Why Setting Trading And Investing Goals Can Improve Performance

Goal setting in trading and investing, and indeed in any area of your life, has two vital items involved in goal setting and goal attainment: i) perceived difficulty of the goal; and ii) how specific your goal is.

The more perceived difficulty in the goal and more specific the goal is, the more likely you will raise your level of performance to achieve your goal. This is because with these two elements of challenge and focus, people are more likely to try harder, achieving a higher performance which produces better overall results.

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In a trading example a goal to earn $50,000 next year through your trading activity is good. However, a goal to achieve, say $51,600 will likely produce better performance as it is perceived by your brain as more specific.

Setting difficult and specific goals provide a better outcome than setting goals you know are easily attainable. So, if you believe that you can comfortably achieve $51,600 through your trading, then raise the level to something more challenging like $72,400.

But your goal has to be realistic to be achievable. You need to believe your goal is attainable through your past experience, knowledge, training and/or skills that you can make it happen. So to perform against your goal make it realistic.

So that is the setting of your trading goal. What about along the way…on the journey to achieving the goal? You will be most committed to achieving a goal when you believe that achieving the goal is important. Also when you can see that progress is being made towards achieving the goal, you get the best results.

A way of measuring your trading progress, can be done as simply as keeping an ongoing running tally of your trading outcomes for the year. For example, if your goal is to earn $72,400 from trading for the year and by half way through the year your trading tally is $38,100 you can measure how well you are placed to achieving your goal – you have more than half of your goal achieved.

Often when starting something new, we don’t bother to set goals. When starting in trading and investing, often it is good just to see a result. But imagine how much more meaningful this would be if the result reflected a set goal which was difficult, specific and important. We would be able to measure our progress which would add to our performance in achieving the goal at hand. Very satisfying and very positive.

Start by setting a difficult, specific, and realistic trading/investing goal and start measuring your progress. But make sure you understand why you want to achieve your goal; you need to know why it is important for you to achieve your goal.

In his excellent text book “The Psychology of Persuasion”, Kevin Hogan talks about “the least acceptable result”. What is your LEAST ACCEPTABLE RESULT from your trading? Think about this very carefully because this is the true goal that most people WILL achieve from any activity. You must move your Least Acceptable Result up to the level of your goal.