Boy, this sucker is huge!
As I sat in my new (used) car, images of scaling mountains and crossing desert terrains filled my imagination. Hill climbing, rock climbing, mountain climbing, here I come! And then… a tap on the shoulder. The salesman awoke me from my vegetative state of drooling to show me the final all-in purchase price.
Wow! Sticker shock!
The images of grandeur disappeared and now all I could see were all the numbers followed by commas and more numbers and numbers… what a “huge” purchase this turned out to be! No matter what, whether a five dollar roll of toilet paper or a new car, I always feel buyer’s remorse (regret) when making a purchase.
Trading can be very similar. We put our money (real or demo) on the line in the pursuits of financial gain and happiness. Our trades are placed plentiful when the potential for profit is there, and we scurry away with lightning speed when the crowd starts selling off in great numbers. “Hurry, everybody out!”
We don’t want to be stepped on or left behind, right? So with the slightest unforeseen movement, the masses fear the worst is imminent. They get out as fast as they can, and we, of course, follow. This fear (and greed for some) becomes a controlling emotion, dictating their trading decisions and behavior. Just as powerful an emotion as fear and greed is regret.
Regret is similarly controlling in that it can keep us from placing a trade because we don’t want make a mistake. We undoubtedly want to feel good about our decisions and strategies. In our attempt to do feel this way, we find it more painless to steer clear of making a trade all together, avoiding any risk of failure. Taking this mindset of avoidance, however, will definitely not lead us to the potential for profits that we seek.
Regret comes about after we make a decision and we then start picturing the things that could have gone differently. When trading, regret is an easy feeling to have because it can occur both when making a move or when doing absolutely nothing. For instances, you open a trade with the best intentions, only to have it stop out for a loss of your entire account balance. You automatically feel regret for ever taking the position and now being poor.
On the other side of the coin, you don’t take a position because you’re allergic to risk. Your missed opportunity turns out to be the trade of the century, and it would have made you a gazillionaire! Arrrgghh! You seep into a state of utter regret.
For both examples, it’s easy to imagine the could-have-beens. We envision ourselves in those “winning” realities and how everything is so heavenly. But then we come back to Earth where things are definitely not paradise.
We have all experienced the pleasantries of regret (**wink**), but they can actually be good for us. Sometimes regret can give us that extra kick in the ribs to get off the floor and back on our feet. It compels us to get right what we initially did wrong; it can promote action.
Maybe you’ve been driving around in a monster truck SUV like me, consuming Mother Nature’s resources non-stop. Gas prices have hit an all-time high, and all of your closest friends are active members in Greenpeace. You regret ever buying that hunk of junk and not listening to your buddies. So, you trade in your SUV for an energy-efficient hybrid Toyota Prius and send in your membership dues to GP. And just like in trading, when the going gets tough and you lose yet another trade, instead of crying in the corner of your bath tub, the response to your mistake is too reevaluate your strategy and the market. You do more testing and try your skills on another new trade. You want that losing trade back!
In the last example, we used the regret we felt for our errors to motivate and encourage ourselves to try again. Taking this new perspective when things don’t go as plan will have a positive impact on your mental attitude and your trading as a whole. Don’t get hung up on the loss. Forget about it and move on!
That said, some traders have an issue with feeling regret even before a trade is made. No action has been taken, but you worry starts to consume the mind, and all they can think about is making a mistake. In this instance, the possibility of a regrettable outcome is stopping them from acting. To help, we must remind ourselves that it isn’t the end of the world and that there’s still time to fix what’s not working. We can’t change our past trades but we can definitely make new ones to take those profits back.
Again, the key here is action; the point is to make the trade. Don’t let regret hold you back from progressing by means of action. And remember, not all risk is bad; Taking risks that are minimal and calculated are integral to growing into a successful trader.