STOP asking this dangerous two word question

by | Feb 11, 2024

What if?

This simple two word question is a psychological trap that traders often encounter.

And it does nothing more than undermine their decision-making process and overall trading performance.

This question will open a box of doubts, hypotheticals, and second-guessing.

This can paralyze action, distort risk assessment, and divert focus from the present to an endless maze of unrealized possibilities.

Let’s look into the psychological effects and what you can do to stop it from creeping in.

Psychological Impact

#1: Doubt and Hesitation

Constantly questioning “What if?” introduces doubt into the decision-making process.

For traders, you need to make decisions quickly and with confidence.

If you have any hesitation when you take a trade, it can lead to missed opportunities or entering positions at less than optimal prices.

#2: Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

 “What if this stock skyrockets after I sell?”

“What if this stock isn’t ideal?”

What if this trade hits my stop loss?”

This type of questioning can lead to either:

~ Holding positions too long.

~ Not holding positions long enough.

~ Not taking the trade.

~ Or missing great opportunities that come your way.

#3: Overtrading

Conversely, the fear of missing out can also lead to overtrading.

“What if this is the next big opportunity?”

Regardless on whether the trade lined up or not.

You might be compelled to jump into trades without proper analysis or strategy.

This will increase your trades, costs and your exposure to risk.

#4: Regret and Rumination

Traders who focus on “What if?” scenarios may dwell on past decisions, and this could lead to regret and rumination.

This backward-looking perspective can hinder the ability to learn from mistakes and make more informed decisions in the future.

So let’s try prevent the WHAT IF? Scenario.

Don’t you think?

Managing “What If?” in Trading

#1: Develop a Trading Plan

Make sure you have a clear, well-thought-out trading plan.

This will help you to minimise second-guessing.

If you have pre-defined entry, exit, and risk management rules in advance, you’ll be able to reduce the temptation to ask “What if?” and instead focus on executing your strategy.

#2: Embrace Risk Management

When you understand and accept the inherent risks of trading can alleviate the stress of “What if?” questions.

Effective risk management will help ensure you to prepare for all types of outcomes.

And you’ll handle your losses without deviating from your strategy.

#3: Stay Present

You need to be in the NOW moment.

This way you’ll be able to avoid the trap of hypotheticals.

Ask the questions:

Has my trading system aligned?

What is my daily and weekly bias?

#4: Accept Uncertainty

Recognise that market conditions are inherently unpredictable as I’ve mentioned many times.

The only thing you should have your mind set to are the probabilities and possibilities of trades lining up.

No outcomes can be foreseen or controlled.

All you can do is follow your strategy accordingly and forget about the prompt “WHAT IF?”.

Final words:

I think I have covered all the ways you need to stop worrying about the unknown.

You need to stop asking “WHAT IF?”. And start saying “NOW DO”.

Let’s sum up why we would ask the hypothetical question when we trade:

#1: Doubt and Hesitation

#2: Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

#3: Overtrading

#4: Regret and Rumination

Managing “What If?” in Trading

#1: Develop a Trading Plan

#2: Embrace Risk Management

#3: Stay Present

#4: Accept Uncertainty

Trade well, live free.

Timon Rossolimos
Founder, MATI Trader




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Trade well, live free.

Timon Rossolimos

Founder, MATI Trader


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