Values and Values Clarification

Your trading goes up and down. You repeat mistakes you already know are mistakes. You over-trade even though you had set a limit. You know the value of preparation, but don’t prepare. You know the benefit of practice, but don’t practice.

For some, the ‘cure’ for these types of issues rests with a qualified therapist.

For others it’s frequently a matter of undefined and inconsistently-applied values.

If it’s the latter, the solution may be as simple as thinking about your values, drilling down to your core values, and then validating them by your actions.

You may say to yourself, I already know what my values are. Why do I have to write them down? Yet one of the most effective ways to increase understanding of yourself and your values is to do exactly that; write them down.
Values clarification, in my view, is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give yourself; your values are the drivers of your planning, your decisions, and your actions. They are literally the key to everything you do as a trader. Even so, clarifying your values is not as easy as it may sound. Many people work with a facilitator to help accelerate the process and their understanding of it.


What is a value? According to Oxford Dictionaries, values are defined as, “Principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.” They are part of your character and individual philosophy; the basis for your natural response of each choice you make.

How do you know what your values are? The following questions provide a starting point for clarifying them. It’s a bit like peeling an onion, layer by layer, and it often includes the tears, too!

Clarifying Your Core Values

(Note: Mind Maps are great for answering questions. You can use each question as a branch off of the topic/value with sub-branches as the optional answers.)

How do we find what ‘fits’ us best? Asking questions from multiple, different perspectives can open up options to explore. Such questions don’t always have easy answers, but as you better understand your values, answers come easier. Answering the tough questions is also critically important when we need to make a decision. Is it right or wrong?  Good or bad? Important or unimportant?

As a trader your personal values statement is an ideal starting point. In fact, when you clarify your trading values, you gain the opportunity to create a more effective trading operation. Your core values comprise your trading ‘culture.’ Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, once said, “Culture drives great results.”

The following questions can help you to raise awareness of your values, clarifying what is really important to you. We suggest you write your answers down and then observe how, over time, they become clearer.

•   What do you strive for most in your life?
•    What do you strive for most in your trading?
•    What are your five strongest beliefs about the way you live and/or trade?

Then, for each of the above questions, ask and answer these five questions:

1.    Which of your behaviors confirms this core value?
2.    What is the origin of this value?
3.    How did this become one of your core values?
4.    What are three benefits of living this value?
5.    How do you communicate this is one of your core values to others?

Example: Jesse, having the core value of honesty, confirms the fact by always telling the truth. The benefits he receives from telling the truth range from not having to remember something not true that he said to being trusted by others. Jesse communicates his value of honesty through both his daily actions and carefully not promising something unless he knows he can deliver.

Here are some additional clarifying questions specific to trading:

Why, REALLY, do you trade? What is your personal definition of trading success?

On a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the most:

To what extent do the characteristics of the market you currently trade, (volatility, tempo, liquidity, volume, trading hours, etc.), fit you, your strengths, your way of best doing things, your performance style, your preferences, and your thinking and decision-making styles?

To what extent do your trading timeframes—scalping to long-term—fit your personal style for evaluating scenarios and making decisions, schedule, and availability?

To what extent does your trading approach methodology fit your personal style and support you in preparing for a trading session, trading the session, and wrapping a session?

To what extent do your learning and practice plans help you to consistently improve your trading as indicated by your results?

To what extent do you make repetitive mistakes: committing to do one thing, but doing another? How effective are you in then handling the situation? (When our performance contradicts our values, results are often disappointing.)

Values Guide Actions

The primary benefit of values clarification is that your values act as your conscience, letting you know when you’re performance is in conflict with them.

You already possess values; values that evolved from family, friends, teachers, heroes, church, social clubs, professional or business organizations, and trading communities, to name a few. Your values constantly evolve and so need regular review as you meet and/or are exposed to other traders and experience changes in the markets and your trading.

At times, something in your life can precipitate a radical shift after events as marriage, parenthood, illness, or even death in the family. Usually, however, changes are gradual, and you may not realize your values have been affected until you look back at them after a period of years.

Certain values may be so basic, so much a part of your early, developing life, that they may never change. Or, as time passes, after various life and trading experiences, you might want to further clarify one or more of your core values by modifying or replacing it with one more aligned with your current life.

To see how values change and shift, take one and focus on it. Think back about how you felt and behaved according to that value three or four years ago. Then think about the events, interactions, or activities that prompted it to change. If you want to get the most from this exercise, write out each phase and devote a few minutes of uninterrupted time to understand the shift and how it evolved.

Thoughts on Values

 “Our ideals (values) are the blueprints of our lives.” —Roy L. Smith

“I believe that for any individual and for any organization to live up to their potentials, they must have clearly understood 1) values, 2) goals that are consistent with these values, and 3) ways of operating that are consistent with these values and goals. I believe that, to be clearly understood, these values, goals and ways of doing things must be spelled out. The purpose of my writing the ‘Principles’ in such a comprehensive way is to make them crystal clear. What you decide to do with them is up to you.” —Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates

Suggested Reading

As always, please email us at if you have any questions about values and values clarification, and we’ll respond.

Until next time . . .

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