How many of you know what it feels like to trade the early part of your day with fabulous results, only for the afternoon to turn into terrible returns? Or to watch your preferred markets all day only to find no actionable alerts, which causes you to start experimenting with different indicators, or entirely unique markets altogether?
How about this—in your trading approach, you wake up early some days and feel extremely prepared. Still, meanwhile, on other days, you wake up late and never adequately ready yourself for a good trading day. At some point, each of us has faced these challenges.
The underlying concept in each of these scenarios is a lack of consistency. While each of us intellectually recognizes the value of consistency, it frequently remains unexamined as a vibrant instrument necessary for each trader to employ in their trading toolbox.
It’s much easier, and probably preferable, to talk about systems and indicators. These prompt greater excitement because we see them as tangibles. However, traders who have pushed beyond the initial learning phase and taken the next step toward long-term profitability know that consistency in all things is the key ingredient in a trader’s sustainability recipe.
Better Habits Start With Routine
I sometimes refer to examples from when I consulted with retail traders who seemed to struggle to take it to the next level. I’ll never forget one particular trader who may have been the most intelligent guy I’ve ever met. He knew how to do all the things that I lacked. He could write code and develop a system quicker than anyone I knew. His work was often desirable to other traders; however, his trading results were unsatisfactory. Essentially, he was a losing trader, depressed because he knew his potential did not align with reality.
Routines Set You Up For Success
As we discussed his tendencies and observed his lifestyle, I quickly realized a critical facet he was omitting. This guy enjoyed the nightlife in New York and Miami and spent a great deal of time at clubs. He would return home at any late night (or early morning) hour on many weeknights and crash. The result was that the following day, he would never wake up at the same time. He hardly ever felt refreshed, was rarely awake early, and had a slow morning routine before he began to feel energized at all.
The point was that he had excellent systems and codes, but when he approached his screens, sometimes, he had omitted breakfast, other times he had just woken up, and sometimes he was still wearing his pajamas.
I knew I couldn’t change his evening clubbing lifestyle. Still, he was agreeable to try returning home to be in bed by 11:00 pm on weeknights and to wake up at 7:00 am the following morning, take a series of vitamin supplements, as well as other routine behavior. Thus, he was at his desk at 9:00 and could relax thirty minutes before his markets opened.
The positive result of this change was that his trading went from subpar to solidly profitable— until he started clubbing until 2:00 a.m. again!
The point here is that this trader lacked serious consistency, not with his trading models but in his personal habits. Some of us share his growing edge of minimal consistency regarding self-discipline; others have a difficult time with consistent market approaches.
This article will highlight the benefits of consistency and some ways to enhance your consistency as a trader.
The Benefits of Consistency
Now we will look at what’s possible when you bring consistency to the markets daily.
I’ve been in a position to observe a great many traders, ranging from newbies to those with long-term success stories. A common denominator to the few who could survive long-term was consistency. There was something measurable about a consistent approach. Were they ever inconsistent? Yes. Did luck ever play a role? Sure.
However, there was an expectation with each of them of knowing where they would be, and at what times, how they would be trading. With some of them, I knew their routines like clockwork. With others, I knew the times they would be trading and moments they would sit on their hands. For some, I knew in which market conditions they’d be finding many or few opportunities. Among these traders with long-term success, there was something predictable concerning their behavior and results.
Emotional and Mental Stability
Trading can be exhausting in many ways, even for those who perform well. This is why it is helpful to decrease fatigue as much as possible. There is an absolute physical fatigue that occurs even to the relatively sedentary body sitting at a desk trading. This is largely due to the emotional and mental factors that occur while trading. In these areas, we are highly vulnerable to exhaustion. We have to analyze all day and process much material in short time frames to make lightning-fast decisions. The result is mental fatigue.
When things are going great, we often have a high degree of emotional joy; but when things go wrong, there is emotional draining. Understandably, the more consistent traders are in each area of life, not just trading, the greater emotional and mental capital they have for the markets. Furthermore, you preserve your mental and emotional reserves when your results are consistent and not constantly fluctuating.
First, let me say that there will be surprises in trading, and it’s good to plan for potential deviations. However, I’ll attest that consistency leads to fewer surprises when compared to the erratic tendencies produced by inconsistencies.
For example, if you are trading for income, and your returns are inconsistent but profitable, you can still doubt yourself. What if you are profitable this month, take a nice income withdrawal, but then you have a moderate drawdown the next week? This uncertainty produces mind games that can at least be tightened up by more regulated behavior in personal habits and trading.
I’ve seen traders who can earn a tremendous income who also spend significantly. When they are hot, they live to the fullest. The problem is that when they have an inevitable drawdown, they will either start to outspend their production rate or do a 180-degree turn and go from having a regular social life to withdrawing from the social scene until they earn better returns.
This will often leave them lonely and feeling depressed, which in turn drains emotional capital and affects their trading. A well-managed life, including a personal budget that can sustain fluctuating returns, is key to security. Furthermore, this enables us to keep our trading steady and regular. A holistic approach of consistency applied to each facet of living, including trading, gives us confidence.
Consistency Demonstrates Sustainability
The final piece of this section has been inferred all along but is worthy of unique treatment here.
Traders often ask, “How do I know when I can add more risk?” or, “When should I quit my job and trade full time?” One key element in answering these types of questions is that it should be done when consistency is a hallmark of your personal and trading approach.
Are your personal habits and routines well-managed? If not, then this must be addressed before going to the next level. Do you approach the markets consistently? What I mean is, do you ever find yourself compelled to drift into new markets or indicators? This is a sign of some erratic behavior and that what you are doing must not work well enough to keep you engaged. In this case, there are some growing edges you will likely need to work on.
Can you consistently stick to your plan and produce regular (positive) returns? If yes, this is a crucial indicator that you have prepared yourself for the next level. However, if no, then there is still work to be done.
Hang In There
The good news is that you mustn’t give up! The consistency test is a good barometer of self-progress, which we all need to analyze routinely. Therefore, you are not alone. Furthermore, the following article will examine steps you can take to become more consistent. Finally, we’ll discuss methods that have enabled others to reach the next level.
This article has addressed the concept of consistency with several critical considerations for you to take into account. However, the content is broad. As each trader is unique, you must take the material and make the most of it. Furthermore, as we grow more skilled in market analysis, we must also be better able to analyze ourselves. Therefore, it’s up to you to take these ideas and shape them around your strengths and weaknesses.
Stay tuned for the follow-up article later this month, and until next time, trade well!