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Trading Education Posted by Team Topstep February 20, 2023

Turning Hope Into Trading Success

Stock Trading - Glasses

I recently received a phone call from an individual who is in the process of making specific financial and other life decisions. He wanted to talk with me intently about his trading. This person has dabbled in various investments and followed different trading newsletters and other signal services, but he feels ready to go further.

We remarked on the distinction between hope and results as our conversation developed. Over the years, I’ve listened to many traders express their hopes, and in fact, I’m certain that I have done the same. However, the more time that passes, the more resistant I become to using that word. 

Do You Hope or Plan for trading success?

This isn’t because I no longer have hope. Instead, it is because I’ve witnessed countless traders, year after year, create expectations that are more closely aligned with their hopes but are not based on their planning and preparation. In my conversation with this individual, I asserted that the reason I believe the majority of traders fail is, simply put, because they stay in the game based on their hopes, but they don’t plan for success. 

Before I was ever trained in social psychology, my academic discipline was theology. People used to joke that the logic behind my theology was that if I couldn’t trade well, I could at least pray for success. “Livin’ On Prayer” (by Bon Jovi) makes for a great song title, but it is a miserable trading habit. 

However, I realize when I survey traders, as I did a few weeks ago going into the new year, that many express “hope” for a better trading year in 2023, yet, few have planned a way actually to make that happen. The more I consider “hoping” for things to go better, the more I’m convinced it is akin to a gambler’s mentality – the person who becomes so attached to the casino that they convince themselves that their luck is about to turn. 

As traders, somehow, we frequently think that we can press the same buttons on our keyboard in this that didn’t work the year before, but this time our trading luck will suddenly change, and the markets will be more favorable to us. If you remember the movie Titanic, the antagonist says, “A real man makes his own luck.”

What I always ask traders who hope for a better year is, “What have you planned to do differently?” Sadly, I seldom receive a substantial response. So this article is going to treat the tangible aspects of transforming your hope into measurable goals and potential success. 

Don’t Just Dream; Reason


Don't just dream; reason


Hopefully, we have all dreamed large at some point, but we also need realistic expectations. It would be an overstatement to say I want to prohibit dreams; however, without reasoning or rationale, dreams come up empty and are ultimately unfulfilling. Therefore, when you want to transform your hopes and aspirations into a realized success, the first thing to do is to make sure you plan with healthy expectations. 

Set firm but realistic goals. Too many traders expect to get rich very quickly or at least be able to successfully trade full-time overnight. This needs to be more practical and attainable. What inevitably occurs with that kind of dreaming is that it makes you impatient and drives your goals outside of the boundaries of reasoned logic.  When that is the case, you will almost always fail to reach those goals. You will blame yourself and view your methods to be a failure. As a result, traders become afraid. 

Meanwhile, it may not have been your methods but your expectations that were unhelpful. The fear of failure is a double-edged sword. For some, it can be tremendously motivating, while for others, it can be psychologically crippling. 

What Stands In Your Way?

Once you have set realistic goals and healthy expectations, it is time to assess the obstacles. Unfortunately, some traders never develop a logically reasoned trading plan, and others who do, don’t always consider how to overcome the barriers to fulfilling that plan. This is where trading stretches and evolves from idealism to practical reflection. For each trader, the conclusions over what stands in their way will be unique.

Some traders will need to invest in further trading education or practice to make progress toward their goals. For others, the obstacles will be a lack of trading equity or time capital. These limitations don’t suddenly disappear; they will need to be addressed for you to reach your trading objectives. Others face psychological and personality considerations; for example, exercising personal disciplines, including patience, or working on managing and controlling emotions. 

Think Long-Term

While you work to turn your hopes and dreams into well-reasoned, obtainable, and planned goals, always keep in mind your long-term objective. Successful trading is more than choosing when to press the correct buttons. It is about a lifestyle of productivity. There’s a long-standing nugget of wisdom that has been expressed in different ways, but the core of it goes something like, “Every bull market creates experts.” The motivation behind the statement is that under certain market conditions, most notably trends, it is easier to trade. 

I have found that some traders learn to trade in extreme bull markets like the U.S. equities futures saw for several years up until recently, and they made a great deal of money for a time but then struggled when “buy the dip” was no longer the instant, no-brainer play. 

I’ve seen traders who made an excellent living for a year, two, three, or more, only to find themselves hitting resistance at a certain point. Some were successful up until the electronic era; however, markets change. For each of us, the longer we trade, the more it is challenging to adapt. Even some of the most well-known traders in the world have had times when they find themselves unable to generate profits. 

In this business, the name of the game is long-term, sustainable success. Therefore, one of the greatest measurements of your trading growth is when your objectives and plans progress from day-to-day survival to considering your progress month-to-month and then eventually year-to-year and beyond. 

In conclusion, this article aims to inspire you to reach beyond just your hopes and dreams, so you can plan for the success you are capable of. Remember what one great trader has said: “If you want to make the money, then do the work!” Don’t sell yourself short; if trading is the path that drives and motivates you, then plan and prepare to make the most of yourself. Until next time, trade well!