How to improve your discipline as a trader

BellaGeneral Comments

A new trader wrote this to me:

Noob (trader here).  Two months in with maybe a total of 3 days where I consistently followed my rules.  Down about 2k thus far.  I am questioning my ability to do this.  Mainly because of my lack of discipline in following my rules.

There is the old parable about the frog that asks the snake for a ride across the pond.  The snake warns the frog that he may bite him but then, after much pleading from the frog, finally promises the frog he wont bite him. When the dying frog asks the snake why he bit him, the snake replies “I can’t help it, it’s in my nature”.  I sometimes feel like the snake when it comes to having the discipline to follow my rules.

I have particular trouble when I am down on the day and am having no luck and then get the “what heck” attitude and trade bigger than I should or don’t keep a tight stop and start hoping.  I swear that the next day will be different, but I find myself breaking my rules yet again.  I have traded on my own in the past unsuccessfully and this was my main issue back then.

My question is, have you seen other traders with this much trouble following their rules go on to be consistently profitable.  I know all traders have to work on maintaining discipline but I am feeling like I may be at the high end of the lack of discipline scale and getting ready to bite that frog again.


I am not a big advocate of labeling behavior as disciplined or not.  I am a big fan of developing habits that help your trading.  And then trading with good habits developed.

Also, at our firm we have seen success with traders focusing on one goal at a time and building daily report cards around this one goal.  Dr. Steenbarger encourages many of our traders to adopt this technique to improve their trading performance.

So in this case we have a trader who doesn’t keep their stops.  This is a fast track to trading yourself towards another career.  To improve we need to consider a best practice to develop into a habit so trader stops breaking this rule.

A best practice for this trader to consider is creating trading rules for keeping your stops.  For example, a new rule created might be: if trader fails to keep their stop on a trade, they automatically cease trading for the trading session.

At the end of each trading session, trader creates a daily report card grading their day on how well they kept their stops.  They actively and intensely work on following this new rule and solutions to improve following this new rule.

Trader focuses on one goal at a time until his behavior becomes habit.  Then trader is not exercising discipline to keep their stops, they are merely exercising a habit.

As always, I welcome your feedback/questions at [email protected].

*no relevant positions