For example, think about anxiety. One of the key parts of the blueprint in anxiety is quicker, shallower, upper thoracic (high in the chest) breathing. If you were feeling anxious, and you noticed this level of breathing, then by slowing your breathing down and by breathing from the diaphragm (stomach area) you would be altering your physiology and so creating a change in state. But, importantly, by changing your breathing in this way, you are now activating a physiological component of being calm, composed and confident.

Gaining an awareness of what you are feeling and how you are creating that feeling is a key part of becoming good at managing your emotions. The next stage is to become skilled (yes, it is a skill, and is developed like any other skill through practice) at changing your states by learning to take control of what and how you are thinking, the images you are creating and your physical factors.

This is what the best performers in any area do to manage their emotions and it is exactly the same way in which actors are able to activate strong and convincing emotional responses when they are performing.

Trade when you are at your best. Many people trade when they are not at their best, knowing that they are not at their best. Nothing is worse than when this happens and you lose money, confirming what you already thought – I shouldn’t have traded!

Being able to recognise when you are at your best, in your ITS, and to trade when you are in such states – or at least at close as possible – is important to achieving consistency in your performance. When you trade in states that are not conducive to trading it is not that you cannot make money or won’t make money, but that the chances of you trading well are reduced; and, importantly, your risk profile has increased – if you are not at your best, then your decision-making ability is reduced, and your risk of poor execution and error is increased.

The next time you trade, as a part of your preparation think about your Ideal Trading State and ‘check in’ to assess where you are at. If you are in your ITS then great – trade on! If you are not, especially if you are significantly far away from it, then look at the blueprint and review what factors are and are not there. Make the necessary changes and trade when you are more towards your ITS. When it is proving very difficult to change your state and to move towards a more positive one then this is important feedback. It is higher risk to trade in a non-peak state, and so your first priority should be to address the negative state that you are experiencing, and then once you have released these feelings you can activate your ITS and begin trading.

Practical Strategy: Checking In

Before you can do this, you will need to have spent some time identifying your Ideal Trading State (ITS).

Checking in is a simple but very effective act. You simply allocate your ITS a measure of 10 and then give a 1 to the worst possible state you could be in to trade! You now have a scale of 1­10.

Take a moment then to check in – where would you put yourself at this point in time?

Now to make the process more effective when you check in ask yourself these questions:

How am I feeling right now? – scale of 1­10

What is that feeling/those feelings? – identify what you are feeling

How did I know that? – what is the evidence/symptoms?

What can I do to get a higher score and move towards my ITS (where appropriate)?

Checking in is a quick and simple way to assess your current trading state. When should you check in? Good times to check in are:

• As a part of your preparation before trading

• After a significant loss or win

• After a string of winners or losers

• On returning to trading after a break for any reason

• After making an error

• Throughout the afternoon when tiredness and fatigue may become more prevalent

• Whenever you want to assess your state!

Steve Ward
High Performance Global