There are numerous activities that we can undertake in our daily lives to help us focus so that all thoughts of anything else are driven out and no consideration is given to previous losses or events. Examples are playing tennis, video games, chess, and other areas where competition exists and reactions are the key to winning. For traders this type of focused state of mind has been called “Trading In The Zone” by Mark Douglas and that it is this that will deliver a winning performance.
A prime example of a directly competitive environment where focus is essential is pit trading. The shear noise, frenetic nature of the activity and need to dominate the pit and the other traders means that distraction is easy but clarity and focus will win the day. Pit trading is described by Ben, a trader at the CME, as “…a touchy-feely kind of thing. You’ve got some sort of hidden impulse that you’re taking reads from, and you probably couldn’t tell anyone why you just did what you did.” What is it though that gives the correct state of mind?
According to Ben, “You can never get in the zone unless you’re in the market. I’ve never been in the zone without having a position.” He states that “You won’t feel those hidden things that you would feel if you were not in the market. And even a small position is enough and your body will start to get closer in the zone.”
So what can you do to get yourself into the ‘zone’? Researchers have identified three main elements that if managed will aid you in your trading.
The first of these being to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed by keeping your trading to within your comfort level. This covers trading in areas that you know and have studied and ensuring that you stick to your rules of never committing more to a trade than you can afford to lose. You will have the engagement with the market that Ben refers to without the fear of loss.
Next there is the need to be totally focused to the task at hand, ie. trading. To enable this, the best option is to always ensure you have a detailed trading plan that means you can keep focused on doing the steps required as the event arises and avoid second guessing. The very act of focusing on the actions aids “trading in the zone”.
This then dovetails into the third element which is to be able to read and feel what signals the market is sending out. A well written plan allows for different conditions and events occurring and so recognising them should be easier and enables rapid response. The ability to act and react so decisively delivers a sense of control. This in turn enables your focus to become even greater without time or space for doubts. Finally you are “trading in the zone” without even looking for it.
Being in the zone is about the process and act of trading and not the outcome. Winning is the obvious ideal but losing should not dominate your thoughts on the next trades.
It is not possible to be in the zone with every single trade as we are all human but when it happens it is a fantastic experience and gives the boost needed to retain that self-belief. It all becomes about the enjoyment of trading and being in tune with the market which significantly increases the overall probability of winning.
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