The Difference Between the Will and the Way
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” It’s intended to be an inspirational quote to motivate people to tackle the hurdle that confronts them or overcome an obstacle. It sounds good but I’ve never completely understood how this is supposed to motivate me. Does it mean that if I don’t have a way, I’m without a will? Is my will so weak that I’m incapable of creating ANYTHING to find a way?
These types of phrases are what traders take with them when they sit in front of their charts deciding what they should be doing in the market. I’ve had more than one trader parrot back this phrase to me when they are explaining their trading results. It’s usually a hollow attempt to steel themselves to the incredible task of becoming “successful” traders.
The challenge, as I see it, is that we’re putting the preverbal willful horse behind the cart. We make the mistake of focusing all on the way of doing things rather than the will to do them. To put it another way, we focus all of our attention on how to become successful traders but spend very little time on why we want to become one.
Admittedly, this is really easy to do. A quick Google search on the words, “trading methods” will yield 35,700,000 responses where as “trading psychology” will only net you about 9,570,000. It’s much easier to sell the method, or the “way” of trading in contrast to the “why” or the will of trading.
Solving the puzzle about the “why” of trading is important. It does 2 things for traders. First, it’s what gives traders the will to get up the next day and find new trading opportunities. Many traders begin trading in the hopes of making money easier, faster, less stressfully. When this doesn’t happen, they inevitably give up thinking that making money is just too hard.
Second, it gives focus to traders on the way they are going to trade and narrows down those 35+ million hits on Google to a manageable number of possibilities. With so many different ways of trading, the only way to navigate the method-landscape is by taking stock of your own values and desires. This is, at least, a starting point for discovering how a trader is going to become the next William Buffett.
And there is some scientific evidence for this approach. As Dr. Elliot Berkman, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon writes in Psychology Today, the will and the way are two parts of a goal hierarchy in our brains. The Will is the higher function of this hierarchy and the Way are the particulars of getting the goal accomplished. If we apply this to trading, knowing what we are trading for, the bigger purpose, gives us a clearer picture of how we’re going to get there. That will, minimally, give us a better chance of achieving our trading goals.