While most traders will never discover this, there are two traders inside you. Actually, there are many, but two that come out most frequently.
On one hand, there is a trader we most often engage, and that is one not borne from an optimal brain state. This is one that is overwhelmed by fear, greed, doubt, lack of confidence, an inability to pull the trigger or make a decision, to close out a losing position we know we should, or stay in a good runner.
On the other hand, we have one which is confident in the face of losses, focused in a drawdown, directing energy towards the process, disciplined in the fire, and pulling the trigger when needed.
It is this latter trader most don’t engage, simply due to training. It is this latter trader that naturally arises when we are in a whole brain state.
What Is The Whole Brain State?
The whole brain state is an optimal state whereby both halves of the brain are communicating and in sync with each other. The left-right brain myth really created a dichotomy, leading us to believe we are better off in one side or the other for specific tasks.
But what science has now demonstrated through decades of studying meditation is when both hemispheres are working in sync, we have greater access to clarity, higher cognitive functions along with calmer/more focused brain-waves, all of which improve performance on skill-based tasks (trading).
NOTE: When they sliced open Einstein’s brain, they noticed he had an immense amount of connectivity (and thus communication) between both hemispheres of the brain, well beyond the norm.
This whole brain state is most often what athletes and high performers are in when they are “in the zone.”
The problem for us (especially as traders) is we haven’t been taught to recognize, build or maintain this state.
On the other side of the whole brain state and this “zone” we have the “stress response” or “fight-or-flight” state. This is something we commonly engage in when trading, yet need to avoid like the Spanish Inquisition.
In this state, our mind-body system automatically prepares for self-preservation. Survival is one of our strongest instincts, and it is quickly activated with little/no critical “thinking” involved.
NOTE: From an evolutionary standpoint, this is the brilliance behind nature and our bodies. Being chased by a tiger in the jungle, better not be having any energy go towards digestion. Best you have an increase in oxygen to our muscles, and you better have it fast.
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But for us as traders, the “fight-or-flight” stress response is a death blow to critical thinking and successful trading.
When you are in this state, you cannot access higher cognitive functions and the PFC (pre-frontal cortex). Most of the energy in the brain is happening around the brain stem (oldest part of our brain).
Everything perceived as a negative becomes/feels like a threat.
Now, this may sound familiar, but ever been in a trade nicely in profit, then have it suddenly turn a few pips against you, and you start to think, “Oh No, it’s going to turn against me, I have to exit”? Has this happened to you before?
If so, you are experiencing evolution, and you are most certainly NOT experiencing the whole brain state.
In such a stress response, you have approximately a zero percent chance of trading successfully.
Simply put, evolution is a strong impulse that dominates our brain states (and thus mindset). Trading global instruments in front of several monitors was not part of our evolution, and it is this wiring we have to retrain our minds to avoid.
The way out of this is to train your mind and brain to be in a whole brain state, as often, and as much as you can during trading. Doing this gives you an exponential edge vs. the fight-or-flight trader you often step into, giving you the best chance to wire successful habits in and make profitable trades.
With that being said, have you ever done something in trading, which you “know” is the worst thing to do, yet you did it anyway, almost like you couldn’t control it?
Have you ever looked back at some of your losses wondering, “What was I thinking?” The truth is, you weren’t really “thinking.” You were reacting to ever increasing stress responses. And you were definitely not in a whole brain state.
Below are three critical questions regarding performance & your neurological states when trading:
1) Do I recognize some of these “fight-or-flight” moments, and how was my performance?
2) If I had to quantify it, how often am I in a non-optimal mind state when trading?
3) What do I do to prepare myself mentally and get myself in an optimal state for trading?
Answer to these questions likely will point to why your performance is where it’s at. The good thing is, you can change this and rewire your brain for success by learning to be in the whole brain state.
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