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Set Clear Steps To Achieve Trading Goals


Traders must take the time to identify the underlying steps it will take to achieve each and every goal set.


It is around this time each and every year that just about everyone pursues the mental process of evaluating the previous year and contemplating changes for the next. Different personality types correlate with different styles and at one extreme an individual may sit down and write out a year in review in addition to goals and steps necessary to accomplish these new objectives throughout the year ahead.

Others will simply take a mental inventory of where they are and where they desire to be, contemplating certain resolutions to help them get there. The subject matter is vast, from career goals to diet and exercise and as the year proceeds, some move aggressively towards these goals while others quickly fail.

Many people will attribute their success in areas of life to the goals they have set before them years before while others don't consider goals or written objectives to be helpful at all. I have learned that it is just as ignorant to think goal setting is for everyone as it is to assume setting goals will automatically achieve results, therefore I don't attempt to force my opinions on anyone and can only relay past experience and what has worked for me.

Ever since I can remember I set goals, sometimes written sometimes mental. I suspect it was ingrained in my brain from early child hood being raised in a rather ambitious family. While I can recall setting grade goals, most of my goals centered around sports. Through habit and repetition setting goals and seeing them through became a normal routine for me. It just made a lot of sense that if one wanted to achieve something they first had to clearly define that 'something,' outline the steps to achieving that 'something' and then rigorously follow through.

It wasn't until I was well out of college and working with some underprivileged youth that I understood the ingrained habit I had been so fortunate to receive and develop was not a common trait among everyone. I was coaching an inner city basketball team and we were discussing the success we had been having on the court. It was time to transition into an 'off the court' lesson and start discussing goals. I gave each player a sheet of paper and asked them to outline their top three goals and under each all the steps it would take to achieve those goals.

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I wrapped up the practice with a ridiculous amount of sprints, of course, and headed on my way. When I sat down that evening I was shocked at what I saw. While most of the top three goals were definitely achievable the steps outlined below them weren't even close to what I 'assumed' I would see. I recall reading one in particular of a very troubled young man that was one wrong step away from going to jail for a very long time. I was impressed by his goals as they were simple and concrete, yet for him extremely ambitious. #1 Graduate High school, #2 Go to college, #3 Secure a well paying job to support my family.

I was proud to see that this young man desired to better himself but under each goal was a feeble attempt at trying to outline the steps necessary to achieve each goal. It wasn't for a lack of effort, as I distinctly recall him spending more time than anyone else writing. Under #1 he simply put "Pass my classes." #2 and #3 were blank. As I sat and imagined to myself what was stopping this boy from achieving these goals it dawned on me that the same analytical way in which I would process the steps to achieve each goal he didn't comprehend.

Later that week I got together with the young man and relayed how impressed I was with his ambition. He seemed to understand the severity of his current situation and he genuinely desired to not follow the path of his older three brothers. We began to discuss each goal one by one and when I questioned him on what each one would take, he answered with the same vague response, not really even understanding what it was I was looking for. In hindsight, I was ignorant for assuming he would know.

By the time our five-hour marathon meeting had ended we had outlined just about 30 steps in order to just complete goal #1 and resolved to meet again each week to make check his progress. It wasn't enough to simply assume he would pass his classes. We set such goals as an individual meeting with each teacher by a specific date to find out just what was needed for each class. Homework to be caught up on was written down with dates set, and even an "Order cap and gown" task was added to the long list.

When it was all said and done, I had learned a very valuable lesson of never assuming people understand how to set and achieve goals. The young man was the first in his family to graduate high school.

Unfortunately, this isn't quite a Disney movie as two weeks before going to the University of Kentucky, the boy was involved in a shooting and was sent to jail. Unfortunate as it was, I still believe the lessons he learned will help him when he reenters society once again.

Trading is a very unique craft in that each and every day, whether we like it or not we are measured by our profit and loss. Not only that, but we are automatically benchmarked against such indexes as the S&P 500. It is one of the unique jobs where a person can continue to improve each and every year and one of the ways in which to actually see this improvement is by setting firm goals and seeing them through. Traders should not make the mistake, however, of simply setting brush strokes. Rather they must take the time to identify the underlying steps it will take to achieve each and every goal set.

As you enter this new year I challenge you to set defined goals in many areas of your life. Under each goal outline the steps needed to take and set dates by which you will assess your progress. Share those goals with another and ask them to hold you accountable, periodically asking how you are doing.

Set out on the right path this year and I am quite positive you will be very pleased with where you end up.
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