Do You Have the Willpower to Trade Successfully?

I am going to start this article with a question which could signify a major portion of your current level of success or failure in trading.

The question is;
Do you believe willpower (and specifically – your willpower) is a limited resource, and if so, what do you think it limits you to learn, achieve and accomplish?  

A follow up question to this is:
If you work on a difficult task, say learning to trade price action, will you need more energy and resources to accomplish an even harder task, especially one involving self-control, such as using proper risk-management, trading with discipline, following your rule-based systems or trading plan, etc.?

trading with discipline

Take a moment to reflect on these questions, then write down the answers.

Before we get into the answers, we are going to talk about a recent experiment on doing difficult tasks and the Stroop test.

There has been a lot of testing on willpower lately and the general experiments went like this;
People were asked the question about willpower, how they felt about their willpower and what they could achieve and accomplish.

Their answers were noted and then divided into two groups, and then they were all given the same following two tasks.

They started off with an easy task which was to read a page of written text and cross out all the instances where they saw the letters ‘es‘ together.

Then they were given another page of written text where they started off crossing out all the instances where the letter ‘e‘ showed up, then midway, had to change to crossing out every ‘e‘ except when it was followed by another vowel.  The second task was obviously more difficult then the first because they had already learned to cross out the ‘es‘ in the first version of the task, then cross out all the ‘e‘s regardless of how they occurred.

The reason why the last task was most difficult was a) the task was more specific, and much more importantly b) they had to prevent themselves from doing a behavior they had already built up a habit to perform.

After doing this set of tasks, they had to perform a ‘Stroop test‘.  This is one test I do every day in my Lumosity training whereby you read various names of colors in a word on the left, and have to determine if the color on the right word matches up with the color on the left.

For example, you would see the following two words;
Yellow and then the word Red which would be colored any of the following possibilities (yellow, red, blue, green, black).
If the word on the left was yellow, but the word on the right, say ‘Red’ was colored red, blue, green, or black, you would have to quickly determine if they matched up or not (in this case not).  If the word on the left was ‘yellow’ and the word on the right ‘red’ was actually colored yellow, then you selected ‘yes’, if not, you selected ‘no’ which is the Stroop test.  

Here is the interesting part. learn to trade the market successfully

If the person’s response to the willpower questions (the same ones I started the article with) was they believed they had a limited willpower to accomplish any task they wanted to achieve, these people made far more mistakes on the harder tasks, especially the Stroop test, then those who believed they had unlimited willpower to achieve anything they set their minds out to.  Even more importantly, those that believed they got energy from doing the more difficult tasks, tended to outperform those that felt taxed from them.


The answer lies in ego-depletion, which is whereby those who think their willpower can be used up based on the tasks they are doing on a regular basis.  What this led to was a person having less access to their natural intelligence and resources, whereby doing one difficult task (especially a self-control one…i.e. trading, money management, following a trading plan, etc.) made it harder to do the second task which was more difficult and required more self-control.

In contrast, those who believed willpower is essentially unlimited did equally well regardless of the letter crossing task (easier or harder).  They were not affected by this feeling of ego-depletion and therefore had the same amount of resources available for the easy or harder tasks.

Now one additional study was done in this experiment, which was to train people through various statements to either a) believe that ‘working on a strenuous task can make you feel tired and less able to accomplish more difficult tasks later or b) believe that working on a strenuous mental task can make you feel energized for further challenging activities.

These groups did the same tests (letter crossing, Stroop) as the first groups, and the results were as followed;
-The group that was taught to believe through statements that willpower is limited and they will need a break, or more energy to complete the more difficult task, performed much more poorly on the Stroop test after performing the most difficult letter crossing task

-On the other hand, the group trained to think willpower is unlimited, and that they will gain energy from each difficult task they accomplish, did just as well on the Stroop test regardless of whether they had an easy or difficult letter crossing task before.

So what does all this mean for you?

learn to trade the forex market successfully

A simple translation is your beliefs about your own willpower is one critical factor that affects how effective your willpower will be, especially in trading, keeping to your money management, following a trading plan, being disciplined, patient, etc.

But more specifically, the more you believe your willpower can keep you from doing the things that you don’t want to do (write in your trade journal, keep using proper money management after a large series of wins or losses, etc), the more likely you will be to use your willpower successfully in trading.

Although positive statements are necessary, they are not sufficient by themselves.  Only until you take the proper actions will those statements, beliefs and ideas start to change the grey matter in your brain, and construct the proper neural connections to trade successfully.

