Psychological training of Olympic champions and traders

Trading, undoubtedly, is one of those spheres of human activity which are very close to sports, especially if we speak about intraday trading which is connected with the highest level of psychological tension. The sportsmen who train to take part in the Olympic Games not only improve their physical skills but also do their own psychological training and it is logical since a battle is won in the head first.

“Everyone says that the pitcher base is the most lonesome place in all sports, but I would say that the most lonesome place are start gates of the ski trail. Hundreds of millions of people focus their eyes on you and no one can help you. At this moment you are absolutely alone. You are completely naked in front of the world” – Mikaela Shiffrin, an American downhill skier.

Even such a cold-blooded professional as Mikaela Shiffrin cannot avoid such a strong psychological load during the Olympic Games competition. 22-year old two-time Olympic champion confessed during the Olympic Games in PyeongChang that she felt sick with excitement before the first downhill race. Of course, perhaps except for the Austrian downhill skier Marcel Hirscher, Shiffrin underwent a bigger psychological tension than any other sportsman on those Olympic Games.

But how to cope with it? In this article, you will get acquainted with the advice of experts in the sphere of sports psychology which reveal secrets of behaviour under conditions of high stress. The psychology rules we will speak about today could be easily applied to trading in the financial market.

In this article:

  • Remember: the past is dead and the future is uncertain.
  • Criticize your lack of confidence.
  • Live with what you cannot control.
  • Think as a samurai (but remember that you are not the one).
  • Enjoy impressions.

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Remember: the past is dead and the future is uncertain

“If we think about it, we will realize that the psychological tension at the current moment doesn’t exist by itself. If, for example, you think: “What if I fall? What if I fail? What if I make a mistake?” – all these ‘what ifs’ push your consciousness into the future, into hypothetical situations which haven’t happened yet. Remember, for example, the situation with the downhill skier Aksel Svindal, who fell during a downhill race in the Beaver Creek at the speed of 150 km/h and one year later, after a lengthy medical treatment, won a competition on the same trail.” If you tell yourself all the time: “This is the place where I failed”, your consciousness will stay in the past. In both cases, psychological tension appears due to something that doesn’t exist in the present. I train my sportsmen to be here and now, to have a deep breathing, feel solid ground underfoot and simplify attention in order to stop making things more complicated than they are. My sportsmen work with their bodies in the simplest way in order to perform what they are able to do best of all instead of standing on their own way.”

— Stephanie Zavilla, the Head Manager of sporting events in the Winter Park Competition Center.

Sometimes market is unpredictable: high volatility without and, even more, with important news, asset selling on good news and destructive action of trading algorithms. It is necessary to realize the possibility of the emergence of these hypothetical situations, but does it make sense to roll them in your head day after day or, even worse, to constantly come back in your thoughts to the losses made on one of the bad days? Certainly not. Be here and now. Develop a trading plan and get ready for any development of the market situation. Deal with the problems as and when they emerge. Keep your consciousness clear for efficient and objective market analysis the rest of the time.

Criticize your lack of confidence

“Physiologically, the sportsman’s body reacts to each performance as to the threat of danger. It is very similar to how the human body reacts to thriller movies. Nevertheless, you can calm down yourself with a thought that this is just a movie. Sportsmen also remind themselves that there is no danger, by which they change their attitude towards the emerged psychological tension. They focus on their strengths, which allowed them to achieve high sporting results, and also talk with their own lack of confidence or even criticize it. Sportsmen who often face problems at competitions are not able to make their consciousness work in a positive mood. Instead, they take part in sporting competitions formally and their minds do not take part in competitions while their bodies mechanically compete”.

— Caroline Silby, a sports psychologist of the American figure skating team on the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

Everyone who at least once traded in the world financial markets knows the feeling of danger and fear before opening a new trade, especially if you have had a number of losses in a row. Sometimes it is difficult to press the buy or sell button when you are in such a psychological state even if you see that the market formed a trading setup from your trading strategy. You are completely paralyzed. What should you do? Transfer your attention from the series of loss-making trades (you already cannot do anything about it) to the strengths of your trading strategy and indicators of its efficiency. Mark all necessary conditions for execution of a trade in the check-list and, if it corresponds with your requirements, open a trade without any doubt and don’t forget to post a stop loss. If the lack of confidence still bothers you just throw your check-list in its face. It will help you to shift your thinking process into the positive direction, decrease the grip of psychological tension and start to recover your physical and psychological state from the stress along with the objective market perception.

