In Discipline is Our Freedom

We think we are free to choose our trading strategies and set-ups. But modern neuroscience suggest that may not be the case.

The study of neuroscience has shed fascinating light on many issues. It has even transformed the way that I look at designing individual training and coaching programs for people. The different levels of dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and GABA in your brain can have a big impact when you should trade, how long you should trade, anon what trading strategies you should use.

But one problem with neuroscience is that it doesn’t leave much room for free will. Basically, are you who you are because of your brain. Even more simply you are your brain. This fatalistic view can be quite depressing.

Now I have never spent much time on the question of free will, despite majoring in Philosophy in college. It was now a problem that I felt had much in the way of practical implication. But my study of neuroscience left me wondering if there was any room left for free will and our ability to make “free” choices.

It was when I was doing a particularly grueling sled training workout that I came up with what I felt was an answer.

We think we have freedom in all of the things we say “yes” to. Yes, I would like another piece of dessert. Yes, I want that fancy new car (jacket, pair of shoes, etc.). Yes, I want to make that trade!

But it is actually the exact opposite that is true. Saying yes is saying yes to the impulses of our brain. It is actually in saying “NO” that we have our freedom.

We have free will when we say NO to:

  • Laying on the couch
  • Another drink
  • More sugar
  • Binge watching Netflix
  • That trade we think looks great
  • Buying Bitcoin on a whim

The funny thing is that it is our discipline, our ability to say no, that most of our success will come from. Discipline, which we associate with a distinct lack of freedom, is actually our only means to that freedom.

When I am doing a hard workout, my brain wants me to stop. It is by saying no to that impulse that I express my freedom – and get fit. As traders, it is our discipline, our ability to say no to the impulses of the brain, that will lead to long term success.

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