Mar 20, 2009 4
(Editor’s note: one of the most common enemies of getting quality cognitive exercise is being on “mental autopilot”. I recently came across an excellent new book, titled The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons for Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist, by trading performance expert Dr. Brett Steenbarger, which explicitly calls for addressing the “mental autopilot” problem in his Lesson 4. Even for those of us who are not traders, Dr. Steenbarger advice provides excellent guidance for peak cognitive performance. Dr. Steenbarger graciously gave us permission to share with you, below, Lesson 4: Change Your Environment, Change Yourself. Enjoy!).
Human beings adapt to their environments. We draw on a range of skills and personality traits to fit into various settings. That is why we can behave one way in a social setting and then seem like a totally different human being at work. One of the enduring attractions of travel is that it takes us out of our native environments and forces us to adapt to new people, new cultures, and new ways. When we make those adaptations, we discover new facets of ourselves. As we’ll see shortly, discrepancy is the mother of all change: when we are in the same environments, we tend to draw upon the same, routine modes of thought and behavior.
A few months ago I had an attack of acute appendicitis while staying in a LaGuardia airport hotel awaiting a return flight to Chicago. When I went to the nearest emergency room at Elmhurst Hospital outside Jackson Heights, Queens, I found that I was seemingly the only native English speaker in a sea of people awaiting medical care. After some difficulty attracting attention, I was admitted to the hospital and spent the next several days of recuperation navigating my way through patients and staff of every conceivable nationality. By the end of the experience, I felt at home there. I’ve since stayed at the same airport hotel and routinely make visits into the surrounding neighborhoods—areas I would have never in my wildest dreams ventured into previously. In adapting to that environment, I discovered hidden strengths. I also overcame more than a few hidden prejudices and fears.
The greatest enemy of change is routine. When we lapse into routine and operate on autopilot, we are no longer fully and actively conscious of what we’re doing and why. That is why some of the most fertile situations for personal growth—those that occur within new environments—are those that force us to exit our routines and actively master unfamiliar challenges.
In familiar environments and routines, we operate on autopilot. Nothing changes.
When you act as your own trading coach, your challenge is to stay fully conscious, alert to risk and opportunity. One of your greatest threats will be the autopilot mode in which you act without thinking, without full awareness of your situation. If you shift your trading environment, you push yourself to adapt to new situations: you break routines. If your environment is always the same, you will find yourself gravitating to the same Read the rest of this entry »