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How To Improve Your Trading With Meditation and Incantations

trading options meditationAs options income traders, we’re always looking for edge.  Normally we like to look for edge in technical analysis, volatility, and strategies.  While I certainly agree that all of those things help, the reality is that, as long as we’re the ones sending the orders, some portion of edge comes back to us.

Trading and life are both performance based endeavors.  We can choose to actively engage, develop a plan, and constantly seek to improve or just go through the motions without an awareness of what we’re doing.  In life, going through the motions can potentially leave you with acceptable results.  In trading, it won’t.

While we certainly need to understand the technical aspects of trading, we also need to operate at a high level and execute that knowledge.  Meditation, incantations, and even a healthy diet and exercise greatly increase our chances of success in both life and trading.  This isn’t just about being healthy physically, which is important.  It’s also about being in a mental state where you can perform at a high level while constantly seeking improvement.

This post discusses Meditation and Incantations.  In the CIB Trading Course, there’s a chapter devoted to both and a subscriber asked me to write a little more about the ideas.  Meditation and Incantations alone will not make you a profitable trader.  However, they have the potential to help you make calmer, more objective trading decisions and behave like a high level performer.

Meditation

Meditation is the process of calming your mind.  You’re not going to levitate or get high or anything else.  You’re just going to sit, breathe and, if you make it a habit, eventually you’ll become calmer.  One of the big questions I had when I started meditating was how to do it “right.”  The following steps are suggestions for how to approach meditation.

  • Find a spot to sit.  You can sit on a chair with both of your feet on the floor, on a couch, on the floor, under a tree, or wherever you’ll feel comfortable.  You can choose to cross your legs or not.  The goal is to feel relatively comfortable because you’re not going to be moving much once you begin meditating.  Note:  If you truly can’t sit still, Google “Walking Meditation.”
  • Using a timer can help you know how long to sit and when it’s okay to get up.  My preferred timer is Insight Timer, which is available as a free app.
  • An alternative to setting a timer is to use a guided meditation or listen to music.  The best resource I’m aware of for guided meditation is Tara Brach’s site.  Her guided meditations are free although she does accept donations.
  • Sit upright with your shoulders back and relaxed.  The goal is to facilitate breathing and good posture helps your breath flow more easily.
  • Some people recommend keeping your eyes open and focusing on a particular spot ahead of them.  I prefer to close my eyes because it helps me avoid getting distracted.
  • Slowly breath in and out.  Focus on your breath and the feelings of your breath coming into your nose and leaving your mouth.  Notice what it feels like and how your breath flows.
  • If you mind begins to wander (and it will) simply observe the thoughts you’re having and direct your focus back to your breath.  Don’t attach value to the thoughts or try to brainstorm your “To Do” list, just notice that your mind has wandered and go back to focusing on your breath.
  • Some people find counting their breaths helpful.  For example, slowing counting “one” as a breath comes in and goes out, then “two,” and “three” up to ten.  If you actually make it to ten (I usually lose count), you can count down to one again.  If you lose count, just start over.  In my experience, it’s totally normal to lose count.  Sometimes I’m lucky to get to “three.”

It’s easy to feel like we don’t have time for meditation or we can’t sit still for 20 minutes.  Both of those feelings are completely normal.  When I started meditating, I tried to multi-task it.  Specifically, I would throw my oatmeal in the microwave for two minutes and run over to sit down while it cooked.  When the microwave rang, I’d jump up and eat.  I quickly learned that meditation works better when you aren’t trying to multi-task or rush it.

Shortly after learning not to multi-task meditation, I decided that meditation might be useful for goal planning so I started keeping a pad to write down my brilliant ideas while sitting.  Again, fail.  The purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind rather than engaging it for productivity.

Additionally, there is no reason that meditation needs to be some sort of major event that disrupts your day.  Even if you can only get yourself to sit for 2-5 minutes, you’re likely to find the process helpful.  Set yourself up with a smaller goal, like two minutes a day, that you can achieve.  You may find yourself wanting to do more naturally and that approach will keep you meditating longer than trying to sit for an hour on your first day and hating the experience.

Incantations

This is my recommendation that you start talking to yourself.  Let’s be honest, you probably do to some extent anyway.  Our minds tend to spin around and focus on just a few ideas.  We go over the same challenges, ideas, and struggles again and again on a daily basis in our heads.  We’re not crazy, we’re just human.  Since we already know we’re going to be repeating ideas over and over, reshaping that conversation isn’t that strange of an idea.

One of my favorite incantations is, ” I, [your name here], AM a top, highest level [thing you are working to achieve].  For example, ” I, Dan, am a top, highest level, consistently profitable, options income trader.”  Try it now with your name.

I know it sounds cheesy, but do you really care if it works?

