Now that 2012 is wrapping up for traders, I’m guessing many of you (like myself) are dying to get into the new year of trading. During this time, it is a fantastic opportunity to reflect upon what successes you had last year, but also what you need to work on.
A common practice and tradition for people before the new year is to set goals or what some refer to as ‘resolutions‘. Did you know that over 80% of all New Years resolutions around losing weight or getting into shape fail? Similarly for traders, virtually the same amount of profitable accounts last year (avg. 28%) is virtually identical to the year before (avg. 26%).
Yet I’m willing to bet most of you made trading resolutions last year that were all designed to help you become successful. Being that around the same amount are, it’s safe to say these ‘resolutions’ failed, so why do you think that is?
The key is around setting proper goals, for if they are done incorrectly, you will move forward without a real plan of action, just attacking the charts hunting for profits and intraday price action setups, but no real progress towards your trading.
This article is designed to share with you an easy 5 step strategy for setting proper trading goals in 2013. This is so you can make the significant changes to your trading you feel is possible.
Step 1 – Make Your Goals Specific
If a goal is not specific, there is no way to focus on it, or take specific actions to achieve it. Your efforts become dis-coordinated towards achieving your goal, and your energy never drives home any specific change. Stating to yourself;
“I will stick with my trading method“ is too general and not specific enough.
Sure, your method may be to trade price action, or the ichimoku cloud, but that is too vague. Does this mean one system or many? Does this address risk parameters? No. Does it address the specific rules of your system? No.
You have to be specific with your goals, otherwise your efforts will be scattered and ineffective.
Although the most common goals will be numbers oriented, try to avoid these typical ones below;
I want to make a 100% gain on my account
I want to make 10% profit a month
I want to make 500 pips per month
Because you cannot know what the market will bring. You may have a goal of 20 pips per day, but what if the market is offering you 100 pips on your price action setup? Why would you not take what is offered?
Consequently, the market may have low liquidity and be in a super small 15 pip range, perhaps waiting for a big announcement. So why try and force more out of the market then what it is offering?
Focusing on performance means you may sacrifice technique to get there, and this leads to bad habits in trading which will cause greater losses down the line.
Instead, set some clear ‘process‘ oriented goals which focus on technique instead of result. If you do the technique correct, and trade following your rule based system, then you trade the system as is, and build positive habits towards trading successfully. I always suggest – focus on doing the technique correctly, and the money will come.
Some examples are;
-I will execute proper risk management targeting minimally 2x my risk on every trade
-I will stay in a winning position until my system gives me an exit signal
-I will spend 30 minutes each day preparing for my trading day, and 30 minutes reviewing my trading day
Not only are these ‘process‘ oriented goals which build positive behaviors to improve your trading, but they are specific. Instead of saying, ‘I will use ‘better‘ risk management techniques‘, they state specifically what they are. ‘Better‘ is ambiguous and hard to define, so how do you know if you achieved the goal?
Specific goals (both small and big) are critical because you direct your efforts in a specific direction where the goal is clear. Each smaller goal is simply a step on the path to a larger goal and gets you that much closer.
Step 2 – Goals Need to Be Measurable
Along the lines of goals being specific, they also need to be measurable. For example, maybe for the last year, across all your trades, you achieved a 1.5:1 reward-risk ratio for all your winners. Well, with the goal of having a 2x reward-risk ratio, this is something you can measure.
You can also challenge yourself by adding a time value beyond ‘for the year 2013‘. An example would be;
By March 1st, I will targeting nothing smaller than 2x my risk
By March 1st, over half of my trades winners will be 2x my risk, and the other half no less than 1.5x my risk
You may accomplish these goals earlier, but by having a goal be ‘measurable‘, it becomes a measurable indicator directly related to your goal, which will provide you with clear results and a feedback loop which communicates how you are doing, and what specifically you need to work on. You can even get specific by making smaller measurable goals which are just one step on the way up towards your bigger goals.
Step 3 – Make Your Goal Attainable
Ask yourself, ‘is your goal attainable?‘ Saying you want to achieve 70% accuracy with all your trades may be difficult if you’ve never had a year (or even month) above 50%.
