Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s when he began noticing a strange pattern among his patients.
When Dr. Maltz would perform an operation — like a nose job — he found that it took the patient about 20 days to get used to seeing their new face.
Similarly, when a patient had an arm or a leg amputated, Maltz noticed that the patient would sense a phantom limb for about 20 days before adjusting to not having a limb.
These experiences prompted Maltz to think about his own adjustment period to changes and new behaviors, and he noticed that it also took him about 20 days to form a new habit.
Maltz wrote about these experiences and said, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 20 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
This has been challenged over the years and Maltz recognized some say it will take longer so he included the word minimum.
The habits we’re trying to change as traders will not happen overnight as I showed in this blog article.
It’s as simple as this: good habits get sh** done. Developing good habits is key to accomplishment. No matter how substantial they may seem, they allow us to perform behaviors that breed success.
These adjustments in the way we think and act, can lead to the completion of important tasks which would otherwise be left until “tomorrow." So why do most fall at the first hurdle, unable to turn good habits into nothing more than good intentions?
If you’ve ever tried to form a new routine or swap bad habits for good ones, then you will already be familiar with the struggle. The rollercoaster ride of motivation and temptation. To help you understand why, I've broken habit formation into 3 stages:
1. The Honey Moon Stage
This habit formation phase is characterized by the feeling of “this is easy.”
As all married people will tell you, at some point even the greatest honeymoon must end and we enter stage 2.
2. The Fight Through Stage
As the Honeymoon wanes reality sets in, you find yourself struggling with adopting a positive habit and old habits seem to be right around the corner.
The key to moving to the third phase of habit formation is to win 2 or 3 “fight thru’s.” This is critical. To win the fight through, use the following techniques:
RECOGNIZE: Recognition is essential for winning the fight through. When you have entered the fight through, simply say to yourself, “I have entered the fight through, and I need to win a few to move past this phase.”
Winning each fight through will make it easier to win the next. Conversely, when you choose to lose a fight through, you make it easier to lose the next one.
ASK 2 QUESTIONS: “How will I feel if I do this?” and “How will I feel if I don’t do this?”
Bring EMOTION into the equation.
Let yourself feel the positive in winning the fight through and the negative in losing.
LIFE PROJECTION:: If the above 2 techniques haven’t moved you to action, then imagine in great detail how your life will be in 1 year if you do not begin making changes. Be totally honest with yourself, and allow yourself to feel what life will be like if the changes are not made.
We know the pull to bail on a trade is not easy to fight.
But the important thing here is that you take each obstacle as it comes and focus on beating one battle at a time. Looking at the bigger picture and trying to reach your overall goal will only leave you disappointed, especially when you feel as though you are not making progress.
Whether it’s resisting dessert when out for dinner with friends, overpowering your inner voice telling you to stay in bed tomorrow morning or the burning desire to not put on the next trade posted because you've just lost 4 in a row , every small obstacle you overcome should be seen as (NO IS) a success.
3. Second Nature
Entering second nature is often described by feelings of “getting in the groove, "In the ZONE."
Once in second nature, the following are 3 commonly incurred interruptions that send you back to the fight through:
DISCOURAGEMENT: You allow negative results to discourage you into thinking, “This isn’t working, and there is nothing I can do.”
DISRUPTIONS: You experiences significant change to your current pattern (e.g., vacations, holidays, illness, weekends). We will have weekends to disrupt our momentum.
SEDUCTION OF SUCCESS: An individual begins to focus on positive results and begins to think, “I’m the nailing this." "I've arrived at the Master Trader level." "I have finally figured out how to 'Follow the Rules.'" You are lulled into thinking you don't need to be vigilant. You do.
Be prepared for setbacks and interruptions.
Certain situations are unavoidable. Instead, I encourage you to stay prepared and look at some of the trades you made when you were "In the Zone."
Try to remember the feeling you had when you were trading like that. These will act as useful sources of motivation when you are faced with those small battles again. And once you’ve beaten a few temptations you’ll be back on track again.
If you experiences an interruption that sends you back to the fight through stage, winning 2 or 3 fight thru’s will bring you back to second nature.