Live with what you cannot control

“Sportsmen often face difficulties assuming that they do not have the right to experience anxiety or uneasy thoughts, whatever they are. They could know what to tell themselves in psychologically complex situations, but it is not always easy to do it. If the sportsman performance was good or not so good, it is easy to get hung up on what has just happened. At the same time, if a sportsman is capable of classifying what has just happened as something that went out of his control and focus on the set goal, performance of which stays under control to a higher degree, it becomes easier to compete”.

— Tim Herzog, a licensed professional psychotherapist.

Even professional traders are not insured from a sharp growth of the market volatility and closure of not too long ago profitable trades by a stop loss. Most probably, the majority of professional traders do not make big losses or transfer the open losses into breakeven, however, a potential profit in such cases still evaporates. Nevertheless, every trader has a clear trading plan which allows to relate to an unexpected growth of volatility as to unforeseeable circumstances and to keep under control his further ‘performance’ during every trading session staying in a calm and relaxed state.

Think as a samurai (but remember that you are not the one)

“A really serious transformation I help my sportsmen to accomplish is to realize that the sport they go in for is not what they are but what they do. Sometimes it helps them to cope with a very deep level of psychological tension since all of them feel a huge fear to fail. But I think that the process of psychological training of sportsmen also lies in the reconciliation with all their fears and even in working on them. If you are focused on avoiding a mistake, you already lost since you do not push past your limits. Namely that is why you should accept a possibility of making a mistake. Some of the approaches to psychological training, which I discuss with sportsmen, are similar to samurai training. Samurais practiced the sports psychology and conscious training long before these concepts emerged. Unlike an Olympic sportsman they put their lives at stake. If a samurai had a bad day, he didn’t come back home. He should have made up his mind with his biggest fear – to lose his own life”.

— Graham Betchart, a co-founder of the Play Present company and one of the developers of the Lucid mobile app for mental training.

Traders, better than anyone else in this world, know the fear of losing money. One way or another, they come across this feeling more often than people of other professions do. However, due to the nature of the world financial markets, it is impossible to completely avoid mistakes or loss-making trades and all they have to do is to control the acceptable level of loss per trade, day, week or even month. Anyone who decided to be engaged in this intriguing and risky sphere of activity has to make up his mind with a possibility to make mistakes. You will not be able to completely avoid losses since not a single trade guarantees 100% of a probability to make a profit, however, you will definitely lose a very profitable trade due to a fear of making a mistake.

Enjoy impressions

“I believe that the psychological tension before being included in the Olympic team could be even higher than the Olympic performance itself. There is something very special in the ‘I was an Olympian’ phrase. The majority of children that train to perform in the Olympic Games have a goal, set by their coaches, to be included into the Olympic team and not to win medals. If we come back to the ceremony of opening the Olympic Games and remember all sportsmen, who walked under the flags of their countries, we will see that the majority of them are happy just to be there. Mass media do not tell us about it since no one is interested in it at that moment. It is a great relief for many children after they became members of the Olympic team. Something like: “I did it. I am in the team”. The medals, if any, are just a pleasant bonus”.

— Stan Beecham, a specialist on sports psychology and author of the ‘Elite Minds’ book.

According to the personal opinion of the author of this article, it is a fascinating feeling to be a trader and be in the team of people that trade in the world financial markets! It is difficult to find such a spirit of freedom, adrenaline and opportunities to make money anywhere else. Besides, every day you touch something really global and great – the world financial markets.

We hope that the advice of experts in the field of sports psychology, which Olympic champions use, will come in useful in your trading in the world financial markets, which are not less risky and fascinating as a downhill race. And we would like to note at the end of the article one more important fact which is closely connected with high Olympic achievements and trading.

Any Olympic athlete needs the most modern and advanced, from a technical point of view, sporting equipment for achieving the best results. It is very logical since the golden and silver medalists sometimes are just a few fractions of a second apart. The same is true for trading. To be ahead of all the retail traders in the world you will need the best trading and analytical ATAS platform, which was developed for professional traders and which is oriented at the order flow analysis and advanced volume analysis and which has an excellent trading module. Join the team of champions by downloading the ATAS platform free of charge using the link at the beginning of the article. Happy trading!

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