Eventually in everyone’s trading career will come a time when you question the decision you have made to become a trader. This is a natural part of the journey and it is a watershed moment because those who understand their own motivations will have sound concrete reasons for continuing. Those who do not or whose motivations could be termed shallow or materialistic in nature do not.
Often when I ask people why they want to trade I get the immediate response -money. After all, this is a money profession – the aim of trading is to accumulate wealth through whatever approach suits your personality. It could be options, FX trading, position trading or you could be suicidal and attempt to scalp local markets. This why advertising in this industry is directed to switching on the hot button of wealth. Money or the accumulation of wealth has always been a strong societal driver. In technical parlance it is known as an extrinsic motivator – that is you do something right – you get a reward. This, after all, is the basis for capitalism. Labour be it in whatever form it takes is exchanged for money and money is an extrinsic motivator. Some are highly motivated by such rewards since careers are built on this sort of behaviour manipulation.
Unfortunately many fail to see beyond this as an initial motivation. The issue with money as a motivator is that the subconscious cannot recognise what this means so it has no context for it. Therefore it cannot be integrated into one’s psyche – it remains if you wish an outsider sitting on the sidelines attempting to steer what you do. But no matter what import you give to it as motivation it is still an outsider and cannot directly influence the trajectory of your behaviour.
The issue with this lack of integration is that eventually, it will trip you up – the subconscious has a remarkable ability to go in the direction that it wants to go in. Not in the direction you think it should go in. In part, this relates to the notion of the shadow – essentially the darker more destructive parts of ourselves. But there is also a need to integrate all of our beliefs, desires, motivations into a cohesive whole as opposed to a jumble of vague ideas.
It will also fail to survive the first set back you have and there will be setbacks since these are also part of the game. It is only deeper motivations that enable us to move on after being literally put on our arse by the market. To think that this will never occur is naive in the extreme but once again the industry itself is to blame since it only promises the new Ferrari not that you might end up actually catching the bus.
When people look beyond the initial motivation of money they generate a raft of reasons as to why they want to trade. Some relate to control of one’s life, other to time but more often than not the overriding reason comes back to money. Money or the accumulation of wealth has always been a strong societal driver – the notion of keeping up with the Joneses has been with us forever. We always compare in and upward direction not downward and whether this is driven by some property intrinsic to our society or is seen as some odd form of genetic vigour and therefore good for selecting and finding a mate I don’t know.
The motivations that each person brings to a certain endeavour or choice is idiosyncratic and will not translate to someone else. Your goals only have meaning to you but this is the central issue, they have to be your goals and not someone else’s and this clashes directly with the way we have been brought up. The structure of our lives is largely built around fulfilling the goals of others, be it doing what you were told at school through to following the instructions of your employer. These are their aims.
This means that the search for meaning is an internal search – you do something because you want to do it not because you will get a reward for it. Professional athletes are fond of saying that they would continue to play their sport even if they were not well rewarded for doing so. They have clearly found their internal motivation. Internal motivation brings about meaning and purpose and therefore adherence and dedication. Finding purpose in your own goals is a new experience since it is reflective of what you want from life not what someone else either wants from you or wants for your life.
What is your purpose in wanting to follow a certain path? Following a given path requires you to have your own philosophy and to be able to articulate what this is. This is the hard part – articulating what you want and you should be able to do this even if it is a struggle.