been encountered?
A great deal of trading psychology comes from expectations and reality. Frustration comes when expectations aren’t met by reality. When a person doesn’t know what to expect, then anxiety set in. When a person knows what to expect and what to do, then confidence is there. Worst case is when the primary point of reference is the recent and painful losses, and only slightly less difficult to be confident when matters feel very uncertain.
Since trading is an activity where losing trades will occur, the best way to establish confidence is to have a way to know what to expect – from the trading system. What is the way to make this happen? The trader can see what can realistically be expected and what can’t through system analysis and looking at the system metrics. The metrics give one a realistic and measured look at the capabilities and limitations of a system, particularly how many losing trades might be encountered during an overall profitable period of time. The primary benefit regarding the trader’s trading psychology is in the way the numbers from the analysis put things in a perspective that fends off the anxiety and doubt and makes for much easier discipline.
Once this is achieved, then the trader should track their metrics to ensure consistency and continuous improvement. It happens quite commonly for traders to experience major breakthroughs once they put in place the habit of analyzing their system and tracking the metrics. Confidence, discipline and consistency are the natural result of this activity, and frequently initiating this practice marks the turning point in the careers of many traders. It is vital as part of trading psychology that one properly analyze the metrics and track their numbers, as backtesting alone will only help to a limited degree.