Change Your Thinking, Change Your Trading

Well, it’s happened again: I’ve gone and overlooked one of the first lessons in The Blueprint and have now returned to its truth. This happens to us all, doesn’t it; you know something that works and yet you go away from what works, looking for something better to replace it.

Often, you hear the saying “Practice what you preach”. In my case, the thing that I have preached and caught myself NOT practicing recently is the use of affirmations to instruct and program my mind for better trades.

I know, I KNOW! Some of you guys out there might be rolling your eyes… like I have… at the “positive thinking”, “new agey”, somewhat psycho-babbly idea of repeating sentences to one’s self in an effort to somehow get centered in the universe.

Sigh. 😉

Well, I think it’s silly too. So silly that I often overlook its power and effectiveness. Now, don’t get me wrong… I know better than to think that by repeating phrases over and over to myself, that I can actually make a stock’s price go up or down. That IS silly. But what affirmations CAN do is condition your mind to make better decisions.

Think about it: WHAT exactly makes the difference between a poor trader, a good trader, and a GREAT trader? Why, nothing more or less than the decisions that they make. Bingo, presto. You can’t become a better trader by having a better system. The system guides you, yes… helps you recognize good opportunities… filter out bad ideas… gets you in and out according to specific rules… but ultimately it’s not the system that makes you successful.

It’s YOUR actions that make you successful. Or Unsuccessful.

And actions are determined by what you believe.

And what you believe is deeply affected… by what you say.

I’m going to relate an embarrassing story from my childhood: the first lie I ever remember telling.

I had watched my Mom put my favorite cookie, Lemon Coolers, into a canister on the table. I asked if I could have one then, but the answer was no. “It’ll ruin your dinner,” she said.

SO, sneaky me… I went back to playing with my toys. Once Mom walked out of the room, I got out a stool, got up onto the counter, and raided the cookie jar!

After putting the lid back on the canister, I got down and went back to playing with my toys. My Mom walked back into the kitchen and saw me sitting on the floor in the living room. Noticing the white confectioner’s sugar all around my mouth and on my hands, she asked sternly, “DID YOU GET INTO THE COOKIES I TOLD YOU NOT TO EAT?”

“Um, NO!” I said, feeling blood rise to my face and guilt fall over me like a blanket. “There was this man… HE came in, and HE ate the cookies. I tried to tell him he wasn’t allowed to do that.”

My Mom was stuck between laughing at my obvious lie and doing what she thought a good mother should: spanking me for disobedience and for lying. While she hovered there, I quickly added, “He was a tall man so he didn’t need a stool to get on the counter.”

My Mom brought my Dad in and told him a “man” had stolen the cookies. My Dad looked at me, amused but also concerned… and I went on. “Yes, he was kind of big or I would have stopped him.” Both of my parents were on the verge of laughter but I laid it on thicker and heavier as I went. “He came in this door, but he went out that door. Maybe you can still catch him, but maybe not because he had a good head start.”

I have a clear memory of all this but I figure I was only about four years old. Now, here’s the deal… By the third or fourth time I referred to the “man” that had stolen the cookies… I was starting to believe exactly what I was trying to get my parents to buy. I “saw” the man, dressed in a black leather coat and with a beard… running away with the cookies in a burglar’s sack draped over his shoulder… heading into the next neighbor’s house for another easy haul and an innocent kid there to blame for it.

So, end of story: my parents were good ones. They DID finally say, “There was no man, and you’re in more trouble for lying than for taking the cookies.” I got the spanking I deserved and the lesson I needed. But I didn’t write today just to embarrass myself or my parents with this story… I’m writing to illustrate a great truth. This truth is one of the great keys to changing your thinking and ultimately your life.

See, it’s a fact that if you tell a lie often enough, you’ll start to buy it. It’s a curious effect of the human mind that what we say often enough, we begin to believe. Unlike Bart Simpson, who writes sentences on the blackboard at the open of every show, but NEVER changes his behavior… Real human beings are programmed by their own words. What we say, we believe. And our beliefs shape our behavior, our relationships, our performance in every category of life.

I’ve got a crazy idea. If telling a lie often and fervently enough makes you begin to believe it… why not try telling ourselves the truth often and fervently? Why not shape and guide our own beliefs, replacing those that limit and frustrate with better ones?

That’s all that affirmations are. They are repeated statements with the intent of reprogramming our thinking and therefore our habits. For example, if I know I need to exercise patience more in my trading, it would make sense for me to say something like this to myself, fifty times a day:

“I am learning to delay gratification. I am getting better at sitting while a trade develops rather than trying to force a result. I can’t make a stock do what I want but I can decide how I’M going to act. The stock market sorts money out of the hands of the impatient and into the hands of the patient. I deciding to be more and more that kind of person. I am more patient today than yesterday, and I’ll be even more patient tomorrow than today.”

If I knew that my problem was in making decisions, I might say:

“More regrets come from indecision than from bad decisions. I am not hasty but I don’t get stuck either. Once I’ve thought something through and have the best decision with the information I have now, I don’t worry anymore, nor do I wait. I will be wrong sometimes and that’s okay. But the MOST wrong thing I might do is to delay a decision so much that the decision is taken from me or made for me. I can act. I will act. I will act more and more confidently each day.”

Now, whether those things feel like the truth (at first) or not, what’s the harm in saying them? IN fact, the more we repeat empowering things like these to ourselves, the more likely we are to be affected by these powerful statements than by the cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies we COULD be stuck in instead.

Hey, you use affirmations all the time whether it’s on purpose or not. These affirmations reinforce our beliefs and our habits. The difference between defeating beliefs and empowering ones is paying attention to WHAT you are saying.

The next time you catch yourself blowing it and then saying, “I should have known. I ALWAYS do something like that”… maybe you could alternatively say, “I blew that because I put too much at risk in that trade. But that isn’t like me. No, I weigh the possible rewards against the worst possible outcome and don’t ‘pull the trigger’ unless I’m sure that I have the right proportion of risk to reward. I’m learning more and more about balancing that. In fact, soon I’ll be one of the best in the world at calculating risk, staying out of trouble when I’m wrong but leveraging great returns when I’m right…”

And so on. Hey, look! It can’t hurt. I know that when I’ve had the best trades in MY career, at the time I was saying empowering phrases like that to myself.

Your mind controls your decisions, and your decisions control your destiny. Let’s begin to purposefully feed the right kind of beliefs to our minds.

See you out there! Happy Trading,


About Kurt Frankenberg

Kurt Frankenberg is an author and speaker about entrepreneurship, martial arts, and trading the stock and options markets. One of several "Biznesses" he founded as a teen, The Freedom School of Martial Arts, has been in continuous operation since 1986. Kurt lives in Colorado Springs with his wife Sabrina, German Shepherd Jovi, and his ninja cat Tabi.