Active trader and clinical psychologist Brett Steenbarger has come up with a relatively easy way to determine if you are trading and living within your ideal niche. Whether it is in finance, romance, career, or other aspects of your life, this cool "test" will give you insight into what degree you are operating at your optimum.
All you do is keep a journal of your emotional experiences for a week or two. Write down how you feel at the end of your mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Take specific note of the number of times you were completely absorbed in what you were doing during those times. Of special importance are the occasions when you lost your sense of time passing and sense of self-awareness. Also list the number of occasions when you felt frustrated for any reason.
The result of this psychological test is determined by the ratio of occasions in which you are absorbed to the occasions in which you are frustrated. It turns out that successful, highly creative and productive people have an unusually high ratio of "absorbed" to "frustrated."
This is because successful people operate in ideal circumstances that reflect their interests, talents, and skills. Because they are doing what they love and have the resources to do it well, they become totally immersed in their experience. This is being in the "flow," that altered state of consciousness that feels like we are one with the activity at hand. The state of flow is sometimes described as being "in the zone" or "in the groove."
On the flip side, frustration is the result of doing something that we aren't interested in or something that doesn't match our skills and talents. We become frustrated with boredom if a task is too easy. If the job is too tough, we can be frustrated because we feel inadequate. A sense of frustration will separate the subject and the object. In flow, they are joined. This is the difference between a very satisfying experience and a very unsatisfying one.
You will regularly experience the state of flow when you're living, working and playing in your ideal niche. You will be doing what you do well, and you will love and value what you're doing. That is true for the job you're in, the marriage you're in, and the trades you're in. That psychological test applies to most of life's arenas.
There is a tendency for us to justify today's frustrations with the wishful hope of tomorrow's satisfaction. Often that's just wishful thinking that keeps us from doing what's best.
In his book "The Psychology of Trading" Brett mentions a bar near his home in Kansas where a neon sign promises "Free Beer Tomorrow." Of course the naive customers who show up are always told that the beer isn't free "today" but will be "tomorrow."
Life is a continuous series of situations. Our trading, our jobs, and even our relationships are the result of our choices. In one sense we are our situation. We always experience the satisfaction or frustration of what we choose to do and who we are because of it.
It's important to have a high degree of flow in our lives. Check the quality of your emotional state each day. Compare the amount of flow to the amount of frustration. Commit to doing whatever it takes to find your groove on a regular basis. When it comes to trading it may mean changing your style or methods, maybe learning new trading skills.
Whatever the case, just remember there's no free beer tomorrow, so take action today!