If one of your goals is to become a better trader, then decide to be one. Just like any decision, it only requires a few simple steps to get the ball rolling.
Setting goals is not just for New Year's Eve. Setting goals, and then continuously reviewing them to make sure your actions are bringing you closer to those goals, is what makes a goal become reality.
This includes both personal goals and work goals and everything in between.
The key is to decide what you want. And when it comes right down to it, a goal is really just that—a decision.
Goals come in all shapes and sizes; big and small, long-term and short-term, simple and complex, etc.
Something as simple as waking up and deciding to go to the store that day is a goal. That probably didn't take a lot of planning. But you did have to write down what you needed to get. And organize your day to make sure you could fit that task into your busy schedule. If you have food in your refrigerator, you can take pride in knowing you achieved your goal.
Taking a vacation is a goal. That takes a little more planning. But once you decide you want to take one, all you need to do is determine where you want to go, what you'd like to do, and then make the time to do it.
Goals are not wishes. They are decisions. And once you decide to do something, it's amazing how often those 'decisions' come true.
Financial decisions are no different.
3 steps to investment success
If one of your goals is to become a better trader, then decide to be one.
How does one do that? Just like any decision, it only requires a few simple steps to get the ball rolling.
1. Decide what kind of trader you are or want to be.
Do you prefer upward trending momentum stocks or deeply discounted value stocks? High-flying aggressive growth stocks or more mature income-producing stocks?
There's no wrong answer.
But this is important because if you find yourself buying stocks that are not in alignment with who you are or want to be as a trader, you'll find yourself abandoning those stocks the moment they hit a rough patch.
The best style of trade is the one that's right for you.
2. The next step is to determine what strategies work best for that style of trade.
In other words, what characteristics have proven to work for those types of stocks? The key word being 'proven.'
For example, some investors incorrectly believe that the best aggressive growth stocks are those with the biggest growth rates. But studies have shown that's not the case. In fact, in my testing, I have found that stocks with the absolute highest growth rates oftentimes perform just as poorly as those with the lowest growth rates. How can this be? It's usually because those growth rates are unsustainable. And the moment those sky-high growth rates, which were priced for perfection, have even the slightest downward revision, the stock price can fall back down to earth as well.
I have found that the best growth rate ranges are those that are above the median for their industry and no higher than 50%. That does not mean stocks with growth rates higher than 50% won't go up, because they do. And that doesn't mean that stocks with growth rates in the optimum range won't go down, because they do, too. But sticking with stocks with characteristics that have proven to work more often than not will increase your odds of success.
And each style of trade has a set of characteristics that, if followed, will help you pick more winning stocks than losers.
3) The last step is follow-through.
Once you've decided what you want and how to go about getting it, then it's time to do it.
And you'll find picking winning stocks has never been easier. Because now that you know what you're looking for, they'll be easier to find.
Think about the last car you bought. Once you decided on what kind of car you wanted, you probably saw them everywhere. They didn't just magically appear. They were always there. You just became aware of them.
And it's the same with stocks. The most profitable stocks that are right for you have always been there. But now you'll be able to spot them.
And nothing is as exciting as waking up each day and following your proven plan for success.
A long time ago, I read a book on goal setting, and a passage the author wrote stuck with me.
He said: if you want to add meaning and richness to your experience of living, begin now to plan. You only need to set goals for every area of your life. Working toward worthwhile goals and purposes, whatever they may be, makes you feel alive and vibrant.
Kevin Matras is a Vice President at Zacks Investment Research, where he is the fundamental stock screening and technical chart patterns expert.
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