About 3 weeks ago, while shopping for workbooks to keep the kids’ skills sharp over the summer break my 6th grade son asked for a printing book. You know, the ones that Kindergartners use to learn their letters. He’s been frustrated with his handwriting and all of his attempts to improve it just haven’t been effective. He’s naturally gifted at thinking outside of the box (his nickname is Loophole) and wanted to test his theory that writing might come easier with his left hand. He was surprised at how quickly he learned to write with his left hand.

About 2 weeks ago, my husband and my son were playing catch in the back yard and he was just feeling awkward and had to think about which foot went forward and where the bend in his arm should be. I suggested that he try his left hand. Lo and behold...it was all natural to him. We had to outfit him with a new glove in time for baseball practice.

My son just turned 11 this past Monday. It took all of us almost 11 years to understand something as simple as his dominant hand. His parents and his sister are all right handed. He had always mimicked what he saw around him and assumed that was correct for him as well.

That really got me thinking about myself and asking the question, “do I hold any assumptions about myself that may not be true or may not be in my nature?”

Of course, it is really hard to pinpoint anything because assumptions are assumptions. If they were obvious misinterpretations I don’t think I’d be holding onto them anymore.

But that kind of introspective thinking is always good for me because it makes me view myself in a different light. I get to try to see myself as an outsider trying to look in. What would I see in myself if I wasn’t already intimately acquainted with my history, my thoughts and my general frame of reference?

While this is a thought provoking exercise on a personal level and one I highly recommend to anyone who will listen I also think it is a wise thing to do from time to time as it specifically relates to your trading.

I often tell the story about how I once viewed myself as a person who welcomed risk. I’ve been bungee jumping, skydiving, white water rafting among other of adrenaline-inducing activities. Trading seemed like it should be a natural extrapolation of my inherent tendencies. I struggled though. Putting a trade on felt different. It felt scary. It felt greedy. It felt like a lot of things that I wasn’t used to feeling in my life.

I fought the realization for too long and tried to get more aggressive and sort of bulldoze my way through. I thought that I just needed to put my head down and get through it.

At some point, though, I had to be really honest with myself and ask that question, “do I hold an untrue assumption about myself?” Yes, I had bungee jumped, but it wasn’t on impulse I had wanted to do it a long time and had researched it long before the opportunity arose. Skydiving was a lot of fun but I took classes and practice runs and had people on the ground to guide me down telling me when and how hard to turn. White water rafting was a similar experience; I did a day-long group tour of the Colorado River with certified guides to help us navigate each rapid.

I took risks, sure. But they’ve always been calculated risks. I didn’t fear the new, but I always respected all of the potential that new experiences can bring, positive and negative and I planned for that.

Once I realized this I knew I needed to apply this to my trading as well. I was uncomfortable because I hadn’t fully navigated all of the outcomes. I had taken some basic educational steps, assumed it would be close enough to the equities I did know how to trade and just dove in head first. No wonder I was fearful. It is no surprise that being more aggressive made me feel bad. But I had to look at my whole assumptions about myself through a different lens to discover that.

Trading means a lot of different things to everyone who comes across it...even people who don’t actually trade assign their own meaning to the experience (or lack of experience).

If you don’t take the time to look deeply into your underlying motivations based on your surface assumptions you run the risk of having a continual disconnect between what you think should be true about yourself and your trading and what really is true.

So, tell me...have you ever considered that your current frame of reference has been built around a a false perception? If so, have you been able to relate it to your trading? If not, do you think you’ll be able to think in new terms or is it too difficult to step that far back?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!