Goal Based Trading

In life if you really want to achieve something you need to set a goal. Most people start out the New Year by resolving to lose weight or do more exercise. And most people fail miserably at those tasks. If on the other hand, everyone resolved to lose 5 pounds or walk briskly for 20 minutes twice each week, many of those resolutions would be kept.

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In order to make goals viable and achievable they have to concrete and realistic. As human beings we are very bad at abstract targets, but set a hard number in front of us and we will go after it like bloodhound on a hunt.

Yet when it comes to trading, many gurus will tell you NOT to set goals. The markets are utterly unpredictable, they’ll say. You can’t set hard targets on a daily basis, like a car salesman or donut store owner. Financial speculation just does not lend itself to consistency, so its not advisable to set targets.

It is true that trading is not like any other business. Unless you are a dealer and have a reliable customer flow against which you can trade, financial speculation is as consistent as a bowl of unset jello. Some days every trade turns to gold and other days you do nothing but bleed money. In that environment expecting to make a steady daily paycheck is woefully unrealistic.

Yet that does not mean that as traders we should not set hard target goals. It simply means that those goals should be measured on a longer time frame than 24 hours. If you are trading a high frequency system, one of the best ways to measure your performance is to compare the actual results with the baktested results on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.

By having at least 100 trades in your records, you will be able to avoid most of the outliers and the let the law of large numbers tell you if the system is performing within its risk parameters or not. Looking at your trading from a longer term perspective eliminates most of the day to day angst of our profession and allows the trader to examine his performance in a rational, quantifiable way. It also creates the single most important aspect of goal setting -- realistic expectations.

Just as no normal person would resolve to lose 200 pounds in a month, so too no real trader would expect to earn 100% in a year. Setting realistic against the backdrop of backtested results is the much more professional way of approaching the trading business. I recommend you give it a try.

Boris Schlossberg

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