I was talking to several beginner traders at my friend’s trading firm the other day. The topic of high probability trades came up several times as these young traders like to get some trading tips from their boss and me. We both told them high probability setups are overrated. You can guess that our point of view confuses these traders a lot. I promised to write about it this week and here is the explanation why one should not obsess with high probability trading setups.
The Psychological Need of High Probability Trades
The reason why traders and in particular, day traders, having the psychological dependency on high probability trades is that it feels good naturally after winning and feels bad after losing. It is normal to have such feelings. But many people do not realize that the accumulation of such emotions are not in equal weighting.
I have posted a video by Shawn Achor earlier this year on exactly this topic. In short, we need about 5 times of happy or feel good events a day to offset one upsetting event in the same day to keep us in a balanced mood. Now think about the number of trades a day trader may make on a single trading day. Just 3 losses, no matter how small they are, as long as upsetting feeling were triggered, the trader will need 15 feel good events to offset the emotional imbalance.
Hence traders tend to look for high probability setups so that they can feel good with their trading. After reading what I wrote above, it should be clear that usual high probability setups at 70 to 80 percent are just not good enough for anyone to really feel good with their trading. Winning rate above 90% is needed to make a normal person to feel comfortable with their trading.
Mental and Emotional Maturity Matters
Even if you have a very high probability trading setup, it is not going to stay at such high level all the time. What if the winning rate dipped down to 70% for several days a month? The emotional upset resulted from the dip can be disastrous as the trader will easily be lured to trade madly. As we all know, one mismanaged trade can wipe out all the gains and more if the trader fails to exercise proper money management. Higher the dependency on high probability trading setups, the more likely the trader will have these very bad trading days from time to time.
Thus depending on high probability trading setups is not as good as learning to deal with the emotional imbalance caused directly by trading. Having the mental maturity to understand that trading is psychologically challenging in nature, a trader can focus on improving their own emotional maturity so that they are not affected as much by their trading activities. In other words, learning to forget about high probability trading setups all together and focus on the better execution of the complete trading plan only.
Same Principle Is Applicable In Life
Not surprisingly, mental maturity and emotional maturity are strong indicators for people who are successful in life and in fields outside of trading. I choose to use the term mental maturity over mental toughness because it is not just toughness one need to do better. Mental toughness can carry you through difficult times but you also need mental maturity to find solutions to solve various kinds of problems with work and in life.
Emotional maturity gives us the ability to better handle relationships in our social circle. It also entails better mental health in general, allowing us to live relatively stress free. But most important of all, it allows us to maximize our ability to utilize our knowledge and skills. If there is something called destiny, emotional maturity is the key to get a better one.