Self Improvement Starts From Studying Yourself Literally
I have worked with many people in improving their trading performance. I have also worked with people to improve other areas in their lives. Leaving the more technical psychology stuff aside, one thing that stands out in those people who can help themselves into doing better, be that health related or financial well being, is their practice of writing a journal of their experience.
The practice of writing a diary dated all the way back in history. The most famous one is probably Meditations written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is now well recognized that keeping a diary has many benefits in terms of mental health and personal growth. To put this in perspective, having a diary is like having a journal of things happening around you and your emotional responses to them. This makes the diary a good source of information about yourself enabling you to reflect and learn about yourself in a more objective manner.
Similar approach works very well for those people developing professional careers. Pro athletes journal their training and use that as a source for refining their performance. Yet, many people who want to improve their lives keep seeking outside educational resources as oppose to look within themselves. I am not saying better educated in the subject you want to learn is not necessary. They are vital building blocks to make one more knowledgeable. But at the end of the day, it is how we use the knowledge we acquired that makes the difference. Since applying what we know is not an exact science, it can take a long time with many attempts before we find out what is the best way in utilizing our knowledge in our own special situations.
This calls for writing a journal.
For traders it will be the documenting of each trade and the reasons why you put on the trade, how you planned to manage the trade and the outcome of the trade. Over time, we will notice patterns emerge from the journal giving us new insights about ourselves. For example, you may believe that your special secret trading setup brings you good profit but your journal serves as the cold hard evidence that it may not be true. Human does not change their beliefs and behaviours easily on things they have conviction on. This is called conviction bias (or simply stupidity). Keeping a journal makes it much easier to face the reality as it is not brought onto us by remarks from others.
Depending on our character, criticism by others can easily be rejected as our ego turning defensive. Even the person making the remarks has good intention, the response from most of us will largely be based on the tone and the way the message was delivered as oppose to the content of the message. If we make the comments ourselves through our journal, meaning that we criticize ourselves honestly, it will likely be in the form that can get into our mind the easiest.
Writing your own journal on your pursuit of a specific goal serves many purposes. It is a stress release tool while you are writing down the experience. It is also a source of information for self improvement when you review the journal. If your pursuit is related to business or trading, the journal can also be used as an important reference for writing your business plan or trading plan.
There is always something we like to do better in life – start your journal today.