The good thing is if you currently have limiting beliefs about your willpower which are interfering with your trading process, whether you trade price action, or the ichimoku cloud, or whatever system you use, it does not matter.  You can train your mind to build this willpower and relate to the difficult task of learning to trade successfully.  That means almost every single person, with the right training, practice and diligence can learn the proper skills to trade successfully.

While it is true some people will have more natural abilities that will help them in their process, almost everyone can learn to trade successfully with the right effort, the right training and the right mindset.

In an upcoming webinar in about a month, I will talk about various methods to re-program your mind to remove those limiting beliefs which inhibit you in trading and cause you to repeat the same patterns again and again (in trading and in life).

Until then, stay tuned, but I welcome your comments and thoughts on this post.

Kind Regards,
Chris Capre
Facebook: 2ndSkiesForex

Other Related Articles:
5 Mantras for The Developing Forex Trader
Your Brain, Trading and Finding The Zone
The Mindset of A Successful Forex Trader

Buddhist, Trader and Philanthropist

I'm Chris Capre, Founder of 2ndSkiesForex. I help traders of all levels change the way they think, trade and perform. As a professional trader, I specialize in trading price action. As a teacher, my passion lies in showing you how to re-wire your brain for successful trading. Want to improve your edge right now? Visit my Price Action Course page.

  • graeme

    Another example to the trading community and in particular those just starting out trading fortunate enough to have found this site, Chris Capre is worth paying attention to!
    The biggest obstacle is not the strategy,(Chris has more than enough proven strategies he can show you), or the Market,or the broker, it’s about the awareness of what is going on between our ears and then taking the appropriate action to change what’s wrong and strengthen what’s right.
    This is not as ‘easy’ to do as reading a chart or putting on an order, and that is why I am glad to have recently found a psychologist/trader/coach to support that side of my trading.
    So why am I here? I asked my new coach (before making the commitment to him), if I don’t go with him as my coach who would he recommend? Chris was one one of the options he gave me.

  • graeme

    I am making this comment separately as I didn’t want to detract from the seriousness of the previous comment.
    It is not often seeing a photo causes the kind of ‘leg slapping’ emotion I got from the photo above showing the German shepherds in line and the cat walking past.
    A classic example of how a picture says a thousand words and Chris couldn’t have found a more appropriate choice for his article.
    Did anyone get to interview the cat and find out which psychologist it is working with!!
    OK traders, based on this picture and Chris’s article.
    The dogs in this picture are now traders, that cat is the perfect pin bar at major support today on the EUR/USD after an extreme move down.(You have further levels of confluence what ever they are in your trading plan). Greece as yet can’t decide on a government and the mood is clearly to abandon the austerity measures.
    Do you take a long position?

  • Gabriel M

    I’m glad Chris posted this. I know I’ve limited myself in some areas of my life by my mere thoughts…i simply never gave myself a chance at certain things. I essentially defeated myself.

    It was refreshing to see this. It should serve as a reminder that much of our well-being is a function of belief.

    • Hello Gabriel,

      One of the more insightful responses – am glad you were able to realize how you never gave yourself a chance at certain things and what was the issue.

      Yes, our well-being is a function of belief and our mindset so its important to make sure these things are tuned well.

      Kind Regards,

  • Lokesh

    Hi chris, your articles/webinars shows the right path to follow…and explore and know about ones own abilities and restructure them… i am glad I found your website.

    • Hello Lokesh,

      Thanks for the kind words – I am glad you are finding them useful so thanks for the comments.

      All the best

  • [email protected]

    You have this incredible ability to cover personal growth topics that affect A LOT of people in all aspects of their lives. Your gift is you give solutions that are SO SIMPLE people can read a short article…and instantly become more aware.

  • Baback

    Hi Chris
    thanks for the great article.
    I know what you say is right but I don’t know how to change my way of thinking.
    I have this self-sabotage thing and every positive thought that occurs to me or every useful thing about changing our mindset that I read gets a strong negative response inside my head and I’m not sure if I ever will be able to change that. what do you think ? Can I change this ? it’s really frustrating.
    thanks for caring,

  • Hugo Jensen

    Hello Chris,

    Great article.

    Is that the sort of stuff you are teaching on your courses
    alongside PA?


    • Hello Hugo,

      Yes, this is a small taste of what we teach in the Price Action Course in addition to the PA material.

      Kind Regards,
      Chris Capre