There are so many things little things in our daily lives that can have a negative effect on our trading psychology, which in turn can have a huge influence on our trading. I call them Mental Mosquitoes. In this post, I will go through some examples, how you can “squash” them and why this is not only important for traders but for anyone who wants to get more control over their lives.
The term Mental Mosquitoes came to mind one day when I started to reflect on why I sometimes spend so much time thinking about shit that simply doesn't matter. Just like mosquitoes, these thoughts can buzz in your ear and it only takes one or two to distract you from the things you really need to be doing.
However, the trouble is that we have lived with some of these mosquitoes for so long that many times we have gotten used to them. It's like living downwind from a dairy farm. At some point you will probably become so accustomed to the smell that you don't even realize that your house smells like ass.
Of course, different things will affect people in different ways. My intention is not to make you neurotic, but rather to alert you to some of the things that may be weighing on your mind without you even knowing it. Some people could truly care less about physical clutter, but they may be affected by future tasks.
Only you can determine what will help you and what won't.
So take a step outside of your head for a few minutes while you are reading this post and consider how each one of the following things make you feel. If none of them affect you then great, but I'm pretty sure that at least one will strike a chord with you.
One source of mental distraction is just having a lot of crap lying around your home. Every thing that is obviously out of place is another little mosquito buzzing in your ear, subconsciously seeking your attention. Now I'm not a “neat freak” by any stretch of the imagination, but I do my best to put things away after I am finished with them.
I wasn't always like that.
In fact, I used to have stuff all over the place and kept stuff because “I might need it later.” But when I realized what physical clutter was doing to my psychology, I started to be much more aware of organizing my home and workspace. Now I tend to take more of a minimalist approach when it comes to keeping the old and buying new stuff.
It's not only cheaper, but it leaves a lot more room to spread out and relax. And that is a luxury anyone can afford.
If you have a lot of stuff lying around your home or office, take a minute to clear up a small corner of the room or even just your desk. It will only take 30 seconds and usually involves picking up your clutter and dumping it in another part of the room. The goal is not to actually clean up, but rather to look at that uncluttered area and ask yourself how it makes you feel.
Compare the cleared area with the messy area. How much better would it feel if the entire room was clean? Imagine yourself working in that environment on a day-to-day basis.
If it is something that really resonates with you, then I think you will find yourself doing a lot of cleaning. However, it may not resonate with you and in that case, you are free to put your stuff back where it was.
Reliving The Past
This is something that I struggle with from time-to-time and I am still figuring out the best way to deal with it. A lot of my dwelling on the past has to do with getting mad about situations that are similar to ones that I have encountered before.
When I was younger, I had a tendency to dwell on things. People who I felt wronged me, times when I thought that I should have been successful and wasn't…among other things.
I have gotten a lot better, but sometimes is get back into those habits. Whenever this happens, I immediately try to start thinking about something more productive. It doesn't always work, but I think that this is just one of those things that requires repetition.
If you have any suggestions on how you beat this, I would love to hear it. Until I figure out a good solution, think about if you dwell on the past too much. It's something that we can't change, so we need to move on to things that we can.
Tasks In The Future
Have you ever known that you had to do something next week or even next month, but kept thinking about it, even if there was nothing you could do about it immediately? This takes up valuable mental capacity, which could be used for things that do require your attention right now.
This also includes big decisions. If nothing can be decided immediately, then do your best not to worry about the decision. You will be surprised how much freer you feel when you stop thinking about it.
Keep future tasks in the future. Be more present. What are some future tasks that you are worrying about unnecessarily?
Criticism And Complaining
You may not realize it, but you probably complain more than you realize. I know I do. This also goes for judging others.
I have become much better at this over the years, but if I'm tired or in a bad mood, then the complaints and criticisms do begin to flow. It is only natural.
But be more aware of your inner dialogue and catch yourself when you complain about things or want to call someone a moron. Even if they are a moron, they usually don't know that. But by calling them that (even in your head), you are left with the burden of the carrying negative emotion, while they go on their merry way. You end up the loser.
To stop complaining and criticizing, you can try the 21-day no-complaint challenge. It is something that I am currently experimenting with and I will write more about my experience after I have been doing it for some time.
Sometimes you can't completely avoid people who irritate you, especially if these people are family or coworkers, but you can choose to reduce your exposure to them. You may feel that you have to hang out with them out of obligation, but take a minute to consider what it would feel like if you chose not to hang out with them. If you feel a lot better, you should probably hang out with them less. It's as simple as that.
If they are downright toxic and you feel tired after hanging out with them, then you should avoid them at all costs. Yes, it isn't easy, but I believe that this is the most important item on this list.
They aren't just mosquitoes, they are one-ton, angry hippos.
Organize Apps On Your Phone
Now I'm going to point out a couple of smaller mosquitoes that I have noticed. The first one is having a ton of apps on your smartphone that you don't use.
Since our phones are the one thing that we look at constantly, it helps to make the experience as clutter free as possible. I took a look at all of the apps that I had and deleted the ones that I wasn't using regularly or could easily replace with the desktop version.
I also removed as many apps as possible from my home screen and put them on my second and third screens so I can see my wallpaper better. I'm not saying that this is the best way to do it, but it's just an idea. I found that this makes me feel like there are fewer things clamoring for my attention on my phone. Turning off my email notifications and alerts from most of my apps has helped a lot too.
What You Wear
This might sound like a weird one, but stay with me. What you wear on a daily basis might be affecting you more than you think.
I'm not suggesting that you should wear a suit every day to feel like a million bucks. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I believe that there are basically two types of clothes: the ones that make you feel good and the other kind. Clothes that make you feel good can be expensive, but they are usually things like your favorite t-shirt or a comfortable pair of jeans.
Take the time to notice which clothes don't make you happy. Maybe they don't fit well or they are a boring color or they bring up a bad memory.
My theory as to why clothing can affect a person subconsciously generally comes down to self worth and a scarcity mentality. I grew up lower middle class and we were taught to always buy the cheapest stuff and use things for as long as we could.
After I graduated from college, I realized that I was keeping a lot of clothes that just didn't make me feel good. Either they didn't fit well or they were an odd color, or they were so old that they were faded or had holes in them.
I found that I purchased a lot of my clothes solely on the criteria of how much they cost, with little regard to how they looked or felt. If I saw a good sale on something and I needed it, I felt that I had to get it because the opportunity may never come around again.
Of course that is completely ridiculous.
I came to realize that it wasn't about how much clothes cost. In fact, I found that I could still get good deals on clothes, but I didn't have to settle for stuff that didn't look and feel good. Sometimes it is also good to spend a little extra on stuff that I really like. $30 t-shirts, for example.
You deserve to look and feel your best and it doesn't have to cost a lot. So all that I ask is that you consider what you are wearing on a daily basis. You might be surprised at how much a fun wardrobe can make you want to start your day.
Over the years, I have become more aware of things that can have a cumulative psychological effect on me. The extent that each item on this list affects you will be different than how they affect other people. But the point is that you should be aware of which ones don't matter that much and which ones are your Mental Mosquitoes.
This is also not an exhaustive list, so think about how other things in your life influence you.
It can be a huge relief when you squash one of them, especially if you didn't realize that they were buzzing in your ear this whole time. So take a minute to try out a few of these exercises and find out if you can use them to build better focus in your trading and in your everyday life.