Trading and 'The Weight of Expectations'

I am moved to write this, by several recent coaching sessions with clients which have touched upon this subject, and which crucially is an aspect I recognise in myself.

‘The Weight of Expectations’

‘The weight of expectations’ is a term which describes the pressure you put upon yourself to succeed.

We all have goals and aims that we believe we can achieve. It is when we fall short however, that we engage in unhealthy reflection, self-judgment and harsh self-criticism.

I’ve witnessed this in many trading and investor clients over the years.

It is not just the expectations they place upon themselves, but also the expectations they believe others have of them. These expectations can create some crazy behaviours, often completely out of character.

We see tangible examples of these in sport: The missed smash at the net in tennis, the 6-inch putt the golfer can’t make, the open goal somehow put over the bar. 

In practice, these are plays they could normally make with their eyes shut. But, with the gaze of the world watching, and the weight of their expectations upon their shoulders, the easiest of chances goes begging. 

One of my favourite tennis players of recent years was Andy Murray. 

Murray was someone who for years was a ‘nearly man’. Nearly making finals, nearly winning tournaments, nearly being great. But he had a major flaw: When Murray screwed up, he screwed up big time.

Murray would be winning a match but would then miss a simple shot, and would then struggle to reover. His 'head was gone'. - Then along came Lendl. 

Ivan Lendl was Murray’s new coach. I do not know what Lendl did to Murray, but suddenly, Murray could now double fault, but instead of folding, he would follow up with an ace. These same errors were no longer disasters: Murray could simply move straight on. – Instant closure. – Somewhere in his head ‘let it go’ was sounding. 

And thus, Murray started winning: Winning championships, winning Grand Slam events, winning Olympic golds. 

Expectations and the 'Trade From Hell'.

I see too many people beat themselves up over the weight of their own expectations. They don’t feel they are good enough, smart enough, patient enough, disciplined enough. They fear they are not learning, not growing, not improving.

I too was like that for many years as a trader,

Recognition of this is good. But recognition alone is not enough.

A trader needs to have a self-management strategies for dealing with this, for parking it, for moving on.

I once had the trade from hell. All traders will have their own personal 'Trade from Hell' at some point. If you have not a trade from hell yet, then it is possible you are not trying hard enough. 

I still shudder when I think of that trade. It was a market call I had got so right, but traded so badly, I had not only missed an open goal at one end, I had managed to put the ball in my own goal at the other end.

I suffered days of hell and anguish after this trade. I could not look another person in the face, let alone look myself in the mirror.

A few days later I decided to write my thoughts and feeling down in my journal. In about 5 minutes I had written down 3 pages of anguish. Then suddenly, as if by magic, the pain cleared, and the fog lifted.

With this exercise I had let what had happened go and moved on. I was no longer beating myself up for falling short of my expectations.

I reinstated the initial trade I meant to put on, even though it was at far higher levels than where I originally intended to buy. Over the next few weeks, this was to turn into one of my best ever trades. – I could never had done that, had I not let go of the weight of expectations I had put upon myself.

Moving on, Valuing yourself. 

If you find yourself burying yourself under the weight of your expectations. Then you need to make changes. You need to recognise what you are good at, and you need to value that.

Do not fall victim for unforgiving expectations you set for yourself. Do not ‘burden yourself’ with your own expectations, let alone the expectations of others.

Set yourself goals and objectives. Set up processes which help you get there. Calibrate and occasionally recalibrate these processes.

You may suddenly find your trading gets better, gets easier, gets lighter. That you start to enjoy it again. You may find you start to value yourself, and see the good and the great in you, that hidden diamond at the centre of your soul which contains all your hidden potential.


Steven Goldstein is a leading Performance and Executive Coach and managing director at Alpha R Cubed Ltd.  

Steven has worked as a coach with traders and investment professionals since 2009 with clients across the world. Steven's focus as a coach is on developing the 'Inner Game' aspects of trading performance. 

Prior to becmoing Steven worked for more than 20 years as a traders in Rates and FX at some of the world’s leading investment banks.

See Steven's Full Profile.

Alpha R Cubed work with people and businesses in the financial markets to help them improve and develop behaviours to catalyse stronger and more effective risk performance. Alpha R Cubed run leadership development programmes, coaching programmes for leaders and financial market practitioners, and 'AlphaMind' mindfitness programmes.   

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