The questions you have to ask yourself ‘Am I prepared, capable and have all the tools needed to achieve my goals?‘
Maybe you do not even have a rule based price action system with an edge to begin with. So how can you say you want to achieve 70% accuracy when you a) do not even have a system and b) have not tested your system on demo or live to see how it performs?
Perhaps one of your goals is to write in your trading journal every day. Well, ask yourself – do you even have a trading journal?
First figure out what you need to achieve your goals, then determine whether you have everything you need or not. A goal must be attainable, but only if you have the right tools in place.
Step 4 – Make Your Goal Realistic
It is easy to make a goal, just like it is easy to make a new years resolution. But setting a realistic goal is a completely different thing. Just like a goal needs to be attainable, having a realistic goal keeps you honest about where you are and what is workable to you without putting undue stress on yourself.
For example, using the goal, ‘I will spend 30 minutes every day preparing for my trading day‘, what if you work 9 to 5, and your trading day starts at 5:30? Maybe it takes you 15 minutes just to get home, so spending 30 minutes preparing for your trading day may not be realistic if you need to be trading at 5:30 when your price action setups form.
This is the failure of many exercise or weight goals. Saying you want to lose 50lbs in 3 months is one thing, but maybe it would be unhealthy for you to lose that much weight so quickly.
The same is for trading – make your goal realistic. If you are going to make your goal a performance number, like 1000 pips per month, yet you’ve never made over 200 pips, you may be setting yourself up for failure and disappointment which will have a negative psychological impact on your trading.
Thus, find a goal that is achievable, but will force you to work and stretch your current abilities.
Step 5 – Make Your Goal Timely
Obviously you will start working on these new goals beginning the new year, but what is your deadline or finish line? Would you ever join a race if you had no idea how far you had to run? Of course not. Thus, not having a finish line for achieving your goals can cause your motivation to wane, or discipline to slip by taking breaks from working on your goals consistently.
Remember, the finish line is not just an ending you are moving towards passing. It is a guide on how to manage and use your time and effort. Most traders fail to manage their time effectively, both in front of the screen (trading, analyzing the market for setups), and away from their screen (reviewing trade journal, analyzing performance/stats).
It is common to think ‘next week, or next month I will use proper risk management, or write in my trade journal‘. How many times have you said this to yourself, and how many times have you not hit your goals on time?
The difference between successful people and those who are not, is successful people know how to manage their time well, set small goals that lead to the larger goal, and constantly make progress towards them. By knocking down the smaller goals, it makes the larger goal seem much more possible.
Each step you take should have a finish line for achieving your goals, so you know how to effectively manage your time and build towards your new heights.
Creating resolutions and goals at first seem simple and straightforward, especially if they are just done in your head. But you’ve committed to becoming a successful trader.
You’ve spent money, time, and made many sacrifices to complete the journey. Why waste that time and effort to fall short and not get the financial freedom you want? Why spend so many hours and dollars to not get a return on your investment which is the the best kind of all – independence for both money and time?
Thus, make sure you know what you need to achieve your goals, that they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
I always suggest starting off asking, ‘What Do I Need To Trade Successfully‘. This is a critical step towards achieving any goal. But once you’ve asked these questions, then you know what you need to do and where to go. Now you just need a map and to set your goals for getting there.
Maybe you want to achieve your goals in a few months, a year, or maybe a few years. Regardless, you need a map, and clear goals/steps to get there, so make sure to make your plans and goals workable by following the five steps above. Doing so is the fastest way to reaching your goals and crossing the finish line.
Thus in 2013 accept the challenge to become a successful trader by working with a trading mentor, study a rule based system, do the work, and enjoy the rewards as they are more than worth it.
I’d like to end with a quote that was inspiring for me in my early years of trading from Hannah Moore:
“Obstacles are those frightful things when you take your eyes off your goals”
Make sure to out my latest trading articles:
My Top Trading Mistakes for 2012
Developing a Successful Forex Trading Mindset Pt. 1
The Ideal Trader