My introduction to incantations came through reading and listening to Anthony Robbins.  I’ve only been using incantations regularly for around a year, but I can tell you that some of the things I tell myself actually.  My belief is that incantations seem to work because you’re telling yourself that something you want has already happened.  In telling yourself that story, the mind believes it.  When you believe something, you act as though it’s true.  That brings results.  I can’t 100% guarantee that incantations work, but they’re free and you can say them when you’re in the shower, in the car, or wherever you don’t mind talking out loud to yourself.

You’re already talking to yourself, why not reshape the conversation into something productive that will help you get what you want?

How do they work?

As traders, it’s important to constantly seek improvement.  Some of that is market related and some of it is emotional.  I strongly believe in the power of meditation and incantations and, frankly, I care more that they have worked than how they work.  I have no idea if they’ll work for you or not, but the benefits of meditation are pretty well documented (and the evidence continues to grow).

At the end of the day, our success largely comes down to our habits.  When we have good trading habits, we tend to get positive results over time.  We won’t always win, but generally we should win over time.  Bad habits tend to lead to bad results.  If we’re holding trades beyond our max loss while hoping the market reverses, eventually we’ll get burned.  It might not be today, but it will happen.

Successful trading is largely about developing good habits, having confidence in yourself, and always looking for areas to improve.  Meditation and incantations are just that, good habits.

What do you think?  Do you do this stuff?

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve been using meditation, incantations, or anything else to improve your performance.  If you haven’t been, are you planning to start?

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  • Mike

    Hey Dan, it’s so good that you wrote this blog. The world needs more of this. 🙂 The best advice I ever received for meditation, especially for those starting out, is that even if we meditate and we don’t think it’s working, it is working. Our minds seem noisier because now we are aware of the constant chatter. A consistent practice will mean that in a few months one day people will observe how much calmer we are. And that can only be a good thing. 🙂

    • Dan

      Mike, thanks so much for the comment! Yes, you’re totally right about meditation working even when we don’t realize it. All of these healthy habits seem to compound and improve our lives. There are ways to improve performance without forcing change or struggling and meditation is one. You’re right that the bonus is that it also makes you feel calmer and that’s always good! Thanks again.

      Dan

  • ekaterina golombisky

    I just wanna say-wow this life works in mystirious ways.What I mean is this morning I grabbed Dalai Lams book on the way to work thinking Id read it after checking Tweeter and news. And here it is your post -I felt delighted.So thank you. I do meditate just to help me see things in perspective. About the incantations-have been saying them(Im a champion in trading))))-my version) did not make me one (yet?) BUT I found a bunch of other champions-you know whom Im talking about! ))) And I think I’m very close to start your CIB course,Dan. I can’t wait actually but first thing is to calm myself(and IRS)))) down.

    • Dan

      Thanks for the comment Kate and that’s pretty wild about the book and post. I know the incantations seem strange, but I really believe in them. I don’t even care if they just work because I believe they work. I just want them to work.

      On that, one thing I’ve found helpful with incantations is to be very specific about what it is I’m trying to accomplish. A lot of that is about creating intention. The reason I say that I want to be “consistently profitable” is that it’s both desirable and measurable.

      Thanks for the support on the course and, yes, finding calm is good (especially as it relates to the IRS). Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions, comments, etc. info[at]thetatrend.com

      Dan

  • The Lazy Trader

    Good stuff. We’re on our way to becoming Ninjas of the Markets.
    Dan, I thought meditation was also an ability to entirely clear up your mind form any thought. Which I consider next to impossible for myself and that’s why I never tried it. But looks like it isnt?

    LT

    • Hey LT. It is almost impossible to stop thoughts. But during meditation, you try not to follow your thoughts by focusing on your breath or whatever is your focus point. When a thought arises, you bring your mind back to your focus point. I once heard someone said that if you can stop your thoughts completely for one minute, you can accomplish anything you want in the world.

      • Dan

        Thanks LT. I think Jonathan hit it right on with his comment. And, yes, Ninjas. One thing I might add is that I’ve heard to just observe thoughts. Not to attach value to them, worry about them, brainstorm, or anything else. Just casually recognize that they exist and, as Jonathan noted, bring your focus back.

        I have a racing mind as well and meditation is one of the few things that helps me dial it back. The other is extended periods of outdoor exercise.

  • Very nice article Dan. I started to meditate when I was 18 and it has been a part of my life ever since. I also started using affirmations on a consistent daily basis in 2013 to help me during a tough time. I liked the affirmations so much that I have continue to do it to this day. You can check out my meditation blog at – http://www.meditatebeherenow.com

    • Dan

      Yeah, I’ve found both to be really helpful. Thanks for sharing your blog, I had no idea. I’ll definitely check it out!